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Crew Interviews
IMAGE: Rick Husband
Click on the image to hear Commander Rick Husband's greeting (158 Kb wav).

Preflight Interview: Rick Husband

The STS-107 Crew Interview with Rick Husband, commander.

Rick, [I] want to start off by asking you to if you would, give me a brief overview of the STS-107 mission, and kind of explain the goal of the mission.

The STS-107 mission will be a science research mission. We'll be up for 16 days. We've got seven crewmembers. And we will be working dual shifts. So, we'll be working around the clock, working on several different types of experiments that will be in the Orbiter middeck, back in the shuttle payload bay, and also in the Spacehab Research Double Module. This is the first flight of the Research Double Module, and it's been modified with a few extra components for air conditioning and data and power to be able to power additional experiments and get the data from the Spacehab to the Orbiter and then to the ground. And, we'll be working on several different types of experiments while we're up there doing some research on different things that folks have gotten lined up for this particular flight.

And there's a whole multitude of experiments on this flight. Can you give us an idea of some of the areas or disciplines that this research covers?

Sure. There are very many varied areas that the different experiments will cover on our flight. We've got some that are looking at human physiology. We've got one that looks at respiration. We've got the ARMS experiment (it stands for Advanced Respiratory Monitoring System). And it will measure lung function and capacity and circulation. And we've got four of our crew who are working on that experiment as subjects. We've also got other experiments that are taking a look at osteoporosis and formation of bone cells. And how the bone cells absorb calcium. How calcium is lost from the bone cells, especially during microgravity. We've also got some experiments that will be looking at the Earth. The MEIDEX experiment, which stands for Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment, is one that looks at dust aerosols in the atmosphere to see if they can characterize where certain dust storms originate, where they tend to go to, and then what effects, if any, they have on the environment-as far as temperature, visibility in the atmosphere, those types of things. We've also got some other experiments that will be looking at the Sun to try and measure some data about the Sun, the solar constant. And, we've also got two experiments that are looking at the Earth's ozone, looking at the atmosphere, and trying to characterize in a better way what the makeup of ozone in the atmosphere is. We've also got additional experiments, one very large experiment for combustion. We're taking a look at combustion processes in microgravity. And the combustion processes that we will be looking at are in a module called CM-2 (Combustion Module-2). This combustion module is one that we'll be looking at, not only at different combustion processes, but also how to extinguish fires which will be useful here on Earth, and taking a look at how to extinguish fires here on Earth. This module has a follow-on that will be flown on the International Space Station. It'll be similar to the one that we're flying, but a little bit different to be able to be accommodated on the space station. And, they will continue on with the research from what they find from our flight, what they found from previous flights, they'll be able to continue on the space station, with that experiment as well.

So, and speaking of them, I'm a little out of order here, but you just made me think about something. Are there other experiments that are, will be in conjunction with what's on the space station? And can you give me an idea of those? Or maybe just experiments that will be helpful for future experiments that will be like that on the space station?

Sure. Another experiment in particular that is also being conducted on the space station is one that looks at protein crystal growth. And there are different types of protein crystals that they look at in these different experiments. We've got one that looks at certain protein crystals. We've got one that looks specifically at zeolite crystals. And those are some experiments that are being conducted on ISS at the same time that we're doing our research as well.

And for someone who might ask and they may go down a list and compare the list to what's happening on ISS, and say, "Well, they're doing the same thing at the same time." Why is it necessary to be doing some of the same experiments on two different spacecraft at the same time?

Well, the reason we do some experiments on the shuttle and some experiments on International Space Station is partly due to the duration of the mission. In our case, being a 16-day mission, there are some experiments that can be designed for shorter duration so that they can send these up, they can get the results back, they can do some analysis, and then they can turn around and try to go fly again. On the space station, they may have some experiments that are designed for a longer duration, to take a look at a process over a longer period of time than what you can achieve on the shuttle. So, they can design the experiment specifically to coincide with the flight duration that they're looking at, whether it be a longer duration on the International Space Station or a shorter duration on the space shuttle.

Some of the research on this mission, some people may think that it should yield an immediate solution to a problem or prove a theory or not prove a theory. But, that's really not always the case. Can you kind of give us an idea of the role scientific research plays in the problem-solving process of science or theory-proving or -disproving process.

