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STS-106: Home | The Crew | Cargo | Timeline | EVA

Preflight Interview: Yuri Malenchenko

The STS-106 Crew Interviews with Yuri Malenchenko, Mission Specialist 4.

Yuri, like many American astronauts, you came to the space program as part of a career that began as a military pilot and an engineer in your country's air force. For you, which of it came first: Was it first the desire to be a pilot, or first the desire to be a cosmonaut?

Well, probably, at the beginning I wanted to have a profession which would not be boring. I wanted something dynamic, something ever-changing and challenging. At one point, I wanted to be a sailor; later in my life I wanted to be a pilot. And I think my dreams came true because I was a military pilot, I was in the Russian Air Force. And at some point in my life I had this chance to become a cosmonaut, and I agreed to be, to take this challenge, and then I tried to go through the selection, I was successful, and then I was assigned to be a cosmonaut candidate. And that is the beginning of my story.

Tell us how that came about. How were you selected to have the opportunity to be a cosmonaut and to train?

When I was in the group of the Russian cosmonauts and then when it required new candidates there was a special committee, which was designed to find out new cosmonauts, to select them. And they were selecting the new cosmonauts from the pilots, from the military pilots. The committee would go to the military bases and would talk to the commanders over there, and they would interview the pilots themselves. And for those candidates who they thought they were suitable, they would make a proposal to go through the selection and change their profession. And those people, those pilots, who agreed would be called back to the center, and then they would go through the selection process. It's a very lengthy process; it took me about a year-and-a-half. So, I would go to Moscow from time to time, to Star City, and I would go through different selection stages. And then there was a group of five cosmonauts, candidate for cosmonauts, and I was one of them.

Over the course of your career as a cosmonaut, but as a pilot before that and even back into your childhood, can you now look back and identify the people who you think have been the most influential in your life, who have helped make you the man that you are?

Of course. All my life I was surrounded by people who made me, who actually contributed to my desire to this profession. First of all, I'm very indebted to my parents and my first teachers that I had in my life, and, later, when I was at the military aviation school, was serving as a pilot, there were several instructors who were teaching me how to fly. There were different teachers, different professors. And at the GCTC, there were very experienced pilots and cosmonauts. I wanted to look up to them, and I was learning a lot from them. And that is how I became myself, and how I became this professional. So thanks to them, all my dreams came true, and I'm very thankful to them for that.

You are here in Houston now training for what will be your first space shuttle flight, but you have been in space before; a hundred and twenty-five days on the space station Mir as Commander of the Mir-16 crew. Tell us a bit about what that experience was like, to spend that many months in space on board the Mir station.

The flight was in 1994. At that time, the 16th mission was sent on board the Mir station and I was the Commander of that mission, of the main expedition. There was Musabayev and also a researcher-physician, Valery Polyakov. And I spent about three months with them, and after that, we had three additional people, three additional cosmonauts. They were Alexander Viktorenko, Elena Kondakova and Ulf Merbold from Germany. So, together, as a six-member crew, we worked for another month. It was a very interesting mission; it was filled with different events, we had several payloads to work with, a number of experiments, we had EVAs - and I have performed two EVAs myself, and I spent over twelve hours there, performing the EVA - as well as we had some contingencies, we had some difficulties with the electrical power system, and then it took us about three days to take care of that; we worked, the whole crew worked very intensely during that time. We had another case when we had a contingency with the Progress cargo vehicle. In other words, it was a challenging flight. And we tried different activities, and we could feel, by ourselves, how it was like because we did everything with our hands, and I really have good memories about the time I spent there and about the crewmembers I worked with.

You mentioned the contingency with the Progress ship. Fact is, you were the first cosmonaut ever to fly a manual docking of a Progress ship, and some people have characterized that as an event which saved the life of the Mir station. Tell us the story - what happened?

