Interview: Boris Morukov
STS-106 Crew Interviews with Boris Morukov, Mission Specialist
Boris, you've been involved in the Soviet and the Russian space
program as a physician and a researcher for more than twenty years,
but this is the first time that you are going to ever fly in space.
Have you always wanted to fly in space yourself?
Yes, I always
wanted to fly into space. And, I guess it's the "golden dream"
of all the boys of my generation. But, for many of them, this
is still a dream. But my life has made another turn, and all my
work and all my life is dedicated to that goal.
boys of your generation are old enough to have remembered when
Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to ever fly in space;
can you tell us what that was like - what was it like to be a
boy in Moscow, or in Russia at that time?
a very happy event for all the people in my country, and the space
flights of Sputniks were like an everyday activity, you might
say, but everybody was waiting for a man to go in space. But it
was still a great surprise to everybody, and the whole population
exploded from happiness and enthusiasm. That was wonderful.
I mentioned that you've been involved in the space program
for many years, although you've not been in space yourself before.
Tell us about your background, your career path that brought
you to become a doctor and to work at the Institute for Biomedical
Problems, and something about your work and how that institute
has studied the effects of space flight on human beings.
When I was
still a student of the medical institute, I knew that there is
the Institute for Biomedical Problems, IBMP, which is, at present,
the leading medical center for space medicine. And when I was
still a student, I participated in some of the experiments that
were carried out by the institute, and after I graduated, I started
working for the institute, for the IBMP, as a scientist, as a
doctor, and at that time, I made the decision that I would try
to become a cosmonaut myself so the knowledge and the experience
that I have gained could be implemented as a part of the space
flight. You can say that I was working in different departments
which are in charge of space flights at our institute: I worked
as a scientist, I worked as a physician, as a part of the medical
support operation group at the mission control center, and I participated
in different experiments that were devoted to zero-gravity effects
on the body of a human as well as different countermeasures to
negative metabolic changes that might occur during a long-term
I am interested to get your opinion, then, on how smart
we have gotten about that: After forty years of human space
flight, how well do we understand what being in a weightless
environment does to the human body? How, good have we gotten
about being able to respond to that?
weightlessness and its effects on the human body have been studied
as a part of the space flights, as well as on the ground, the
experiments that were simulating the conditions of the flight.
But this issue involved animals flying in the space station for
biomedical experiments and collecting all the experience that
we've gained. At present, we can say that a human can stay, work
and live successfully on orbit, retaining all the capabilities
of a human body, given that, that crewmembers will follow all
the recommendations for the countermeasures.
You made reference to your career at the IBMP as a researcher
and as a physician, and now you've been involved with the space
program for many years. From your professional career, even
from your student days, do you have a couple of, some people
in mind that you look at as, and say to yourself, these are
very important people, these were people who were influential
in my making the choices that I made and becoming the person
that I've become.
people, in fact, influenced my life…people that I worked,
in the course of these years were supporting my desire to become
a cosmonaut, they helped me a lot to become a researcher I am
today. For instance, for a long time as a researcher I had been
cooperating with Dr. Grigoriev, who is my mentor in science. As
a cosmonaut, I took a lot from my predecessor, Valery Polyakov,
who stayed in orbit for the longest time in the history of the
manned flight; and it's not only experience from a crewmember
that stayed in orbit but he taught me how to keep my health intact,
how to coordinate my work with other people, and I'm very thankful
to him for that. But in reality, there are more people who surrounded
me, for all these years, contributed, and I'm very thankful to
them for that.
Over its history, the American space shuttle program has
planned its missions out for years in advance, and crews of
astronauts have spent a year or more training for them. Well,
in fact, you and two of your crewmates - Ed Lu and Yuri Malenchenko
- had been training with four other crewmates for a different
mission when you were switched to STS-106 with just a few months
left before the launch. First, I'd like to get you to explain
to us the circumstances of the change and why STS-106 was added
to the list; but second, talk about what it was like for you
to move from being part of one group and being part of a second.