Sure. Scientific research, the role that it plays in solving problems or proving or disproving theories, is that initially you come up with an idea or a theory or think of a way to try and do something, and then you try and design an experiment that will either prove or disprove the theory that you've developed. And depending on how complex the theory is, it may take a very long time and several different types of experiments to be able to get the kind of information that you need to be able to say, definitively, that, "Yes, this is true." Or, "No, it's not true." Additionally, whenever you're doing research, and just trying to learn things about different processes-whether it happens to be the respiration system in the human body and how it reacts to microgravity, or how calcium is absorbed or shed from the bones when you're in microgravity-those are [the] kinds of things that you have to study over a fairly long period of time to make sure that when you've got, say, one set of subjects, you need to be able to compare the results to another set and another set and another set to make sure that the results you get are repeatable. To make sure that what you're seeing is actually true, and not just something that's true for a particular person or a particular experiment that you've designed.

Some of the experiments call for some of the crewmembers to be research subjects themselves. What is that like, seeing that happen, first of all? And are there parts of those experiments that call for preflight and postflight experimentation, I guess?

Right. There are, several of us are participating in different types of experiments. We've got four members of the crew-Laurel Clark, Dave Brown, Mike Anderson, and Ilan Ramon-who are participating in experiments on orbit that take a look at calcium absorption in the bloodstream, taking a look at their respiratory systems, taking a look at kidney function and also protein turnover in the body from what they eat. And trying to see what kind of effects microgravity have on them as a result. The rest of us on the crew-myself, Kalpana Chawla, and Willie McCool-are participating in some experiments that aren't quite as invasive while we're on orbit. Because with myself as a Commander and Willie as a Pilot and Kalpana as the Flight Engineer, they want to preserve the Orbiter crew that primarily is responsible for flying the Orbiter to make sure that nothing happens to us in the event that anything that would affect us being able to land the shuttle. All the experiments that they do on subjects on these spaceflights go through a very extensive safety review. And we're very confident that there won't be any adverse effects. Mainly the things that are being done to the payload crew are that we're taking some blood samples, and then we're running those through a centrifuge and doing some portable blood analysis with a portable blood analyzer that we have on orbit. And we're also taking different samples of calcium solutions and injecting those, as a tracer infusion, into the payload crew and then taking a look at how the body turns that over with the metabolism that we see in spaceflight.

And as far as preflight and postflight, those things, what's--


--going to happen there?

On all of these experiments, especially the ones that have to deal with human subjects, they take baseline data from the subjects on the ground before they launch; and they'll do that anywhere from 90 days prior to launch, 60 days prior, 45 days, 30 days. And they'll have a whole schedule set up as to what type of blood samples they need, what type of information they need. And they'll keep a log of that so that they can kind of track how these people deal with the different experiments in the Earth environment. And then what they'll do is: They've got a very set series of experiments and protocols that they'll go through while they're on orbit, and then take a look at that information to see what effects microgravity has on those different processes. Then when we get back, we'll be doing postflight data collection over a very long series of days, which goes all the way out to 45 days after we've landed. And they will compare how long it takes for the body to return to normal from what they saw before they took off, and then what they saw after they've landed.

This is 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 such a long mission? Any concerns or just thoughts?

Well, I'm really looking forward to it. I think it's a great opportunity to be able to go up and fly for 16 days, which is a longer than normal duration for most of the shuttle flights. And, you know, most of us get to fly maybe once every two, three, maybe four years. And so, it's a great opportunity to be able to go up there and to be able to work a mission like this that has so much importance for so many people here on Earth, and to be able to spend that amount of time working in that environment. In many cases, I know from our first flight, it was a 10-day mission. And when it came, when it was time to come home, we knew the mission was complete. But we would've loved to have stayed up there for a few extra days. In this particular case, we're going to get to stay for six extra days compared to my first mission, which I think will be a tremendous opportunity.

And you mentioned about how the mission will impact a lot of people around the world…a lot of the research comes from a lot of the places around the world. And,--


--and you guys have visited those places, some of them. Can you talk a little bit about what it means to you to be part of the mission as it relates to that, doing some real good, you know for the global community?

Well, I'd say it's certainly a humbling experience when you realize how many people work to put together a space mission like this. And to be able to go to various places and visit the people who have worked very hard on all of these experiments, developing them, going through all the processes it takes to get them certified to fly on the shuttle. And then, going through the training and learning about the experiments from these people, and understanding what it is they're trying to achieve by doing these experiments, it's a great honor to be able to be part of that process. And to be part of the process that involves so many people around the world, whether it be people here around the country, in the United States, people over in Europe, in Israel with the Israeli payload that we're carrying up, and we've even got some student experiments that come from Japan and various parts of the world. So, it's really fun and exciting to think that so many different people around the world are interested in doing that kind of research, that kind of work, and that we get to be able to take part in that as well.