We were waiting for the Progress cargo vehicle, and at the planned time it went for docking operations in the automated mode. Then there was a first attempt to dock and at that time there was problem with the docking system, and some of the testing didn't go through, through the hardware, and we were at quite a large distance, it was less than one kilometer, so they decided to cancel the automated docking process, and they decided that they will make a second attempt in two days after analyzing the situation. So that's what happened: The docking operations were aborted, the Progress went back, and then there was a special loop, which would allow the control system to work successfully and reliably. And then, instead of the primary hardware, we turned to the backup hardware and then we tried a second attempt, and everything went nominally up to ten, fifteen meters. And at that point the Kurs system, which is the radio technical system - usually that's the system which is responsible for the final docking operations, and we used the data from the Kurs system to perform the final docking operations - so all of a sudden the Kurs system did not work correctly, and it was giving us the wrong messages. And, in fact, everything was right except that the data that we were receiving from the Kurs system was wrong, so as a result, the Progress vehicle would go to the left, wouldn't go straight. So we had enough propellant for only one docking attempt. And we were not actually sure that the third attempt will be successful. So at that point we had a backup scenario to perform the manual docking operations. And, and we have never tried the manual docking operations under those conditions. Therefore, RSC Energia management was not comfortable at the beginning to let us do that. At first, they have performed numerous evaluations and they looked into the previous cases when we used different manual docking operations, then they looked into my experience, and then they asked me as well if I felt comfortable doing that. After that, after numerous discussions, a decision was made to perform the docking operations manually. And that was the plan, and everything was successful.

The International Space Station that you're about to go to is very young in its life, and the Mir space station that you were at before was not; I understand that. But can you compare the two stations a bit, from your expertise, and, and tell us how they're the same or how they're different?

I think the main difference between the International Space Station and the Mir station, which is still in space, is that the International Space Station is the international project and many international countries are part of that. And each country and the main participants bring their expertise and bring their technologies and scientific and technical expertise, and these contributions, of course, enrich the station significantly. And, I believe that the International Space Station will be a station of a different level. If we are looking at the Russian segment of the International Space Station and if we compare the Service Module, which is to be launched very soon, and the Core Module of the Mir station, then I might say that they are similar. And if we look at the systems which are inside the Service Module and if we look at the functions that those systems support, we can say, we can trace some similarities between the Core Module systems and the Service Module. But in reality the Service Module is a spaceship of a different rank because we have updated the on board computer systems and we have broadened different functions of the control of the on board computer systems as well as the motion control system. And if we analyze each system in particular, or individually, then we'll see that the principles of the operations might be still the same, maybe the structure or the architecture is the same as on the Mir station. But, we will see that the technical characteristics, technical properties, have been modified and updated significantly. And the overall evaluation would show that the Service Module is more modernized and an updated module than the Core Module of the Mir station. And, of course, for the Service Module we have incorporated a very lengthy resource for at least fifteen years, and I think fifteen years is not the end, so it'll work for longer than that. Therefore, I believe that the new International Space Station is modernized and it has a great future.

The American space shuttle program historically has planned its missions for many years in advance, and flight crews and ground crews have had a year or more to prepare. In fact, you and two of your crewmates - Boris Morukov and Ed Lu - had been training with four other crewmates for quite some time when you were switched to be a part of the crew on this mission, with only a few months left before the launch. Would you tell us about the factors that were behind the decision to add STS-106 to the flight schedule, and talk about what it was like for you and Boris and Ed to move from being part of one group to being part of another group.