As you know,
last year there were two unsuccessful launches of the Proton vehicle,
and because of that, the Service Module launch was delayed, and
there was a necessity to bring another additional crew, perform
another additional mission, because the orbit of the International
Space Station was decaying gradually and some of the systems and
hardware of the modules which are on orbit right now needed attention,
they needed replace and removal operations. Therefore, a decision
was made for those tasks that at the beginning were planned for
STS-101 expedition to divide them in two missions, which will
be STS-101 and a new additional mission, STS-106. And our crew,
therefore, was split, and three crewmembers that were working
mainly on the Service Module were assigned as part of the STS-106
crew. We had a wonderful crew, actually, STS-101 crew: We had
great personal relationship, great interaction and personal support
and coordination in our work, and I'm happy that they had a very
successful mission. But, I guess, we were lucky the second time,
also: Our second mission, our crew, consists of wonderful people
and excellent professionals. And we have been working together
for a few months, and I hope that our work will be as successful
on orbit as it is on the ground. Of course, it was a difficult
move and we were sad, but at the same time, we were striving for
our goal of flight to the International Space Station.
After having made the change from one crew to the other,
have there been special challenges for you and your crewmates
as you get ready for this mission?
most challenging part of our flight is work in the Russian segment
and activities associated with the preparation of the International
Space Station for the first increment crew. And that is very intensive
work, to prepare everything for them, and the main difficulty,
I guess, is how to coordinate our activities because the time
we'll be dock, when we'll be docked to the space station is quite
limited. So, we need to spend our time the most, in a most effective
manner, and this requires a great coordination, a great interaction
between the crewmembers.
Your flight to the International Space Station is the
first since the arrival of the Service Module; in fact, there
will be a Progress vehicle that will be docked to the station
at that time as well. So, let's go through your mission from
the beginning. One of the first things you have to do is rendezvous
with the station and dock to it. Could you describe what happens
that day, what the steps in the process are, and tell us a little
bit about what your part will be that day, what you'll be doing
on rendezvous day.
and docking is one of the most crucial stages of the flight. And
if this stage is unsuccessful, then we can't carry out any other
activities. Therefore, each crewmember is involved in those activities.
We will be responsible for the most part for the tasks that will
be carried out on the middeck of the shuttle; my responsibility
will be the photo/TV operations. At the time, I will need to prepare
the systems to ensure that they are ready for rendezvous and docking
operations, then I'll have to monitor the operations of those
systems, and, after that, will have to send a video signal to
the ground. So, these are my personal responsibilities for that
stage of flight.
Can you give us a brief description of how the rendezvous
goes, and how the shuttle approaches and, and then closes in
to and docks to the station?
a very complex and very dynamic process because two objects which
are on the space orbit will have to align all the movements, they
will have to balance out all the angular and regular velocities,
and they will have to come in one point in space without damaging
each other. What I might say is that shuttle is a very reliable
system that has a great experience for these type of operations.
And, a lot, of course, depends on the crewmembers as well, and
we have been trained a lot for those operations, and I think everything
will be successful. Our commander is very experienced, and our
pilot is a high professional as well. And our mission specialists
will support them as well as we can.
The first day after the docking to ISS is the day that
Ed Lu and Yuri Malenchenko are to make a six-and-a-half-hour
space walk. It's only going to be the second time ever that
a team of an American and a Russian have made a space walk from
the space shuttle, but similar teams have done space walks from
the Mir station during the Shuttle/Mir program. Can you tell
us how it is valuable to have multinational teams do this? What
are we learn from, from that that might be applicable to the
International Space Station and space walks from there in the
true, that is the second time when we'll have a Russian and American
crewmembers together performing an EVA, and for the International
Space Station that is the first time, and I might say that this
is a prototype, if you like, on EVA-type of activities since this
is the first time that the EVA procedures have been concurred
by both sides, from the Russian side and the U.S. side. And, our
crewmembers participated in training sessions in both in Russia
and the U.S., they are using the hardware and tools from both
countries, and in the future I think the approach will be even
more integrated because the International Space Station is a very
large object and, there'll be several airlocks when we'll be able
to use them for EVA activities. And I think, in the future, EVAs
will be performed out of Russian and U.S. spacesuits, and that
will depend on the specific task that will have to be carried
out for each particular flight. I believe this approach will be
more flexible and more functional - it will be integrated approach.
Of course, this is very extensive work to combine two different
approaches from both countries, two different procedures and visions,
and I think our flight is one of the key stages for that.
Let me ask you to give us some detail about this particular
space walk. Ed and Yuri will be outside, you'll be inside -
describe the tasks that they have to do, and, and talk about
what your role will be to support the space walk from inside
walk is devoted mainly to the integration of the modules, which
are in space right now - that is, FGB, Unity and the Service Module,
which will be docked to them. Our crewmembers, Ed and Yuri, will
have to mate several systems together: that is, the electrical
power supply system - they'll have to integrate it with the rest
of the space station - control and command system, and TV system
as well. In addition to that, on the exterior surface of the Service
Module some hardware items will be installed, such as the magnetometer
and some cargo items will be transferred from the cargo bay of
the shuttle to the allocated places on the surface of the Service
Module and FGB.