You touched on earlier about the mission being constructed into a dual-shift mission…it calls for dual shift. Why is a dual shift necessary on this mission? And what's the advantage of having a dual-shift mission?

We've got a dual-shift mission on this particular flight, which means that we've got half of the crew on a shift called the Red Shift. We've got four people on that shift. And then, we've got the other three people on what we call the Blue Shift. And our sleep schedules are about 180 degrees out, so that we can have somebody up all the time doing work on the experiments. And what that allows us to do is: It allows us to get more experiment runs on some of the experiments. Like the ARMS experiment has a cycle ergometer, like a stationary bicycle, that the subjects get on and pedal and do some breathing and doing that kind of research. If all of us were awake at the same time with just one ergometer available, we wouldn't be able to get as many science runs as if we split the shifts and got on opposite ends of the clock and were able to run, say, two people through on one shift and two people through on the next shift. So, we get twice as much science that way from that particular experiment. And, it's true for some of the other experiments as well. We can just kind of keep things going around the clock.

There's no rendezvous or docking for this mission. But there's still a process of getting to orbit and getting back to Earth.


Can you kind of give us an idea, talk us through what's going to happen inside the Orbiter, what, duty-wise--


--on the way up, and for landing.

Right. Yes, there are like three phases to the actual flying of a space shuttle mission. The first phase being ascent, where the shuttle is like a rocket and you launch from the launch pad, and 8½ minutes later you get into orbit. Then you take the time to transition the Orbiter from a rocket into an orbiter. So, we're configuring everything inside, activating systems, activating payloads, opening up the payload bay doors so that we can get cooling from the Freon loops in those doors for all of the equipment inside. And, we deploy a communications antenna, and we get everything set up so that we can start doing the business at hand and the science that we have set up for our mission. We'll be doing several different attitude maneuvers, and adjusting where we're pointing, because we've got some payloads that want to look at the Sun, some that want to look at the Moon, some that want to look at the Earth, and others that want to track specific locations on the ground. So, we get ourselves all set up to operate as an orbiter for the bulk of the mission during the 16 days we will be up. At the end of the mission what we do is: We go ahead and we get the Orbiter ready to come in and land. So, we're going to retract the communications antenna. We're going to close the payload bay doors. We're going to get everything ready to go, everything stowed away, everything back in its place so that we can do a deorbit burn to slow us down a little bit, and then come back down into the atmosphere and glide in for a landing on a runway at the end of the mission.

Okay. Can you talk me through who's going to be where on the way up? Just briefly talk about their specific duties for that duration, and also the same on the way down.

Sure. On ascent, I'll be in the left seat up front as the Commander. Willie McCool will be in the right seat as the Pilot. In the middle, just behind us, will be Kalpana Chawla. She'll be there as what we call MS-2 (Mission Specialist-2). And that's as the Flight Engineer. Behind Willie will be Dave Brown. Right next to Kalpana as well. And he will be assisting Willie kind of as a backup for Willie monitoring all the systems. As the Commander, I'm kind of in charge of the overall big picture, making sure that the trajectory of the Orbiter is going well, that we're going the right direction, we're doing what we're supposed to do. Willie's in charge of the main engines, the hydraulics, the electrical systems, the thrusters. So, he's a very busy person if things don't go exactly as planned. I'm taking care of the air-conditioning system, the environmental control system, the computers on board that control the vehicle. And during all of this, Kalpana, as the Flight Engineer, she's got to be responsible for both sides of the cockpit to be able to help us out with the checklists. And, Dave, as Mission Specialist-1, he kind of keeps a big picture view of what's going on and helps Willie, if Willie has to work a certain procedure, anything like that, and also monitors systems from a display that he has back there by his seat. Downstairs, Mike Anderson and Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon will be riding in the middeck. And they are there riding up into orbit. And once we get to main engine cutoff, and we are on orbit, they will unstrap and get out of their seats. Mike will come upstairs with a camera, and he and Dave will take a picture of the external tank that we have just jettisoned. And then, everybody kind of goes to work starting to put the Orbiter in a configuration to be on orbit for the next several days. Mike Anderson will be the, what we call, post-insertion guru. And he's the one who's kind of going to be in charge of running everything downstairs on the middeck and making sure everything gets set up and squared away. Whereas I'll be running things on the flight deck, and making sure we get everything squared away up there. On entry, Dave and Laurel will swap seats. So, Dave will be downstairs. Laurel will be sitting in the Mission Specialist-1 position, behind Willie. And so, she's…performing the same function as Dave was, except this time for entry. She'll be keeping…track of the systems, helping Willie out if there's a procedure that he needs to work, monitoring the display that she has back there, and also helping out Kalpana on the way in as we need to. We work as a four-person team on the flight deck during ascent and entry. And then, down on the middeck, getting ready to come home, Dave Brown will be the deorbit prep guru. So, he's going to be in charge of making sure we get everything squared away in the middeck. Everything's stowed, everything's tied down, the seats are all in place, cooling units for our suits. And Ilan and Mike will be helping him. Ilan will be helping people get suited up. Mike will be helping with the switches, and making sure everything is in its place. And then, again, I'll be upstairs making sure we get everything done on the flight deck that needs to be done to come in for entry and landing.

