Interview: Michael Anderson
STS-107 Crew Interview with Michael Anderson, mission specialist.
Mike, I want to start off [by] asking you to give us a brief
overview of the mission. And the goals of the mission, if they can
be encapsulated into a short synopsis.
is one of the first research flights in the shuttle program in quite
some time. As you know, the last few years, we've been spending
most of our shuttle resources building International Space Station,
and science has sort of taken a backseat. Well, now it's time to
get back to doing science on the space shuttle, and that's what
we're going to do on STS-107. We're a 16-day, pure research flight.
And we spent the last two years preparing for this flight, and we're
really looking forward to getting on orbit and getting some really
good research done. You can divide the science up on this flight
into a couple of different categories. We have Earth science. That's
where we're going to take the shuttle and use it as a great platform
to look back at the Earth and study the Earth and the environment.
We're also going to conduct a lot of life science research on this
flight. We have a whole suite of life science experiments in which
we're going to study ourselves and the human body, and really try
to get a good idea for what happens to the human body in space and
how we can use that information down here on Earth. And of course,
we're also going to conduct some pure physical science research
up there. The microgravity environment is a great place to conduct
physical science research. And, we hope to do some great research
during the 16 days we're on orbit.
Let's expand a little bit on that - microgravity. The notion of,
or the idea of, doing research in microgravity. Why is it important
to do some of the same research in microgravity that you do on Earth?
And, what advantages do you gain by doing it in microgravity?
Well, by going
to space, we get three things out of going to space. First of all,
we get a unique platform. A unique place in which to look back at
the planet and study the planet, or to look out into space and study
the stars and the solar system. We also get, in space, what we call
microgravity, or a reduced-gravity environment. You know, when we're
down here on Earth, we're always affected by gravity. And, everything
we do is affected by gravity. Once we get into space, in this microgravity
environment, we take away that constant of gravity. We're often
really amazed at how things change when you take away gravity. So,
being able to take advantage of that microgravity environment has
really proven to be a great benefit. You know, we can just simply
do some things in space that we simply can't do down here on Earth.
The other thing you can get in space is: You can take advantage
of the space environment. You can take advantage of the great vacuum
that we have there in space. And, that can be very beneficial for
trying to develop certain materials. You can also take advantage
of the solar radiation and some of the other aspects of the solar
environment to study them and to understand the universe and the
environment of space much better.
Some people may be expecting the research on this mission to yield
immediate results. But, that's not necessarily the process of scientific
research. Can you kind of explain for somebody who's not familiar
with the process, what the goal of scientific research is? And,
where it fits into the problem-solving process or the theory-proving
When I think
of scientific research, I like to try to divide it up into three
different categories. You have developmental research. This is where
you're really demonstrating a new technology. Something that you
already understand. Something that you know that it works. But,
you're just trying to improve it to make it practical. An example
of this is the VCD experiment that we have on STS-107. This Vapor
Compression Distillation process is a process that we're hoping
to use on International Space Station where we can take wastewater,
purify it, and then perhaps use it for drinking water. So, we're
developing new technologies like that on board this flight. You
also have research that falls in the category of investigative research,
where you're trying to answer fundamental questions. We're doing
a lot of that on this flight with experiments such as PhAB4, which
stands for physiology and biochemistry. It's experiments where we're
looking at the human body. We're trying to understand more about
the human body, how it works, and how it reacts to the microgravity
environment. And, hopefully, taking some of the lessons we learn
and applying them to down here on Earth. Then, you have the final
category of research, which I like to think of as just pure science
or satisfying our curiosity. It's really just building on man's
knowledge base of information. Research like this may not yield
any practical results right away, but it does just add to our knowledge
and understanding of the universe. On this flight, we have an experiment
CVX, which is a very interesting experiment. It's the Critical Viscosity
of Xenon. And, it's probably not going to yield any practical result.
But, basically we're going to take the element xenon. We're going
to take it to its critical point, and that's a point where it's
in a fine balance between its vapor state and its liquid state.
And then, we're going to study the viscosity of it. And that's something
that's really interesting to the National Bureau of Standards, but
perhaps to the common person it really doesn't have any true interest
or any value. But really, you know, you'd be surprised with all
this research that we do, some of the results that we gain may not
mean anything to us right here today, but in the future they could
be very valuable. And, we've seen that time and time again.
I'm going to throw one at you that's kind of not in here. What surprises
you or amazes you about the scope of experiments on this mission?
It's, I mean, what are your thoughts about how vast an amount of
experiments are on this mission?
When we first
started training for this flight and we got our first briefings
about the number of payloads and experiments that were going to
be on this flight, I was really amazed. I was impressed. It was
certainly evident that the scientific community had been waiting
a long time for this flight, and they'd saved up a number of really
good experiments. And, they've done an excellent job in patching
all these experiments and integrating them into the 16-day mission.