That is true. The program has been planned for a long time and different flights have been scheduled long ago. While my presence with this crew can be explained that the International Space Station has a Russian segment, which is the Service Module, first of all, and when I was assigned for this particular flight, then the idea behind was that I will be working inside the Service Module and I will perform the tasks associated with it, and I will perform the tasks which are assigned for STS-106 mission. And, when I came here at the beginning to be trained for the tasks for that flight, I have been part of the crew and I have gone through some of the training, but then the program, the international space program, has changed…and then there were some delays, and some new tasks were added, and the decision was made to transfer me to a different crew when the Service Module will be in place. Therefore, another crewmember, another cosmonaut, was assigned to take my place, and I was assigned to take place in STS-106 flight. And I have undergone some very extensive training before that. And then another Russian crewmember, Boris Morukov, has been assigned to be with me on the same flight because there are a number of different tasks on the Russian segment, and our Russian experts wanted to have two Russian crewmembers so we could carry out all the tasks on the Russian segment. We have been trained as part of the 106 mission for a long time; we had our own vision, we knew the responsibilities of each crewmember, we had a very good crew, actually. But the program has changed again. And there was some period in time that we didn't know what the decision would be, and I thought that I will be still part of the STS-101 crew, and I thought that, for the future missions, somebody else will be assigned. But at the cosmonaut training center, this issue has been discussed for a long time and the management decided that the amount of training that both Boris and I have received on the Service Module should be used to the benefit of the space station. Therefore, they wanted us to work on the Service Module, and a decision was made to reassign us again to a different crew which will fly in the future, so we will carry out the tasks associated with the Service Module. And other crewmembers from STS-101 have undergone a very extensive training on the Russian segment - they went to Russia and we all studied to a very great extent all the systems, we went to Baikonur when they worked on the Service Module. And then the NASA management, NASA experts, were deciding how to use the experience that had been gained by this crew. And, therefore, the decision was made in addition to two Russian crewmembers add another U.S. astronaut, Ed Lu, and reassign us to a different mission. And that is how it happened that three of us were in a different mission. We were in a different crew, a different group, and today, we can say that we have a very extensive training as part of this crew behind, and I think we're very well trained for the tasks for our mission, and it's very good crew. And I think we were able to find a common language between each other, so I hope that our flight will be very successful soon.

Is it difficult for you to work with, as part of one group of people and then to be told you have to leave some of them and go work with a different group of people? Is that a challenge for you, to get prepared with that sort of change?

Of course. When you work as part of the crew for a long time and you spend a lot of time together, then you get used to people, you feel comfortable with them, you know them very well, you know how to work together, you know whom you can rely on for a particular task, and you know who will require your help. And, I think that is how a real crew evolves, and we always want to fly on orbit so we could test all our skills. And I really want us to fly as this crew. And when I was part of the STS-96, I didn't undergo the very extensive training, but when decisions are made you don't really have anything to do, you cannot influence the decision by the management because a decision is made, you just have to follow the orders because you have to fulfill all the tasks for the space program. And, second, life is life; and no matter what it brings, you cannot influence life itself, and if you have to change the crew, if you have to be as part of a different group of crewmembers, then you have to deal with that. And I understand that all the people, all the crewmembers, are very professional and I can work with any of them, and I will work with them with pleasure. Therefore, I think that everything is fine.

Is having this change occur and being thrown in this new position, is it fun? Is there excitement about being where you are now?

Maybe…there is, sometimes I experience this feeling…but the main significance for me is that everything changes and the program changes, and you look at different tasks, and you can make a vision of how the task will be carried out. So, you will see yourself, how you need to get ready, so it's a very planned work, and you have to do little piece at a time every day. Therefore we have to invest a lot of time for training to get prepared ourselves for the mission. And that takes the major part of our work day.

This space shuttle flight to the International Space Station is the first one that will dock to the station while it will have the Service Module, Zvezda, as well as a Progress supply ship, attached to it. Talk us through the steps of rendezvous day. What will happen that day for you and your crewmates as Terry Wilcutt flies Atlantis to the rendezvous, and tell us what you will be doing as part of the crew that day?

On the second flight day after the launch, we will be docking to the space station. So, the docking activities will be carried out on the second flight day, and I hope that everything will be fine. And the main crewmembers will be performing all the docking operations. They will have the pilot involved and the commander, of course, as well as Ed Lu is going to be involved in those operations and Richard Mastracchio is going to be involved as well. In the process of the docking operations, there is a whole list of responsibilities that the crewmembers are assigned to, and all the responsibilities, as I've said, are distributed between all the crewmembers. And right after the docking, we will perform an EVA on the next day. Therefore, in the process of docking, when we have some time available, I will concentrate my attention on the EVA preparation activities. For instance, we can prepare all the EVA tools and some hardware for the EVA; we'll have to assemble, or put all the tools together, because they will be scattered around shuttle, they will be in different places, we'll have to take them from different stowage places and put them together. So that, after the docking takes place - it will be evening - and next morning we will be able to perform all the pre-EVA activities very soon and successfully.