Will you be doing photo/TV documentation again?
Yes, I will
be. And, I will be involved in the pre-EVA activities - I will
be preparing the EVA tools, supporting the work of the spacesuits;
then I will be removing and replacing the cartridges for CO2,
The day after this space walk is the day that all of you
are to enter the International Space Station, and you will become
the first people ever to enter Zvezda while it is on orbit.
Do you have any sense at all, at this point, of how you're going
to feel to be present for this historic event?
Yes. I think
this moment in time will be really very important because we will
be entering a module which will stay in orbit for fifteen years.
But I think that our schedule is so planned and so packed that
we will not have any room for emotions, we will have to be actively
involved on all the operations that we have to perform, and we'll
have to carry out all the tasks that are necessary to prepare
the Service Module for the future flights.
The Service Module has been described as the early living
quarters for the future Expedition crews to the station, but
I'd like to ask you to help us understand better why Zvezda
is so important: What is it that's there? What service does
it provide? What systems are involved? What is it that makes
this module so important to the future of the station?
module is truly the main place for the crewmembers' habitation,
and that module has everything necessary to support the environment
for the crewmembers on a permanent basis. The main source of oxygen
for the crewmembers on station will be Elektron system, which
is installed on Zvezda module, which receives oxygen from the
regeneration of water and will have the purification system for
the air, which is…also involves the harmful contaminant removal,
which is on Zvezda module. That module has everything necessary
to support the environment for the crewmembers in, as well as
the allowable range of temperature and humidity conditions. And
the Zvezda module has crew quarters for crewmembers, and it has
kitchen and a toilet, and large volumes of water and food are
located on Zvezda, as well as a system which allow us to receive
water from the air condensate. In other words, this is a juncture
where we have everything necessary to support crewmembers on orbit.
All the systems have been tested before and I'm sure that they
will work very well. All of them are available to provide everything
necessary for the crewmembers' needs, and if necessary, we can
outfit those systems, and that means that those systems will be
operational for a very long time.
Yet because of weight constraints, Zvezda does not arrive
on orbit and at the station ready, ready to use; you and your
crewmates are going to help get it ready. Describe the important
Service Module outfitting tasks that you have to do - the hardware
that you have to install, or systems that you have to connect
and set up. Describe the kinds of work that you're going to
do and what your goal as a crew is.
true, that this is one of the main parts of our work on orbit
because the Service Module will be launched without the significant
components of the life support systems. We'll have to bring them
on orbit and we'll have to install them in place; that is Elektron
system, which supplies oxygen to the crewmembers; that is multiple
units for the electrical power supply system; and other systems
cannot function without them, including the environment support
systems; and we will deliver additional devices which will be
used for the crewmembers to perform the physical activities -
that is, the treadmill with a special isolation system from vibration,
and the ergometer. And, we will deliver some additional components
for the environment support such as the sanitation devices and
water supply systems. We will deliver a lot of cargo items for
the increment crewmembers, including clothes, food, water and
hygienic devices. And our task will be to deliver those cargo
items and to stow them at their nominal locations. We'll have
to activate and test numerous systems and tools for the future
Along with installing these systems that you've referred
to, you and your crewmates are also moving a lot of supplies
and logistics onto the station, both from in the SPACEHAB module
inside Atlantis but also from a Progress supply ship that is
to be docked to the rear of Zvezda. You are the person who is
in charge of the Progress and getting the material and, and
dealing with the material in and out of there. So, I'd like
to get you to educate us about Progress: Tell us about the role
that this ship has played in the past and the present for the
Russian space program, and how it's going to be used to help
supply the International Space Station.
transportation cargo vehicle have been used for many years as
the main means of delivering different cargo items; that includes
payloads, water, oxygen, food, various tools depending on the
specific tasks for a particular mission. And Progress thrusters,
have been used for reboost operations, and that function will
be developed for the International Space Station as well because
some of the Progress vehicles will be outfitted with additional
propellant tanks, and we will be able to use not only the thrusters
of the Progress vehicles but we'll be able to transfer propellant
from Progress propellant tanks to the Service Module tanks and
FGB. So, we'll have this possibility of integrating the propellant
systems, and Progress will be used to deliver numerous cargo items
for the International Space Station. And one of the key functions
of Progress vehicle is that everything unnecessary, all the wastes
from life will have to be disposed of, and they can be off-loaded
in the Progress vehicle because the Progress vehicle dies off
when it enters the atmosphere, and all the waste that are not
necessary for the space station will be flown in the Progress.