And, it's been one of the hardest parts of preparing for this flight
is really trying to get a handle on the variety of payloads and
experiments. But we're just excited to be able to take them up there
and, hopefully, bring back some of the best science we've had in
part of being assigned to this mission you and some of your crewmates
have agreed to be science experiments yourselves, subjects. What
are your thoughts about that? What's that going to be like? Or what's
it been like training for that?
the first thing they did when they were going to pick a crew for
this flight was they sat us down and explained to us what our role
would be, not only as the scientist doing the experiments, but also
as subjects of the experiments. And, they outlined, in great detail,
what would be expected of us in that role. And of course, you know,
when you're talking about getting on a space shuttle mission, you'll
do anything. So, of course, you sign up for anything that they ask
you to do. But, when reality actually hits and you actually start
becoming that subject, and they actually start poking and prodding
you a little bit, then you start to realize, you know, what you've
actually signed up for. But, I think we all know, in reality, that
it's for an extremely good cause. A lot of hard work has gone into
preparing these experiments. People have taken great pains to make
sure that this science is valuable and worthwhile, and that everything
we do is extremely safe. So, I feel, you know, very comfortable
about doing what we're doing. And, I know that the small pains that
we go through are going to have great benefits and rewards in the
my understanding that some of the experiments call for you guys
to take part in preflight and postflight activities as far as being
subjects yourself. Can you talk about just a couple of those? And
tell me what they are. And what will go on.
Yeah. A lot
of what goes on with space research is really looking at how things
change when you go into space. And then, how they change again when
you come back. So, in order to conduct those experiments, we go
to great pains to gather what we call baseline data. We want to
look at ourselves before we fly. And, we'll take measurements of
our body, how it reacts to various stresses; and then we get into
space, we'll repeat those experiments to see how things have changed.
Then, we come back from the mission, again, we'll go through a whole
repetition of those experiments and see how our body has readapted
to coming back to Earth. One of the primary experiments we have
on this flight is a European experiment called ARMS; that's Advanced
Respiratory Monitoring System. And, you know, the human body is
a wonderful creation. And, it has a variety of different control
loops built within it. These control loops just, all on their own,
just do a great job of controlling things such as our blood pressure,
our heart rate, our respiratory system. And what's interesting is
we try to study how these control loops affect each other and how
they respond to various different stimulus. So, in this experiment
we're trying to measure as many of these control loops as we can.
We're measuring our respiration, we're measuring our heart rate,
we're measuring our blood pressure, our temperature, and even on
our ground studies we're measuring our actual velocity of blood
flow, both to our brain and through our hearts. As we're measuring
these control loops and how they're working, we're going to then
take our bodies into space. We're going to stimulate them by taking
away gravity. And then, we're going to see how all of these control
loops respond to that stimulus. So, we're going to go through a
variety of experiments on orbit to measure what's going on with
our body. After the flight, we're going to come back to Earth. Again,
we're stimulated again by bringing our body back into an environment
where we have gravity. And, we're going to repeat those experiments
to see how the body's adapting. So hopefully, with the information
gained before flight, on orbit, and after the flight, we'll be able
to come up with some great correlations and some great understandings
about how the body really regulates and controls itself.
it's going to be the first extended-duration mission since STS-90.
And it's going to be the first of your career. What are your thoughts
about being on a mission for so long with so much going on? What's
that going to be like?
in the era of the International Space Station, a 16-day flight doesn't
really seem long anymore. Especially when we have people on orbit
for three, perhaps six months at a time on board the space station.
But, for a shuttle flight, 16 days is a long time. My first flight
was eight to nine days long. And this flight's going to be twice
that length. So, I'm really looking forward to seeing what's going
to be different. One thing that I'm really interested in finding
out is what I understand and what I hear from people who have flown
long-duration flights, is that the body tends to adapt over time.
And, you get better and better with each day. And after a week on
orbit, you start to feel pretty good. After two weeks, you feel
even better. And from what I understand, after a month or two months,
you feel even better. And, you simply adapt to the environment.
So, I'm interested to see how that's going to happen with me. How
after the first week, how my body will adapt. And, will I be more
efficient the second week on orbit than I was on the first week?
So, it's going to be an exciting opportunity to see how myself,
personally, responds to a relatively long-duration flight. It's
also a good prep for future space station flights. You know, I think
that's the future of the space program. And, everyone wants an opportunity
to fly a long-duration flight. So, this'll be a good chance for
me to see what it's like to be in space for a relatively long period
crew's daily work schedule is going to be split up into dual shifts.
Why is it necessary to have dual shifts on a mission like this?
Yeah. We split
the crew up into two shifts, we call it a Red shift and a Blue shift.
And, we're basically going to work 24 hours a day. And, the reason
we've split the crew up like that is to take advantage of both crew
time and the limited space that we have on board the Orbiter. By
splitting the crew up, we can keep our experiments active 24 hours
a day. We don't have to go through the difficulty of shutting everything
down at night and then bringing everything back up in the morning.
We can run experiments 24 hours a day. You also have to realize
that even though we're flying this brand new Research Double Module,
which gives us a fairly good size space laboratory that takes up
the payload bay of the Orbiter, it's still a relatively small volume.
So, by having half the crew asleep at a time, it gives the waking
crewmembers a little bit more space to work. A little bit more elbow
room to do their job. So it's the best way to take advantage of
the limited time that we're going to have on orbit.
the most efficient [way of] handling things.
research on the mission originates from various parts of the world,
some of which you guys as a crew have gone to, to get familiar with
the experiments and the hardware. What's it been like going to those
places; and also, what's it like knowing that you're part of something,
that you're not only fostering an understanding of cultures between
other cultures, but also maybe helping these places reap some benefits
from these experiments?