Let's talk some more about this space walk. You and Ed Lu will be performing a space walk the day after docking, and it's only the second time that there's ever been an astronaut-and-a-cosmonaut team perform a space walk from the space shuttle, although teams have performed space walks from the Mir station. Tell us about what it is that is learned - how, what is the value of having the Russian system and the American system working together in trying to do a space walk? Does it help us learn things we will need for the future of the International Space Station?

Of course. Our space walk is planned to be from the space shuttle in American EMU suits, but we will be working on the Russian segment, and all the main tasks are associated with the Russian segment. Therefore, all the hardware that we are going to use as well as the location where we're going to apply the tools will be on the Russian segment. As part of the preparation, all different Russian experts participated as well as part of the training, so we had two groups of EVA specialists involved who were in charge of our training: It was the U.S. EVA specialists here in the U.S. and the Russian EVA group in Russia. And naturally, each partner, or each crewmember, has a great experience in performing EVA, we have traditional ways of performing EVAs, and, of course, uh, different EVA groups exercise somewhat different approaches to get the crewmembers trained. And you might know that we have even different spacesuits, they are different. So, based on the joint experience that we have gained in the previous phase - Mir/NASA phase, as well as the experience that was gained by Vladimir Titov when he was part of the shuttle crew - so drawing lessons from that experience that we have gained we have formed a program of our training, or the specialists as a joint EVA community formed the training, and the U.S. was in charge of our training because the EVA happens from the U.S. shuttle; therefore, the U.S. group was in charge. And there was some point in time when the differences in the opinion of different countries have been discussed very extensively, and we had to find a "golden medium," as it were; and we had numerous discussions on different safety tethers, on the protocol of using the safety tethers, and how we are going to bring out the hardware, how we're going to translate, what translation paths we will use, what is allowed for us to do, what is not, etc. So there were differences in opinion, as I've said, but I must say that all the differences have been resolved very fast, and then we were able to reconcile two different opinions. And the EVA Russian and the U.S. EVA committees were able to find a common language. And when we went for our training to Russia, I felt that our training sessions were prepared very well in advance. We had only three runs in water, and we were able to gain the skills which were up to par with the skills that will enable us to perform our EVA tasks successfully. And after that, we had another training session, additional runs, we went to Russia again, and of course we are constantly having different runs at the NBL facility here in the U.S. And I'm very happy that I can see this cooperation in the EVA community, and I'm happy that the EVA specialists can train the crewmembers for any tasks associated with EVA. And thanks to the experience that was gained, we know that some modifications are on the way on the U.S. suit, spacesuit, as well as the Russian spacesuit. And that has been done when partners are looking at each experience, each other's experience, and they try to employ the best experience that was gained by the other side. And I can see it every day, for every step of the operations, and I can say that, as the result, the International Space Station, with numerous EVAs involved, we will have very good spacesuits, wonderful hardware. And, of course, a lot has been done through the cooperation.

Let's talk about the space walk that you and Ed Lu are going perform - actually, let's let you talk about the spacewalk that you and Ed Lu are going to perform. Talk us through the events of that day. Once the airlock hatch is opened and the two of you float out into the payload bay; what are you scheduled to do that day?