Let's talk a little bit about some of the experiments you're going to be personally working with. We mentioned MEIDEX, the Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment, before. Maybe a little bit more about what that is and the purpose of it. And also I know you mentioned the different attitude changes that the Orbiter has to take for some of these experiments. Maybe kind of weave that into there, too.

Sure. MEIDEX stands for Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment. And that is the payload that we're carrying that is sponsored by the Israeli Space Agency. And this is a payload that is mounted on a rail, out in the payload bay, back behind the Spacehab. And it's got two different cameras. It's got a narrow field-of-view camera and a wide field-of-view camera that if we orient the Orbiter looking down towards the Earth, we can use the wide field-of-view camera to take a look at the swath of the Earth that we're looking at, and we can use that, what the objective of is: is to try and study dust storms in the Atlantic and Mediterranean area, and also to characterize like sea surface variations. And so, what they'll do is: they'll set us up for a region of interest that we're supposed to look at for each pass. And we get the Orbiter maneuvered in the appropriate position, we open up the door to the canister that these cameras are mounted in, and then we turn on some recorders to record the information that we're seeing down there on the Earth. And we can use the wide field-of-view camera to kind of make sure that we're looking in the right place. And then, the narrow field-of-view camera is a much greater magnification, and it gets much greater detail. So we can use the wide field-of-view camera to focus in or zoom in on the appropriate point of the dust storm that, say, is the heaviest amount of activity. And we can control that from a laptop computer inside the Orbiter cockpit. So, they're doing this to try and study the sea surface variations, also dust, what they call aerosols, like when the dust kind of gets and hangs in the air. They hope to be able to characterize the size and composition of the dust particles, where the dust storms originate from, and where they tend to travel to. And then, they'll also have a small airplane that has got instruments on board that should be flying in the same area on some of the passes while we fly over. And what they'll be able to do with those is to correlate the data after we've flown to see what kind of measurements the airplane, actually flying around in that dirt storm, gets versus what kind of information they predict or think that they see from space, to see if they can actually calibrate the space instrument itself. It also turns out that the way those cameras are set up in the MEIDEX experiment, they also happen to be just perfect for looking at some electromagnetic phenomenon in thunderstorms called sprites and elves. They've got all these great names for these electromagnetic pulses that come up out of thunderstorms usually about the same time a lightning strike is going down to the Earth. So, we'll be orienting the Orbiter vertically as we travel, looking back towards some thunderstorms out in the distance. And we'll be trying to adjust the attitude of the Orbiter to just the right height to hopefully catch some of these electromagnetic pulses on film and see what they can learn about them. This is something that I guess is, there's a lot of interest that's been generated all over the world about these sprites and elves, they call them. Those are two different types of phenomenon. Another one is called blue jets. And it's the kind of thing that you don't normally see with the naked eye because whenever the lightning flashes, your pupil tends to close down to adjust to that light. And these other electromagnetic phenomenon, this, you know, lightning bolt that goes up out the top of a thunderstorm is not as bright. So, you tend not to see it because it's, your eye has adjusted to the brightness of the lightning strike itself. So, they hope to be able to capture some data about, about these things with the MEIDEX experiment as well, so we kind of get two types of research when the original idea was to just be able to look at dust aerosols in the atmosphere.

An added bonus, I guess.

That's right.

SOLSE-2, the Shuttle Ozone Limb Sounding Experiment. What is that? What's the purpose of it? And what's your, what will you be doing--


--during it?