I think in
the future when we look back at the shuttle program, when we open
our history books and we turn back to the shuttle program, I think
one thing that we'll certainly find great satisfaction in it and
get a lot of credit for it is: The shuttle program has gone to great
lengths to bring the international community into the space program.
You know, if you look at the early programs (such as Mercury, Gemini,
Apollo) with the exception of the Apollo-Soyuz mission, they were
pretty much all-American programs. But, with the space shuttle,
we've been able to bring international partners and participants
into the space program, both as providers of experiments and also
as astronauts and payload specialists. And so, it's really opened
up space and space exploration and space science to the entire world.
And of course, we've taken it a step further with the International
Space Station. Not only do we have international participants, but
we actually have international partners actually building and working
on this space station. So, one good thing about the shuttle is that
it's really a world-wide program that everyone can certainly benefit
You guys seem to be a close crew, too. And does that have anything
to do with the amount of experience between all of you? And, if
so, how has that helped bring you all together?
a very rookie crew. A very young crew. We have four rookies- first-time
fliers- and three one-time fliers. So, as you can see, compared
to the average shuttle crew today, we're a very inexperienced crew.
So knowing that, we've gone to great lengths to make sure that our
inexperience isn't something that's going to hamper us. We've worked
very closely, worked hard together over the last two years to make
this mission a success. So, knowing that we don't have the most
experienced people on this crew, it's really been important that
we work together as a crew and as a team in order to pull things
off. Where I may not know something, I can look to my partners and
perhaps they know the answer. So, we've all worked very closely
together to try to make this a successful flight. It's been a lot
of fun. I think when you get back from a spaceflight, you of course
remember all the great things you did on orbit. But, I think the
thing that really sticks with you is the time that you spent with
your crewmates. We've had a great time together training and traveling
around the world as we prepare for this flight. And, I think when
I look back on this flight years from now, the one thing that I'll
really remember and appreciate is the friendships that I've made
with my crewmates.
you give me an example or two [of] some of the research, if any,
that's on this mission that's also being conducted on the International
Space Station? And give me some idea of why it's necessary to conduct
the same research on two different spacecraft at the same time.
space shuttle and International Space Station sort of complement
each other when it comes to space research. You know, space shuttle
gives us a quick return. In other words, we're able to fly a mission,
get some science done, and bring it back to the Earth to the scientists
in a relatively quick fashion. I think that's an advantage for a
couple of different things. First of all, it allows the scientist
to develop his theories, his ideas, and to test out his hardware.
He can come up with an idea, design a piece of hardware, fly it
on the shuttle, and see if it works. If it doesn't work, he can
tweak his techniques, he can improve his hardware, then he can fly
it again and see whether or not he's made some gains in his progress
on his research there. Once we've done that on the space shuttle,
and once we've proven the hardware and proven the theories and technology,
we can then take that experiment, move it to the International Space
Station where now we conduct research full time for perhaps six
months or a year. A good example of that is the Combustion Module.
We're flying Combustion Module-2. It's the second flight of the
Combustion Module. And it's improved over the first flight on board
the space shuttle. And after we fly it on this mission, I'm sure
there'll be more improvements made. And, right now there're plans
to fly a full-scale Combustion Facility on board the International
obviously no rendezvous or docking or undocking on this mission.
You guys go up and you do your thing, and you come back. But, you
still have to get there, and you have to get back. Can you talk
me through what happens duty-wise, responsibility-wise, and who's
going to be doing what on the way up, and for coming back to Earth
me, this flight's going to be a lot different than the first flight,
especially when it comes to the launch and entry portions. On my
first flight, I was on the flight deck, very much involved with
the ascent and entry phases of the flight. But in this flight my
duties start when we get on orbit. I'm going to be on the middeck,
so basically during launch I'm just going to sit there and enjoy
the ride. Or, try to enjoy the ride. I'm probably different than
most astronauts. I really don't enjoy launches.
I think a launch is a terrible way to get to space. But right now,
it's the best way to get to space we have. Actually, the only way.
And so I'll take that ride. But once we get on orbit and once we
get to space, that's when I get down to work and start turning that
rocket ship into [an] orbiting laboratory. And our mission really
is about what we're going to do on orbit. Unfortunately, we have
to go through that terrible launch to get there. But once we get
there, we're going to enjoy 16 days on orbit of doing some great
the same on the way down? But, how do you feel about reentry?
are a little bit better than launch. You know, it's a little quieter.
It's, not quite as violent. And you can enjoy it a little bit. But
still for me on this flight entry, I'm just going to sit down in
my seat and hopefully, reflect on the 16 days on orbit that we've
had. And, just anxious to get back to Earth and give the scientists
all their research results. And you know, I'll be happy to have
the flight behind us.
you talk about how the activities start for you once you get to
orbit? What, as far as the process of what you're going to be activating
and when, and what you're going to do to actually get things under
This is a
very busy flight. And we've gone to great pains to try [to] ensure
that we get off to a good start. And, that's going to mean: As soon
as we get to orbit getting down to work and getting things done.