Well, if we look in general at all the EVA tasks that we'll have to perform, I can say that since the Service Module will be part of the International Space Station by that time we will have to make sure that it is fully integrated with International Space Station so that we will have all the capabilities to use it as the central module of the Russian segment. The main tasks, the main task in EVA for us is to integrate the space station with the FGB in terms of the electrical system and all the control and command systems, in addition to TV and telemetry systems and some integration for the Orlan suit. We will have to route four types of different cables in the course of our EVA. And we will be installing a very sensitive hardware of the magnetometer system, which is the ferroprobe; that is a sensor that will be used for the control and command system on mission, motion control system of the whole complex. So, these are the main EVA tasks for us, and these tasks will take over six hours. After we open the hatch and now after we egress we will have to go a special container which is in the cargo bay of the shuttle; we'll have to open it and take all the cables and all the hardware - the cables are quite long, they will be on special reels, the reels have been manufactured and designed by our specialists so that the configuration, the launch configuration, would allow to keep the cables intact because a lot of vibrations, uh, influencing the cables. So, we will take those cables with the reels, and we will have to attach them on the BRT, which we have on the spacesuit. And I will be assisting Ed Lu to place them comfortably, and Ed will assist me in placing them on, on BRT so we could translate successfully to the work site. And after that, we will close the container and then Rick, another crewmember, who will be performing as an RMS operator, will bring us to the location, to the work site, as far as he can - that will be the initial part of the FGB, and since RMS does not have the capabilities to translate us further we will have to translate by ourselves using the experience that the Russian partners have gained on translation of the distances that we'll have to cover. So we will be using the Russian safety tether protocol and we will be translating, the translation path, actually, is quite long, and we will have to go around a numerous number of antennas and targets, so we need to be very careful not to touch them or misplace them; and the cables actually are quite bulky, so this is a challenge for us to translate to the work site. So the first thing that we'll do is to install the magnetometer. We'll go to the very end, to the aft part of the Service Module, so we'll have to go from shuttle to the aft part of the Service Module, and we'll have to install the magnetometer. For that, we have a special probe that will be attached to the Service Module, and at the end of the probe, a sensitive hardware will be on the end of this probe, so it will be away from the structure itself for about a meter-and-a-half. And at that configuration, the risk will be minimized: In other words, the sensitive hardware will not be touching the shell of the Service Module, and I hope that it will be working very well. After that, we go back to the place where FGB is docked to the Service Module, and we'll be routing the cables. We have, uh, special plates, and the connectors are on those plates. Then we will be routing the cables, as I've said, and we will install them at special holding devices; and we'll have to install the holding devices as well. And, we will install the holders, and then the cables will go through the holders; and, on the other side of the FGB, we'll have to mate the cables as well. And we will have TV cables, we have electrical cables and SUBA system and Tranzit system. In other words, we'll have to route four types of cables. This is a very lengthy task, and that is the main part of our EVA task as well. And after that, we will have to collect all the hardware that we have used, the empty cable reels, and then we'll go back to the place where Richard will be able to pick us up, and where the RMS will be translated back. He will translate us to the space shuttle, the cargo bay of the space shuttle, and we'll open up the container again, we'll put all the, all the hardware inside, all the tools, and then we'll be ready to go back to the airlock and close the hatch. And according to the, our experts' estimates, it'll take about six hours.

The day after you two do all of that work is the day that all seven of you are to enter the International Space Station, and you are going to be the first people to ever go inside the Service Module while it's on orbit. Have any sense of how you're going to feel to be a part of that historic event?

You're right; this will be a historic milestone, you might say, in terms of we will be the first to enter the Service Module on orbit, and after that we'll start using the Service Module. And this is a historic event because, starting from that point of time, all the conditions will be made to enable the manned flight of the International Space Station - in other words, the crewmembers could stay in orbit permanently. Therefore, it's a very important moment, and I cannot wait to see it myself. And it goes not only for me but all my colleagues, all the cosmonauts and astronauts who have been trained to be part of the International Space Station for a long time and they are awaiting their missions. And in addition to that, this historic event, of course, is of a great importance because a lot will depend on the results of our work; whether our future crewmembers will have a more difficult life or whether we'll be able to help them out. Therefore, all the work inside the Service Module is designed to simplify the very beginning of the increment crew that will launch in a very short time after we go in orbit. And we have to prepare the Service Module to the maximum for their arrival. And I cannot wait.

Let's first talk about this module, the Service Module. We've heard it described as being the early living quarters for the station, but I want to get a better sense of why it's so important. Help us…introduce us to Zvezda, if you will - what does it contain that is required so that people can stay on board the station? What kind of equipment? What kind of systems are there? What activities will go on inside of it? Why is this module so important?