On SOLSE-2, that stands for Shuttle Ozone Limb Sounding Experiment, and this is the second time that it has flown. And, what this experiment does is measures ozone by looking through the atmosphere. So, if you imagine my hand as the Earth, normally previous ozone experiments have looked straight down and measured the total amount of ozone from wherever the measuring instrument is to the surface. The SOLSE instrument will be mounted in the payload bay of the Orbiter so that we'll be looking at the atmosphere kind of at an angle, parallel to the Earth's surface. And it can measure the amount of ozone at different altitudes. And, that'll be some information that they haven't been able to determine before. All they've been able to do previously is measure just the total amount from [the] surface to up wherever the instrument happens to be. In this particular case, they'll be able to measure concentrations at different heights in the atmosphere and get an idea of how the ozone is distributed within the atmosphere. So, we'll be operating that payload from a laptop that's inside the Orbiter cockpit. And, we'll be opening a door, and that will expose this sensor that takes data of light as it comes through the Earth's atmosphere. And based on the light and the information that they gather from that, they can then determine the amount of ozone at the different layers in the atmosphere based on the light readings that they get.

Is there another experiment that you're going to be working with that you're particularly excited about? Looking forward to working with?

Well, there are other experiments. There are several other experiments that I'm working on. I'm working on, like I said, the SOLSE and the MEIDEX. I'm also working on OSTEO and ERISTO, and those are both osteoporosis experiments. And, those are some experiments that will take a look at how bone cells form in microgravity, how the bones reject calcium in microgravity, and the great thing about this is that they'll be able to have several different cultures of material that can simulate actual human bone and simulate the growth process that they see in microgravity. In microgravity, the human body tends to lose calcium at a much greater rate than you do on Earth. So, it's like you see an accelerated process of osteoporosis. And so, it gives people the opportunity to study that process in a short period of time, and find ways to try and prevent the loss of calcium, which will help people here on Earth and it'll also help people in space on long-duration missions for folks whenever they're flying on the space station for a long period of time, or if they're traveling, say, to Mars for a long-duration mission. If we can figure out how to stop or slow down that accelerated loss of calcium in the bones, that would be a great benefit, both to people who are traveling in space and people here on Earth. So, I think that's going to be a really good experiment for benefits both to humans here and the ones who travel in space. I'm also participating as a blood taker, phlebotomist, is the fancy word for that,--


--and, with the PhAB4 experiment (it stands for physiology and biochemistry). Myself and Willie McCool as well as all four of the payload crew - Dave Brown, Laurel Clark, Mike Anderson, and Ilan Ramon - we've all been trained to take blood. And so, Willie and I will be helping out with the payload crew during the different times of the mission that they have to have blood samples taken. Willie and I have been trained to be able to take blood and analyze the blood and centrifuge the samples and put them away. So, we'll be very busy helping those folks out with their experiments as well.

We talked a little bit, there's some student experiments that are being flown on the mission. Why is it important to fly student experiments on missions? What's the benefit of doing that?

I think the benefit and the importance of flying student experiments on these missions is that it gives schoolchildren a chance to learn and understand what the process is, first of all, of trying to fly something in space to do an experiment; secondly, it gets them to sit down and think about how they would like to package an experiment, how they would like to carry an experiment out, it gets them excited and interested in science and the scientific process and the way you go about trying to learn things, learn new things about processes and different things that we encounter in everyday life. And, it gives them an opportunity to feel more a part of a particular mission and the space program in general. Because I know that the space program serves as a great inspiration for kids, and is a very good thing to help them get interested in science and technology and those types of things so that it motivates them when they're in school to study hard and work hard and do the best they can. And also to hopefully achieve their dreams, whether that happens to be in a technical field or in a nontechnical field, it gives them the opportunity to really become a part of something and get excited about it.

Okay. You talked about safety before briefly. If we can revisit that for a second and just, as Commander, you obviously have to feel comfortable that there have been measures taken to ensure the crew's safety. Because you [will] be working with some potentially dangerous elements and in some potentially dangerous situations. Can you talk a little bit about NASA and safety as it pertains to this mission?