So, we've tried to choreograph that first day down to the very,
every minute we've tried to choreograph it in great detail. As soon
as we get to orbit, we're going to get out of seats and start opening
up the payload bay doors. And, within three hours, we hope to start
activating the Research Double Module, turning on experiments, and
getting down to doing some research on orbit. It's going to be very
busy. We don't know how some of the new fliers are going to react
to being in space for the first time. So, we have to take that into
account. But, we know if we can get that first day off to a good
start it's going to go a long way to helping us have a very successful
touched on some of the experiments that you personally are going
to be working with. I'd like to [talk] about a few more. CM-2 (Combustion
Module-2), can you kind of explain what that is, and what the trio
of experiments that are going to be conducted in that are?
(or the Combustion Module) is one of the more interesting experiments
that we have on this flight. You know, when you think about combustion,
you think about burning things. You probably wonder, "Well, why
do you need to go into space to burn something?" You know, "We can
burn things down here on Earth just fine." Well, if you think about
it and if you look at a flame or a candle flame, or something burning
down here on Earth, you see this nice teardrop-shaped flame. And,
you realize that as the flame creates hot air, the hot air rises
and cold air comes in to replace the hot air. And, you have this
nice flow. Well, it's really nice and it's very pretty. But, it
makes it very difficult for scientists and engineers to really understand
the combustion process, to really be able to look inside that flame
and see really what's happening with that combustion process. When
we take that flame into space and we get rid of that buoyancy, we
no longer have that nice, smooth flow, we get a very different-looking
flame. It's a flame that's much easier to study. The combustion
process is, well, somewhat slowed down, and we can actually look
at it and study it in much greater detail. So, that's one reason
we like to burn things in space. It gives us a much better picture
of what's happening in the combustion process. On CM-2 we're going
to be having basically three different experiments. One experiment
is going to look at the soot process. You know, soot is an unfortunate
product of combustion. You know, when we look at our sky, we can
see soot in the form of smog. And, of course, we've all breathed
it in, and we realize how unpleasant that can be. Well, if we can
really study the combustion process and understand what causes soot,
then perhaps we can design more efficient flames to eliminate soot,
or to reduce the soot that we get. If we can do that, that can,
of course, be a great benefit to us down here on Earth. Another
thing that we realize about fire is: Fire can be very destructive.
Of course, one way we can put fires out, of course, is to pour water
on them. And, if you've ever been to [an] apartment complex or a
house that's had a small fire, and then you look at the amount of
damage that's done by the water that put the fire out, you realize
that, you know, well, water stops the flame but it also creates
an awful lot of damage.
got to realize a lot of the newer fire retardants that we use or
chemical-based fire suppressants really are somewhat toxic and really
have some pretty bad results when you breathe them in. So, we try
to find something that is not toxic. Something that is not as damaging
as water. And one thing we found is mist. Water in the form of a
very fine mist, or a very fine fog. Well, down here on Earth when
you create a fine fog like that, you really try to study how that
interacts with flame and how it can suppress flame. It's very difficult
to do. Because once you create that mist, gravity causes that mist
simply to fall down. And, you really can't sustain it to really
get a good look at the interaction that the water droplets have
with flame. But in space, we're going to try to do that. We're going
to create a very fine water mist, and we're going to introduce a
flame into that mist. So, we're going to try to study the interaction
that those small water droplets have with the actual flame front.
And by doing so, hopefully, we can develop a better understanding
of what water does when it actually puts out a flame, and perhaps
then we can find a better way to design water-based fire suppressions
that will still put out the flame but won't cause the damage that
we normally get--
a suite of experiments called PhAB4. It stands for physiology and
biochemistry. And it's "4" because of the suite of four experiments.
Can you talk about a couple of those? Explain what they are and
what the benefit[s] of them are.
is going to be an exciting group of experiments on this flight.
You know, if you grew up in the Sixties and you heard the term "Fab
Four," you probably thought of the Beatles.
is quite different but just as exciting. It's four experiments that
are really going to take a close look at some of the aspects of
the human body and how it responds to spaceflight and going into
space and coming back to Earth. And, some of them have some real
direct correlations to things down here on Earth. And, I think if
we investigate them well in space, we'll find some great benefit
to the science and be able to use it down here on Earth. One good
example is the study of calcium kinetics. In other words, what happens
to calcium in the body. We've found out that once you're in space
your body tends to lose a lot of its calcium. For long-duration
spaceflight members, that's a big problem. You know, they come back
and they suffer a great amount of bone loss. And, what we're really
looking at here is a rapid onset of osteoporosis. You know, a disease
that's quite prevalent down here on Earth and affects a lot of people.
And, it can really affect the quality of life. So as we try to study
calcium kinetics in space and try to see what happens, you know.
Why does the body lose its calcium in the space environment? And,
what can we do to combat that? If we can find some way of combating
it in space, then perhaps we can use that same tool to combat the
problem that we'd have down here on Earth. Another thing that we
see when we go into space is: We see our protein production change.
And so, we have an experiment in which we're going to look at protein
turnover. In others, we're going to look at how the body creates
proteins and how it loses proteins. And, when we go into space,
we tend to find that our protein production is somewhat depressed.
And, that we tend to lose our bone mass and not our bone mass, but
our muscle density. And that's a problem. And, we also see that
down here on Earth, where patients that are in the bed for a long
period of time, their protein production also changes. So, we're
going to study that on this flight and try to get some idea as to
what we can do again to combat this loss of protein production and
then bring those results back down here on Earth.
you give us a brief idea of the operation of these two particular
experiments? What are you going to do?
PhAB4 experiments really involve a lot of sample taking.