Well, if we talk about Zvezda, then I can say that Zvezda is the module which supports a whole list of vitally important operations which are necessary for the future space station assembly. In addition to the fact that the Service Module connects the modules of the Russian segment, it also has four docking ports, and the one port will be used, one axial port will be used, for the FGB docking and one other axial port will be used for docking with transportation and cargo vehicles. And the first increment crew will be docked to that axial port. Then we have two other ports on the transfer compartment where the UDM will be docked and SPP will be docked at the other one. And the universal docking compartment will have five additional docking ports that other modules can dock. In other words, the Service Module is a key element in terms of the space station assembly. Moreover, the Service Module is the key module for the Russian segment and it will be in charge of the centralized control and command operations; it will be in charge of the motion control operations of the whole space station; it will be able to perform reboost operations by using the Service Module thrusters as well as thrusters of other modules which are docked to the Service Module. And, as we have said earlier, from that point in time, it enables the crewmembers to stay in orbit permanently. The Service Module and all the systems of the Service Module support the environment for the crewmembers so they could stay in orbit, and it supports the atmosphere. It will be able to take care of all the harmful contaminants in the space station, which, of course, are inevitable when the crewmembers stay there for a long time. And it will absorb CO2, which will be in the atmosphere of the space station. It will support all the necessary parameters in terms of the humidity and temperature control inside the module, and it will take care of the condensate of the Service Module. In other words, the Service Module will carry out a number of very important tasks will, will be carried out by the Service Module systems. And since there are some constraints for the launch configuration, and that goes for all the modules, then not all the systems of the Service Module will be installed nominally; therefore, we will have to install them on orbit, some of them. So, for instance, when we look at the storage batteries, not all eight will be installed but only five, and we will have to bring additional three on board the space station. We will be working on the electrical system. We will be working on the Elektron, the air revitalization system, and then hygienic systems as well, as well as medical support systems. In other words, we are facing a whole list of operations that we will have to perform inside the Service Module, and we'll have only five days so all the crewmembers will be involved so we could do all that we can successfully. Of course, the largest portion of the deployment of these systems on the Service Module goes to the increment crew.

As you said, you are only scheduled to be inside the station for five days; can you summarize what are the, or tell us what are the most important things that you have to do? Is it batteries or Elektron, or is it transfer? What are the most important things that you and your crewmates have to do during those five days?

Well, if we try to range all the tasks that we are faced with, then each task is of great importance. If we look on the overriding importance of all the tasks, then I think one of the main tasks is the electrical power supply system, because those five units that will be on board the Service Module will allow to provide the power only partially for all the hardware. And the fact that we'll install three additional storage batteries, it will extend the range of functions of the electrical power supply system and it will allow us to use all the other systems to full extent. Therefore, the work of the Service Module will be more productive and it will able to carry out all the tasks, be it dynamic tasks or crew support, etc. In other words, the experts on the ground who are working in the electrical division will be able to use the Service Module resources to a full extent. Another main task is that, before we go and dock with the Service Module we'll have a Progress cargo vehicle docked to the Service Module, and it will carry a great amount of cargo items which will fly from Russia, and that is mainly different outfitting systems or outfitting hardware. And the difficulty here is that this cargo vehicle will have to undock after we leave the space station, it'll have to go off. Therefore, we need to unload all the equipment, we have to prepare Progress for undocking operations, we'll have to seal it, and that is a great task because the unloading operations are not that easy. And then, we'll have to load the used hardware that we will not have to use on the space station anymore - that is, different brackets, different auxiliary devices which are used for the launch configuration to keep all the systems in place when they are launched. In other words, this work will be done mainly by Boris Morukov. He will be in charge of that -- that is the second crewmember that will fly with us. And another challenging task is to unload SPACEHAB. The shuttle has a larger capability to deliver different cargo items on orbit, and those systems, or that equipment that we'll have in the SPACEHAB, is larger - the volume is larger - than inside the Progress vehicle; and we'll have to unload the SPACEHAB as well. So, the person in charge for those operations will be Rick Mastracchio. He will be in charge of the operations, he will be the coordinator for that work. And each crewmember will be involved in all the unloading operations. We have hours planned where we will be performing those tasks. We'll have to unload the SPACEHAB, and then we'll have to stow the items in the allocated stowage places. And those stowage places have been planned before, on the ground, so this is a very serious, very extensive work. And then we'll be working with different systems; we'll have to outfit various systems. We'll have to work, as I've said, with the hygienic and sanitary equipment - this is the space toilet that will be used by the increment crew - we'll have to install the system, we'll have to mate all the connectors for the increment crew which will stay on orbit for the long time. And, of course, the increment crew will have to be involved in physical activities because it's very important for their future restoration on the ground when they come back. So, physical exercise is of great importance - for that, our crew will install the treadmill on the space module as well as ergometer and a medical cabinet, which will enable the increment crew to monitor their health and their body status. And that is very important. And the crew quarters will be filled with all the systems and the hardwares, that is, their launch configuration, and the hardware will be used for the EVA as well. I haven't mentioned that before, but the Service Module also contributes to successful EVA activities, so it will carry the spacesuits which will be used for EVAs, as well as the hardware, so we will have to unload the crew quarters and stow the equipment in different locations on the Service Module so that the crewmembers, when they come, the increment crew when they come, could use the crew quarters, they could sleep there and feel more comfortable in their space home. So, this is a list of all the activities; of course, this is not an exhaustive list that we will carry out on the Service Module, and as I've said, they have great significance, of great importance, each of them.