Sure. Safety is a very, very important aspect of everything that we do. And, the nature of what we do has a certain level of risk associated with it. Certainly whenever we launch, the amount of energy that's being expended during launch and ascent is a mind-boggling amount of energy that's being released. And, it's got to be released in a very controlled fashion. And, safety is a very important thing in that we have to take a look at the small portions of every process to make sure that they're being done in a safe way and in a technically sound way to try and minimize the risks. You can't eliminate risk in anything you do. But, what you try and do is: you take a good, smart look at it and try to minimize those risks to maximize your chances for success. We do that not only for ascent, but also for everything that we do, even inside the Orbiter with the experiments that we're doing. We have a Combustion Module where we will be lighting some fires and studying the different characteristics and the aspects of these different flames. And when I say that we're lighting fires, it's not some roaring blaze or anything. It's a mixture of gas in a combustion chamber that is very well sealed and it has some cameras that can look in there and see these small flames. And, they're very small. And they are able to look at those and measure data, measure the characteristics of those flames. But, that is something that you'd think, you know, you certainly don't want a fire raging on your spacecraft. So, this thing is in a special container, very safe, and set so that it's designed to be a safe system for people to work with. All of the other experiments, whether it happens to be the fact that we're taking blood from somebody on orbit or the fact that we're doing some tracer infusions, we go through a lot of training before we go and launch to make sure that we're very competent at doing those things. And to make sure that we've had the opportunity to see all the different things that might happen when we go up on this mission and actually execute these experiments. So, in every thing we do, we've got a very fine safety organization that takes a look at everything. Each of the payloads has to go through a safety review and be approved to fly on a flight. And so, it's a very, very meticulous process, but one that pays benefits in the long run because we want to try and protect our investment so that we can go and fly these missions and then bring the equipment home, and then go and fly them again. So, it plays a very important role in the success of each and every mission.

The Spacehab Research Double Module. Can you talk a little bit about what advantage it's going to lend to this mission? Its use and just a little bit about basically what it is.

Sure. The Spacehab Research Double Module is a double Spacehab module that has had some additional equipment added in to the aft portion of the module. And, that primarily adds up to some environmental control systems that will remove moisture from the air back in the Spacehab. The other Spacehab modules, the Logistics Double Modules that go up and deliver supplies to space station, they don't have that humidity-removal system in there, and so the Orbiter is responsible for removing all the humidity. And, with this additional equipment back there, they figure that it will take some of the load off of the Orbiter and be able to better control the environment back there for people to work in. And, they've also added in some additional power capability and some additional data-handling capability in the module so that it can accommodate more experiments and power more experiments as a result. And then, ship that data to the Orbiter to then be sent to the ground or recorded on board. So, it's a module that is much more specifically designed to be an on-orbit laboratory in the back of the Orbiter payload bay.

Could you maybe give a brief overview of what FREESTAR is and how it's going to be used on the mission?

FREESTAR is a carrier. It's kind of a big piece of iron that's bolted into the back of the Orbiter payload bay, behind the Spacehab. I don't know if it's actually made of iron or not. Some big piece of metal. And, it's a structural member that you can bolt payloads onto. And so, it's onto the FREESTAR that the MEIDEX experiment canister, the SOLSE-2 experiment canister are bolted onto, and we've also got a SOLCON experiment, which is an experiment that looks at the Sun and measures the solar constant, and several other experiments that are bolted on there. So, it's kind of like a rack that you can bolt experiments onto. They provide power to those experiments the way that the FREESTAR interfaces with the Orbiter power system. And then, they also provide commanding capability, either from the ground or from inside the Orbiter to be able to send commands to the payloads, either to open a door, to start a process, to stop a process, those different kinds of things. And, FREESTAR is sponsored by Goddard Space Flight Center, and they're the ones that are in charge of managing which experiments are going to be on the FREESTAR, how they get incorporated, testing those experiments and making sure that they will work with the Orbiter, and ensuring that the procedures and the data is handled for their customers.

Okay. And how does the ability to have this payload, this piece of equipment, exposed to space beneficial to these experiments? Could these experiments be done without them being outside? I guess, how is that beneficial?

It's important for these particular experiments to be outside, in the vacuum of space, because they're either looking at the Sun or they're looking at the Earth or at the Earth's atmosphere. And so, you want to have an unencumbered view of those things, and being able to put them right out there in the payload bay is the best way to be able to do that. If you tried to put them inside the Orbiter, then you'd have the windows that you have to look through that might cut down on some of the light frequency or some of the information that they're looking for from the particular subjects that they're trying to look at. So, being out there in the payload bay is probably the best place for these particular experiments to be.

Okay. I'd like to talk a little bit about you and your background. If you were to think back growing up about your interest, what intrigued, what was it about those things that made Rick Husband NASA material?