We spend a
lot of time becoming very good at drawing each other's blood. So,
we're going to do a lot of that on orbit. And, we'll also be taking
saliva samples. And basically taking those samples, analyzing them
on orbit, freezing them, and bringing them back here on Earth for
further "analyzation" so that the scientists and engineers can get
a good idea of actually what's happening within our bodies--
right. Another experiment is MGM-Mechanics of Granular Materials.
What's that experiment about? And what's the process of conducting
or the Mechanics of Granular Material, is one experiment that could
have really important benefits down here on Earth. Basically what
we're looking at in MGM is: We're looking at soils. Wet soils or
sandy soils. We're trying to understand what happens to these soils
under various seismic conditions. For example, let's say you've
built a structure along the coastline, or perhaps you've built a
structure out at sea, such as an oil platform. You've built some
structure on a sandy, wet soil. When a seismic activity comes along,
perhaps a small earthquake or something, and it causes the air and
the water to sort of move in and out of that soil. You know, if
it moves in and out at just the right rate, that soil will sort
of lose its sheer resistance, and it will begin to shift or slide.
And, we call that a soil failure or liquefaction. And of course,
any structure that's built on that soil is going to probably collapse
when that happens. So, what we're trying to do in this experiment
is we're really trying to understanding what's actually happening
between those individual grains of sand. And, the way we're going
to do that is we're going to take this wet soil, we're going to
take it into space where we can get rid of this gravity vector.
See, down here on Earth with gravity, it's very difficult to look
at the individual grains of sand and see exactly what's happening
with them because you have this huge gravity vector that sort of
interferes with everything that we're trying to do. But in space,
where basically we have this great microgravity environment, we
can actually have a very low-pressure, low-density environment in
which we can look at the individual interactions between the individual
grains of sand and see exactly what happens. And hopefully, by understanding
the mechanics of what's actually going on inside of our vessels,
our containment vessels, we'll get a better understanding of what's
happening down here on Earth when we have these soil failures and
this liquefaction. And if we can understand that process better,
then maybe we'll be better able to identify which soils are most
prone to the problem of liquefaction and, hopefully, avoid building
structures on those [soils]. Or find some way to strengthen those
soils so that that won't be a problem.
just occurred to me that a lot of what scientific research is about,
a lot of the experiments, sound incredibly detailed. I mean looking
at, you know, minute grains of sand and everything. I mean, is that
basically par for the course?
true. I think, with most of the research we do, it's looking at
the fine aspects of what's going on. And, I think that's where space
research really has its strong point in the fact that, once you
take away gravity you're able to see things that you normally can't
see. You know, gravity influences everything. It's around us every
day. And, we just sort of take it for granted. And so, when you
take scientific measurements down here on Earth, they're all affected
by gravity. But once you get into space, and you get into that microgravity
environment, you're amazed at what you see. You know, you take away
this huge vector of gravity and things change. Processes change
in the way they react. Chemicals react differently. Mechanical situations
change. And we learn things that we, you know, never thought about
before. We begin to see things in a different way. So, looking at
those fine details, and looking at things very closely, in the space
microgravity environment is a really great benefit for space science.
[are] also several student experiments. One of which is the S*T*A*R*S
experiment. Can you give us a brief overview of what that experiment
is? And what the benefit of actually flying student experiments
is on a space shuttle.
the shuttle program has always flown student experiments. And you
know, you can't really say that the student experiments are important
science, because we're not expecting to have any, you know, great
breakthroughs with these student experiments. But, what the student
experiments do is they give students an opportunity -an opportunity
to work with scientists and engineers and to actually do some real
hands-on research. And, maybe they'll find a field of research that
they're interested in, that they would like to pursue for their
own careers. So, it's an opportunity. And the shuttle program has
gone to great lengths to open up the doors to students to allow
them to fly various experiments on board the space shuttle. S*T*A*R*S
program is actually a commercially based student experiment project,
which allows schools around the world to basically purchase a small
bit of space within one of our lockers on board the space shuttle
in which they can conduct a variety of different experiments. On
this flight, we have, I think, six different student experiments
in the S*T*A*R*S locker. And, it's everything from spiders and ants
to silkworms and very small fish. And so, the students are going
to have a marvelous time, I think, looking at their experiments
and observing them on space. And hopefully, you know, when they
get back, they'll really have an appreciation for what space research
is about and maybe choose it as a career for themselves in the future.
see here. We talked briefly, or you talked briefly, about safety
earlier. And frankly, you guys will be working with some materials
that are potentially dangerous and are hazardous in some situations.
Can you talk a little bit about the safety issue and what NASA has
done to basically assure the crew's safety? What precautions are
in place, I guess?
when I first started working here at NASA, one of the first things
I realized was that safety was top priority. And so [as] we began
to train and prepare for this flight I was assured that all the
experiments that we were going to conduct and all the equipment
that we were going to work with had gone through various safety
reviews and safety panels, and safety had been engineered into everything
that we're touching and everything that we're involved with. So
basically, by the time we start training on a payload we're pretty
certain that all the aspects of safety have been taken care of and
that it's safe to work with and we can concentrate simply on doing
the job and doing it well. And, we don't have to worry about it
being a hazard. Certainly on this flight, we have a lot of different
payloads. We're going to be burning things on orbit. We're going
to be crushing things on orbit. We're going to be expanding things
on orbit. We're going to do quite a few different things. But, everything's
been designed with safety in mind. And nothing we're going to do
really is going to be a hazard to the crew or to the space shuttle.