And is it correct to say that you will be spending most of your time in the Service Module installing hardware or batteries or whatever?

That is true; you're right. I will be installing the hardware, the electrical batteries, and different electrical units, which are part of the electrical power supply system, and other systems as well. And the main part of my time on orbit is planned to be used for unloading operations of the SPACEHAB. And the first day and the last day of our flight will be used to deactivate different systems and then seal all the module, all the systems and module of the Service Module.

You are currently slated to be the Commander of a future International Space Station Expedition crew. Tell us, as best as you understand it now, what the tasks and the responsibilities are that go with that job.

I hope that I will be part of the increment crews for the International Space Station, and I hope that I'll be part of the increment-6 crew. And the crew hasn't been assigned fully yet, so the Russian side proposes me for that crew, and as far as I know two U.S. crewmembers will be part of the sixth increment crew. In addition to that, I will be also used as a backup for the fourth increment crew if nothing changes in the space program, because you understand that the space program is fluid and everything changes daily. And at that initial phase, we will be performing the assembly operations, and the main part of the operations and the tasks associated with that will be associated with the assembly of the International Space Station. And the tasks will be similar with those tasks that we will be performing as part of the STS-106 crew: We will be installing different systems and hardware, we will be testing the systems, we'll perform numerous EVA activities, we will install a lot of systems on the exterior side of the space station, we will be installing the truss, maybe we'll have to remove and replace some of the units, etc. And I think at that stage, a program will unfold which is the payload or the scientific part of the International Space Station, so I anticipate that some of the experiments will be performed at that time, and the time that we'll have left from the installation tasks will be used for the scientific experiments. So in other words, our lives will be busy and I anticipate that this stage of the space program will be very full and busy. And I hope to be part of that myself.

The success of STS-106 is critical to establishing this space station as a place that can house a permanent presence of people from Earth. The fact that you're willing to fly in space yourself to do the work tells me that you think that is important. So, finally, I'd like to get you to tell me why: What's the importance of establishing this space station? What do you believe it's going to lead us to in the future?

I must say that even today it is evident that the space program development, as well as the space technology development, is of crucial importance for all the people living on Earth, and those people that have never even dreamt of flying on orbit or even those people who are not interested in the development of the space programs, are using the results gained in flight based on the development of the space programs. And maybe today, the people living on Earth are using the results from different experiments, which were carried out in space every day. So, we have the capabilities now that were gained from the space program. We have fantastic opportunities to perform different experiments on orbit that the conditions that are so much different form the Earth, and we can perform different tasks with a greater success. And, of course, the space station will be like a space lab, and it will be on orbit for a long time. So, the people who will be on orbit and - in the long run, we'll have six crewmembers - will be supporting the experiments, will be working with the scientific hardware they will be delivering back to the ground the results of the scientific experiments. In other words, when we have the International Space Station in place, the people who are working in the space industry will have a chance to test their ideas, and all their scholars and scientists will have this fantastic opportunity as well. And I anticipate that the very extensive scope of operations will be devoted to science. And I anticipate that we'll have numerous discoveries in science, and we'll get great results from our scientific experiments. And nobody can really evaluate this part of the space station operations. And this is evident for me right now. Therefore, all I can say is this project is really necessary and it has a great future.

Image: Yuri Malenchenko.
Click on the image to hear STS-106 Mission Specialist Yuri Malenchenko's greeting in English. Click here to hear it in Russian.
Crew Interviews

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
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