Well, from the time I was about four years old, I wanted to be an astronaut. And, it was about that time when the Mercury program started up. And so, I saw those things on the TV, and it just really excited me. It really grabbed my interest. And, seeing those rockets and learning about the astronauts, and seeing what they were doing, and then the models that came out in the stores and you could build the plastic models, and I remember building a Gemini model that I put together. And just, I thought everything about that was so fascinating. And in following that all the way through, from Mercury to Gemini to Apollo, watching the Moon landings and everything, it was just so incredibly adventurous and exciting to me that I just thought, "There is no doubt in my mind that that's what I want to do when I grow up." And at the same time, I was very interested in airplanes and flying. And, you know, I'd be out in my backyard playing. And, any time I heard any kind of an airplane, you know, it's like, stop what you're doing and take a look and see, "Where's that airplane? What kind is it? Where is it going? How high is it? How fast is it going?" And so, it's the kind of thing that has just been such a part of my life in what I wanted to do when I grew up. And so, as I grew up I became interested in math and science, and went to college at Texas Tech University, and had the good fortunate of being able to join Air Force ROTC and get a pilot's slot. While I was at school at Texas Tech was about the time that they were hiring the first bunch of shuttle astronauts. So, I sent a letter off to NASA asking them, what kind of requirements were necessary to become an astronaut? So, I got a package back, and it told about the Pilots and the Mission Specialists and the requirements that were necessary. And so, that kind of laid the pathway for what I needed to do if I wanted to be a Pilot-astronaut. So, I joined the Air Force, went through pilot training, got to go fly fighters. I flew F-4s, operationally. And then, I went through Test Pilot School. And, after Test Pilot School, finished a masters in engineering and started applying to the space program. And, I applied four different times--


--and interviewed two different times, and then was hired after the second interview. And so, it was the achievement of a lifelong dream and a goal. And, it's very humbling, I'd say, and exciting at the same time to be able to actually go and do the kind of thing that I'd wanted to do, and the thing that I had looked forward to doing for such a long time.

That's good. Were you actually able, when you were a kid, looking up, were you able to automatically recognize what type of plane that you were looking at?

Well, sometimes. You know, I think it probably went down to just basic categories, like jets and props and things like that.


So, as I got older and learned more about airplanes, I got to where I could recognize a few different types.

Okay. Outside of your time with NASA, what's been your most enjoyable time or experience in life?

Well, I think apart from NASA, the most enjoyable part of my life has been my time with my family. And, if you think about, probably the pinnacle or the most exciting or memorable events, I would say probably my marriage and then the birth of our two children, and being there with my wife, and just the awesome experience of seeing a baby come into the world. And just being so overwhelmed with God's goodness in blessing us with two wonderful children.

One of your hobbies is singing. Was that something that you had as a kid? Or, is this recent? Tell me about that?

Well, I've been singing for a long time. Whenever I was growing up going to church, I sang in church choir as a real little kid. And then, I sang in choir in school, elementary, junior high, and high school. I sang in a barbershop quartet for several years with different groups of guys. And, when I went off to college, I was majoring in engineering but still was very interested in music because it was just such an enjoyable part of my life. I just really love music, and I love singing. And so, while I was taking engineering courses, I was also a member of the Texas Tech Choir, with all these other music majors and everything. And so, I was very fortunate to be able to be in that choir. And, it served as a tremendous outlet for me, to kind of broaden my horizons and my experience in the different types of music that we sang. And then after college I primarily have spent my time singing in church choir. And sometimes in community choirs, depending on where we lived at the time. And, I continue to sing in a church choir today. So, it's something that I really, really enjoy.

What's the experience like? What does it do for you? Is it therapeutic? Or, is it--

Oh, being able to sing, especially when you're singing a song just from the standpoint of if it's something that you really think is a beautiful song and you can really belt it out, or sing it with the kind of precision that's necessary to sing, just depending on the type of song it is. It, first of all, I think gives you a feeling of teamwork with the other members of the choir. It also gives you a feeling of almost release, in my particular case, because, it's, I'd say, very relaxing. And then, especially with some of the songs that we sing in church, just being able to sing a song to tell God how much I love Him, it just feels great. It really does. And I think it's probably almost as good as exercising.

Okay let's see here. Your first mission was STS-96, the very first shuttle docking to the ISS. What experience do you remember most, if there is just one, about that mission, I mean because it's obviously something that will stick out in your mind forever.