We've gone to great pains to ensure that. And we're just going to
concentrate on doing the science and make sure that we can get some
Spacehab Research Double Module, we've talked about that briefly.
Maybe, can you talk a little bit more about what exactly it is,
and what benefit it brings to this mission? What being able to use
it does for this mission.
the first flight of the Spacehab Research Double Module (RDM, that's
what you call it). And basically, the RDM is replacing the space
laboratory. If you remember in the early shuttle days, we had a
space laboratory that we flew. Well, this is replacing the space
laboratory. If you look at the RDM, it looks very much like the
Logistics Double Module that we've been flying for years. And, we've
used the Logistics Double Module basically as a cargo carrier, to
carry things up to either the Mir space station, like I did on my
first flight, or to the International Space Station, like we're
doing, you know, several times a year with the shuttle today. But,
the Research Double Module may look like the logistics double module;
but if you get inside and you really take a close look, you can
see that it's really been enhanced. It's been enhanced and made
into a very fine scientific research laboratory. We've added in
a lot of systems such as data handling systems, to handle the computer
systems for various experiments. We've added electrical systems
into the Research Double Module to give us outlets in which to plug
in our various payloads. We've added in some environmental control
systems to control the temperature of the module, to cool our experiments,
and also to take care of the crewmembers that are going to be working
back there, you know, for a long time on the various experiments.
So, basically we've taken this logistics double module and we've
added in some very nice subsystems to make it into a space laboratory.
It's a very large module. It's got a lot of space. We've packed
it with a ton of experiments. And we're really looking forward to
getting up there and opening up the hatch and getting into that
module for the first time and activating those experiments and getting
down to work.
a little bit more about what training for this mission has been
like. I'm sure it's all been challenging. But what are your thoughts
about, you know, what it's been like? What's been the most [challenging],
if you can narrow it down?
been training for this flight for over two years now. And, that's
a long time to do anything. But preparing for a spaceflight is very
important and you want to have enough time to make sure that you
are well trained and that you can do everything just right once
you get on orbit. One of the most challenging aspects of training
for this flight has been trying to pull together all the different
payloads. We have so many different payloads, it's really difficult
to count them all. You know, the shuttle program has gotten really
smart in learning how to package a large number of payloads and
experiments into a very small volume. I think with this flight,
they've outdone themselves. We have so many experiments on this
flight; like I said, it's, really hard to count them all. And, trying
to prepare for all those experiments and trying to really make sure
that you know all the details for each experiment, and that you've
done a great job in integrating them all into the flight plan, and
that you've choreographed each day as to what experiments are going
to be done at what time, and what's the most efficient way to accomplish
that, that's all really been a big challenge for this crew. I think
over the last two years, we've done a great job in training and
preparing for this flight. And if I look back on it, I can't think
about anything that I would change. I think we've you know, covered
all the bases. And, I think we're going to have a really good, successful
about FREESTAR? Can you talk a little bit about what FREESTAR is?
And how it's going to be utilized on this mission. What's it going
to do for the mission?
Well, in addition
to the Research Double Module, which is, of course, a nice pressurized
environment where we'll be in there doing a lot of great science,
we're also going to do some science outside of the space shuttle.
And, FREESTAR is a carrier. It's basically a platform that's mounted
inside the payload bay in which we've attached a number of experiments.
And, these experiments are going to do two things: they're going
to look back at the planet Earth, and they're going to look out
into space. We have one really interesting experiment called MEIDEX,
which is going to look back at the planet Earth and it's going to
study dust storms. We're going to try to measure these dust storms,
and try to understand these dust storms. And, you're probably thinking
to yourself: "Well, what's so important about a dust storm?" Well,
as it turns out, dust storms affect the hydrology of the planet.
They really have a lot of influence on rainfall. And so if we can
look at these dust storms and understand these dust storms a little
bit better, then maybe we can better model our weather climates
down here on Earth and get a better understanding of what some of
the problems are in areas of the Earth where we have drought, in
areas where we have flooding. So, we're going to take this experiment.
We're going to point it back down at the planet Earth, and we're
going to study these dust storms. We also have experiments that
are going to look out into space. We have an experiment called SOLCON,
which is going to study the solar constant. It's going to look at
the Sun, try to get a better measurement of the amount of energy
that's coming out of the Sun. As the Sun goes through its various
cycles, every seven years or so these cycles change. And, it influences
the climate down here on the planet Earth. So, we're going to look
at that, and we're going to study that and, hopefully, get a better
understanding of how the Sun affects the Earth and the climate.
talk a little bit about your background and about yourself. Can
you, if you think back, can you pinpoint some of the interests that
you had growing up or in school that kind of put you on the road
to NASA? What was it about Mike Anderson that, you know, made him
That's a good
question. Yeah, I think, like most kids growing up, I had a very
wide interest. I was interested in everything, you know, and I tried
to, you know, take advantage of everything. And, everything from
the sciences to music to writing to literature. I just, you know,
was very interested in a number of different things. But as I got
older my interests tended to become a little bit more narrow. And,
I found that science was something that really caught my attention.