On this mission you have the job of organizing the movement
of cargo out of the Progress during docked operations, and this
is the first Progress vessel that will dock to the International
Space Station. Talk about the kinds of supplies or other materials
that are being delivered to the station on board this particular
we have a very large manifest for Progress vehicle. And right
now, I think the manifest experts are in the process of concurring
all the items from the manifest, and that makes our life somewhat
difficult because some of the decisions will be made at the last
minute, and we'll have to open the hatch of the Progress vehicle
and unload all the cargo. The most important is to ensure that
we have the proper coordination between the crewmembers and between
Progress unloading activities and SPACEHAB unloading activities,
because a lot of cargo items are inside of the SPACEHAB. Many
of the items, which are going to be launched with the Progress,
are going to be stowed inside the Service Module; as for the shuttle,
those cargo items will be stowed inside the FGB and Unity. Some
of the items which are inside of FGB right now will be offloaded
into Progress, and this is a very complex task. So, we have divided
these activities: Two crewmembers are going to work with the Progress
unloading activities - I will be one of them, and I'll have another
crewmember who will be assisting me and who will be unloading
and stowing those items inside the space station - and the same
goes for the SPACEHAB activities. Therefore, we'll not be interfering
between each other. And the crewmembers, some other crewmembers,
will be in charge of the installation task of different systems
at the time as well. But some of the units which come from the
SPACEHAB will have to be translated to the Service Module - that
goes for the components of the treadmill, which will be inside
of the Service Module, but those components will be brought in
at a later stage so it will not interfere with our tasks. But
you might imagine that a lot of items are inside of the Progress
vehicle, and everything depends how they will be stowed inside
the Progress, and the sequence of unloading will have to coincide
with our operations inside the space station because if we'll
have to take, if we'll have to use some of the items which are
on the bottom of the Progress and we'll need them in the first
day of our mission, of our stay inside the station, it'll be very
It also occurs to me that what might complicate things
is that, for the first time, there will be supplies coming on
to the station from two directions, as you mentioned, from Progress
and from SPACEHAB, and not just from one and back and forth.
Is there a special strategy that you have devised to help make
that go more smoothly?
how we will coordinate this process, and that is the strategy,
strategy, in fact, so the cargo flows will not be crossed over,
and it will enable us not to interfere with each other. And we
will not be in the way of those crewmembers who are going to carry
out some other tasks not associated with the unloading tasks.
But the most important thing is that this is a very extensive
process; right now, a very detailed analysis is being done as
to where each item has to be stowed, in what particular place,
and how they're going to be restrained for the future increment
missions. And we will be using cue cards, and for the first time,
we are going to test the computer inventory system, and that is
one of the components of the strategy for future missions. And
for them it will be nominal, but for us it's something new. So
we'll be testing it for the first time in that flight.
With all of that work done, it will, after five days,
be time for you all to leave the station. Describe for us what
happens that day - what are you do during the undocking and
the flyaround, and what does your crew accomplish on that day?
day we will perform undocking operations. The shuttle will have
to go away from the space station at a specific distance and will
perform a flyaround. At that time, we will inspect the space station,
its exterior surface, surfaces; we'll take some photo images of
all the elements and components of the space station. And right
now, we are reviewing the images that we have received from the
previous mission, STS-101. This is very important for the crewmembers
as well as for the ground specialists who are planning the operations.
After that, we will be getting ready for the landing activities,
and I will be involved with photo and video operations.
The success of STS-106 is critical to establishing a permanent
presence of people from our planet on board the International
Space Station. And the fact that you are willing - and in fact,
eager - to fly in space and do this yourself tells me that you
think it's important. So, finally, I'd like to ask you, why:
What, in your mind, is the importance of establishing this space
station? Why do we need it? What is it going to lead us to in
years to come?
a large-scale space program. I think this is the largest program
for the century, and of course we will gain new scientific results
and the space technology will be developed further, and all different
disciplines involved will get a great breakthrough. But the most
important, I guess, is that we will be cooperating with each other.
This is the first truly international project which will not only
involve bringing in together what each country has, but the fact
that we will be working together - the international crewmembers
will be working together, we will be coordinating the control
of the space station together, the crewmembers will be flying
together for a long time in space. So, I guess this mutual understanding
and the international integration is the main result and the main
value of this space project. And if everything goes well on space,
I think our life on the ground will be a little bit easier.