Right. It's really hard to come up with just one experience from a space shuttle mission that sticks in your mind the most. I can think of several. And, some of them have to do more with the people. You know, I would say probably one of the greatest benefits from my first flight was being able to become a member of a crew. We had a seven-person crew on that flight as well, and it was just great getting to know all the different people on the crew and work with them. And again, that's another example of a tremendous amount of satisfaction from a team pulling together and really achieving something great. And, as far as the mission itself, you know, being able to go up there for the first time and experience floating for a long duration was really fantastic! Looking out the window at the beautiful views was incredible! It was just an awesome and awe-inspiring experience, being able to see the beauty of the Earth and the contrast of colors down there. And then from a Pilot point of view, when you go and do a rendezvous and docking with the space station, usually the Commander is at the controls for the rendezvous and docking and there's other people on the crew who are helping out as part of the rendezvous team. And then for the undocking, usually the Pilot gets to undock and fly around the space station. And so, this was my first opportunity to actually be at the controls of the Orbiter. And so, when we got to undock from the space station, we had the opportunity to be able to do 2½ revolutions of the space station while I was flying the Orbiter. And during that time, got to let each of the crewmembers come up and, whenever I wanted to make an input on the controls, I'd let them. I'd say, "Okay, give me an up, give me a right, give me a left," you know, or whatever.


So they would have the opportunity also to fire some of the jets and see what it sounds like and what it feels like. And so, to be able to share that with the rest of the crew was a great thing. And, just to see the excitement in everybody's face. And, I remember during that one time, when we were doing that fly-around, about somewhere in the middle of it, I'd just finally turned around and looked at everybody and said, "This is so much fun!" You know, because you work so hard, and you're always so serious about everything that you've got to learn. Because there's so many things to keep track of, and we always have a tendency to focus on the malfunctions and what you're going to do if you have some type of a malfunction, or how you're going to react and everything. And so, it's very serious all the time. But, it was just great to be able to, at that one point, you know, just let it out and say, "You know, this is a blast!" And so, that amongst many other things on the flight, were a real thrill. And it just makes me look that much more forward to going up again on this mission.

On STS-107, then, there are several first-time fliers. And a few one-time fliers. Yourself being one. How has the closeness in experience helped bring the crew together? And also helped you prepare for your role as a first-time Commander with the rest of the crew?

Well, it's, first of all, I would say a great honor that we all get to fly together on this mission. And, we have a great team of people. We have had a few launch slips times when the launch date has slipped further and further away. But, we've taken great advantage of those, and the Astronaut Office has been very helpful in helping us take advantage of those. One of the things that we got to go do as a crew was to go and attend a course that is sponsored by the National Outdoor Leadership School. And, this was a course where we went up to Wyoming, and as a crew the seven of us went out into the mountains in Wyoming with two instructors from the National Outdoor Leadership School, which is called NOLS. So, us and our two instructors, we all went out into the mountains and we backpacked with 50-, 60-pound packs for nine nights and 10 days out there. And we got to see some incredible scenery. We got to learn a lot about how each of us, as individuals, deal with the kind of situations that they put us into. It's a physical challenge with the backpacks and the walking up and down. And, it's also a challenge learning how to keep track of all of your equipment personally. And then learning to work together, pulling together and learning more about each other. So that when you come back, you have just about gotten to the point where you know each other very, very well, and you know each other's strengths and weaknesses, and so you can maximize that during the rest of your training flow. And so, we've had a great amount of time from the time we went to NOLS to the time that we are now going to go and launch, and from what we learned in that course, we've been able to apply in our training, in our working together. And, we all, I think, understand each other probably as well as a crew does when they come back from a space mission. So, I think we've got that as a very large plus in our column, where we are going up with seven people, only three of us having flown one mission each before. So, I think it's going to be a very rewarding flight, first of all, with all of us going up and putting this mission together with the help of so many great people here on the ground. And then, being able to execute the mission and come back, and just experience the satisfaction of saying, "We were able to do it." You know, we joke around sometimes saying that, "Before Jerry Ross flew his last mission where he flew on his seventh mission, he had six flights to his credit." And we said, you know, "Our crew only had half that amount of flight experience. And now he's got more than twice the flight experience that our crew has. But, after our flight, we will have caught up with him and then some." So, we've got some great folks. Very, very good, professional and disciplined people, all with great sense of humor and all people who work very hard and work together well. And, we're really looking forward to going to fly on this mission.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 12/11/2002
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