It was something I really could sink my teeth into. My dad was in
the Air Force. And you know, being an Air Force brat and living
on Air Force bases, I was always around airplanes. And, that was
something else that really captured my imagination, just seeing
airplanes, you know taking off and landing every day, and flying
over the house, and making all of this noise just was a fascinating
thing to me as a kid. So, my interest in aviation and my interest
in science were, I guess, two of the things I really latched on
to, and two things that I just couldn't shake as I grew older. So
one day, just sitting down and thinking about it, you know, "How
can I combine my two strongest interests? My interest in science
and my interest in aviation." And, you know, at that time, we were
going to the Moon and doing some really fantastic things with the
space program. And, to me that was just the best combination of
the two. You know, here you have these men that are scientists engineers,
and they're also flying these wonderful airplanes and these great
spaceships, and they're going places. And to me, that just seemed
like the perfect mix and the perfect job. So, very early on, I just
thought being an astronaut would be a fantastic thing to do. Of
course, you don't know how to go about something like that. You
know, you just sort of pursue your interests, and you pray about
it, and hopefully one day all things will kind of fall into place
and you'll have a chance to make those dreams come true. And fortunately
for me it did happen that way. You know, one day I said, "Well,
you know, I've been flying airplanes here in the Air Force for quite
some time now, and I have a record there. And, I studied science
in school. And I'm really ready to put together a package and send
it off to NASA and see what they think." And fortunately, I got
called down for an interview. And one thing led to the next, and
one day I got that call. And, I've been here about seven years now
and really enjoying it.
follow up a little bit on your road to NASA. You mentioned some
things. Can you outline the specific academic and professional steps
you took to get here?
I was in high school, I knew that if I was going to become an astronaut,
I was definitely going to have to go to college. So, I began looking
at different colleges and thinking about what it was I wanted to
major in. I was really interested in science. I mean, I'd been a
science fan since I was a young kid. And so, I thought you know,
why narrow myself? I would pick a field of science that was very
broad, that would allow me to study a variety of different things.
So, I picked physics because out of all the different scientific
fields, I think physics is probably the broadest. It covers basically
everything. It allows you to really, you know, take your interest
and point it in any direction you'd like to point [it] in. So, I
went to the University of Washington as a physics and astronomy
major there. And just had a marvelous time. I found it very challenge,
very rewarding. My other interest, of course, was aviation. I always
wanted to be a pilot. I wanted to fly airplanes. And, if you're
going to fly airplanes, the best place to be is the Air Force. So,
I went through the ROTC program there, and they provided me with
a scholarship to help me pay for college. And after I graduated
from college, I took a commission as a Second Lieutenant and came
in the Air Force through my first four years, actually, in the field
of communications-communications and computers. So, I got a chance
to learn a little bit about electronics and apply some of my knowledge
of physics to you know, improve the communications systems in the
Air Force, and working on computers and things like that. But my
real interest was flying airplanes. So, after four years of doing
that, I put in my application for Flight School and got selected
for Flight School, and off I went. After Flight School, I was flying
in the Air Force and enjoying that a great deal. But, I realized
I really needed to improve myself a little bit more academically.
So, I went back to college, picked up a masters degree in physics
from Creighton University in Nebraska, and at that point, after
having a masters degree and a couple of thousand hours flying aircraft,
I thought, "Well, if I'm ever going to make my move towards NASA,
I'd better do it now." So one afternoon I sat down and filled out
the application and sent it in. And, just kind of sat back and waited.
And, fortunately I got a call, an opportunity to come down and interview
for the job. And one thing led to another, and I was selected in
'95. And it's been a marvelous adventure. I've enjoyed every bit
of it. This will be my second spaceflight. And if it's anything
like my first flight, it's really going to be exciting.
thing just occurred to me. The irony of ironies is that you love
flying but not launch. Why?
know, when you launch in a rocket, you're not really flying that
rocket. You're just sort of hanging on. And you know, I really shouldn't
say that I don't like launches. I guess I should say, "I understand
the serious nature behind a rocket launch." I mean, you're really
taking an explosion and you're trying to control it. You're trying
to harness that energy in a way that will propel you into space.
And we're very successful in doing that. But, there are a million
things that can go wrong. And, I think, when you really sit down
and you study the space shuttle and you really get to know its systems,
you realize that this is a very complex vehicle. And even though
we've gone to great pains to make it as safe as we can, there's
always the potential for something going wrong. You know, so we
try not to think about those things. We train and try to prepare
for the things that may go wrong to do the best we can. But, there's
always that unknown. And I guess it's that unknown that I don't
like. But like I said, the benefits for what we can do on orbit,
the science that we do and the benefits we gain from exploring space
are well worth the risk. So I don't like launches. But it's worth
the effort. It really is.
of your time at NASA, what's been the most enjoyable time of your
Well, I guess
I'd have to say my career in the Air Force has been really exciting.
You know, if you want something that's going to provide you with
a lot of challenges and a variety of different things to do, then
you really can't beat a place like the Air Force. I don't mean this
to sound like a recruiting pitch. But it's been a lot of fun, you
know, since the day I first joined in ROTC as a young 17-year-old
freshman at the University of Washington to today as an astronaut
with NASA, it's just been one challenge after another, one great
adventure. And yeah, I've enjoyed it tremendously. So my early years
in the Air Force as a young pilot just kind of flying around the
world having, you know, fun with my crewmates and doing what I knew
was a very important job. Those are highlights that I'll never forget.
Just like the things I've had a chance to do here at NASA. They're
very important to me.
you talk briefly about some of the things or people that have, when
you look back, have really inspired you to do what you're doing
now? And just maybe how have those things or people inspired you?
Yeah, I think
if I look back at my life there are just hundreds of people that
have inspired and influenced me in a number of different ways. You
know, first of all, you can't forget your parents. You know, and
all they've done to help you to get here. But it's really the people
that you don't think about every day that influence you. The people,
your teachers, you know, the ministers that you worshiped under.
The people that you just came into contact with at the right time
that just may have said something that turned a light on in your
head and led you down a certain path. You know, those people you
really just can't thank enough. And as you look back at your life,
there are just a million different things that have happened, just
in the right way, to allow you to make your dreams come true. And
you know, someone has all that under control.
Yeah, we don't get there by ourselves,--
first spaceflight was STS-89 to the space station Mir in 1998. As
someone interested in space exploration and helping to ensure a
permanent human presence in space, can you give me an idea of what
it means to you personally to have had that experience of going
to the space station Mir?
It was certainly
a privilege to have had an opportunity to have gone to the Mir space
station. You know, I think history will prove Mir to have been just
really a huge steppingstone for man's permanent presence in space.
It was really one of the first space stations that we were able
to occupy for a long period of time. I think Mir was on orbit for,
what? Thirteen years.
like that, yeah.
permanently occupied for most of that time. It was the first opportunity
for American astronauts to have an opportunity to experience long-duration
spaceflight. And, it really fostered a cooperation between the American
space program and the Russian space program. I think a cooperation
that's really going to be the key to future space exploration. So,
just having had an opportunity to have gone to the Mir space station,
to have a chance to participate in the Shuttle-Mir Program is something
that yeah, I feel really privileged for that opportunity to do.
you think back to rendezvous, I guess, and docking, and kind of
tell me what was going on inside you? I mean, when you saw it. Or,
if you did see it. You know, approaching. What were you thinking?
What was going on inside you?
was a very busy flight. I think all flights that involve a rendezvous
and a docking are very busy flights. You know, as a first-time space
flier, everything you do on a flight is just miraculous. You just
can't believe it's actually happening. And, for me, still to this
day, when I think back to that flight, it's sort of like a dream.
You just can't believe that actually happened. You know, when we
first saw the Mir space station, it looked like a star out there
in the sky. But, as we continued to do our burns and we continued
to get closer to the space station, it started to get bigger and
bigger. And, it wasn't long before you had this huge, massive complex,
this huge space station just kind of taking up the entire window
of the space shuttle. And, as you've looked out there, you've kind
of marveled at it. You were just in awe as to what was out there.
And, your first thought was, "You know, this isn't a simulation
any more. I, you know, I'm not in the domed simulator at the Johnson Space Center practicing this rendezvous like we did a million times
before the flight. No, this is real. This is reality. And, that's
actually the Mir space station. And in a matter of moments, we're
actually going to dock with it." It was just a tremendous experience
to have a chance to do something like that. I think as long as I
live, I'll never forget those moments. And, it was a truly miraculous
time, and just a wonderful flight.
having had that experience did it give you fuel or some anticipation
of maybe the possibility of going up to the International Space
Station some day?
I think the International Space Station is certainly the future
of our space program. And, I think as I watch each stage of the
space station, as you watch it grow and it gets bigger and bigger
and bigger, you realize just how fantastic of a complex it's going
to be. You know, on this flight, STS-107, and we're not going to
the space station. We're going to be up there on our own, autonomously,
doing our science for 16 days. But, we're going to be thinking about
the guys on the space station as they're orbiting the Earth also,
conducting their science and their research. And, our results are
going to complement each other. And hopefully, in my next flight
we'll have a chance to go to the space station and see how they're
conducting research up there.
in addition to being a Mission Specialist on this flight, you're
the Payload Commander. Can you give us an idea of what that encompasses?
And what the difference between Mission Specialist, Payload Commander,
or Payload Specialist is? What do the titles entail?
Payload Commander job is really kind of a hard job to define. And,
you know, when I was first assigned to this flight as one of the
Mission Specialists, I was given the additional duty of being a
Payload Commander. And so, I had to find out, "Well, exactly what
does that mean?" Well, it didn't take long for me to find out. You
know, when you have a complex mission like this, you need a point
of contact for answering all the crew questions. A person to go
to, to help make the decisions about things and try to find the
best way to make this mission a success. And, a lot goes in to integrating
this mission. You know, who do you train for which payload? You
know, how do you take advantage of each crewmember's strengths to,
you know, assign them to the payload that's most appropriate for
them? You know, how do you choreograph the operations on orbit?
You know, we have just this limited amount of time up there, and
we want to make sure that we get the best use of that time. You
know, so my job, basically, was to try [to] pull this mission together.
Try to make sure that the crew was well trained. Try to make sure
that payloads were well integrated into the space shuttle. That
all the requirements were taken care of. And that we were going
to get the best science we could get out of this 16-day flight.
So, it's been a very busy job. And I really try to think of my role
as one of helping the rest of the crew do their job. Trying to make
their jobs easier. And, if I do my job well, then their job should
be just that much easier and we should have a better time on orbit
and have a much more successful mission.