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Crew Interviews
Image: Richard Linnehan
Click on the image to hear Mission Specialist Richard Linnehan's greeting (WAV file 342 Kb).

Preflight Interview: Richard Linnehan

The STS-109 Crew Interviews with Richard Linnehan, mission specialist.

Can you talk a little bit about when you decided to become an astronaut and what made you want to take that career path?

Yeah, you know, I guess there's no time in my life that I can remember growing up that I didn't want to be an astronaut. But then, that's easy to say. What little boy or what little girl doesn't want to be an astronaut? You know, they think about what they want to be when they grow up. But, I had it in the back of my head the whole time. And I remember…I was a big…I watched all the launches whenever I could on TV. And I used to try to get my grandparents to go to Florida, to take me to see a launch. And we never got to do that because we lived in New England. But, I got accepted to veterinary school, and at the time I was debating whether I wanted to be a pilot, a military pilot, or a veterinarian. And I was kind of lucky enough to get accepted into both programs, but my advisor in undergraduate was a veterinarian, and he convinced me that I wanted to be a veterinarian and not, as he put it, "a glorified bus driver." I don't want to say that too loud around here! So I went to veterinary school. And you know, I always had in the back of my mind I wanted to fly. And I almost ended up leaving veterinary school after 2 years and going in to become a pilot again. But then, [I] thought about it. I was getting a little, you know, getting a little old there. And [I] finished veterinary school and thought I might try that later on. And it never happened because I got off into other things. I was into pathology. I was a zoo veterinarian. I became a zoo veterinarian…specialized in marine mammals. Worked at the Baltimore Zoo for several years, and I was at Johns, kind of a rotational thing at Johns Hopkins with comparative pathology and zoo animal medicine. And I really got into that and wanted to pursue that as my career. But, at the same time, I knew that NASA was going to be hiring another astronaut class. And I had applied straight out of veterinary school in 1985. And of course, that year they looked at the applications was the Challenger disaster; so they stopped applications for several years. And I think the next class after that was probably, I think, 1990. When the first class came in. And by then I had started the residency program and was working and doing some other things. And I had [been] accepted into a program with the U.S. Navy. So I was about to head to San Diego. But, I always had it at the back of my mind. In a way I was really lucky to get the military program because I did a lot of flying, a lot of military airlifts in different aircraft - helicopters, large jets. And although I wasn't a pilot, I got a lot of air time in some of those military aircraft. And I think that helped me in my application because, in '91, I put an application in with NASA. It was another kind of nexus. So "What am I going to do now? You know, I could go be a veterinarian again at a zoo or work, research or a veterinary college or something else." And I decided I'd put my application in with NASA again just because it…basically because I'd never got it out of my head. I just wanted to see. And I never really thought, you know, I would have a chance because, you know, everyone always goes, "Well, what's a veterinarian want to work for NASA for?" And then I tell them, "Well, the same reason a physicist wants to work for NASA. The same reason a doctor does. The same reason a pilot does, believe it or not. Just because I want to be a part of the space program!" And you know, I can get into this a lot. But a lot of the early stuff done in the space program was with primates: chimps, macaques. And that was all done by veterinarians out at Holloman Air Force Base. In fact, they were heavily involved early on with a lot of the animal research going on. So I figured, "Well, NASA needs one of those guys again! And it might as well be me." So I applied. You know, I didn't really think I was going to get accepted for an interview. And I got an interview, which, you know, amazed me! So here I am in San Diego, trying to decide what I'm going to do. And then I said, "Well, I got an interview. But, you know, I won't get in." Because I went out for an interview with 88 other people and did the interview. And I think I did pretty well. But, it came back, you know, "Well, we'll tell you in a month or two." You don't hear anything, you don't hear anything, and you just kind of say, you know, you get yourself ready for the big, you know you're not going to get it. And so the big joke was that one or two people would call you. And if it was one person calling you, you immediately knew you were out. That was it.

Right.

And if it was the other person who called you, you were in. So came the day and I was out actually in the water all day. I was in a wet suit in the water. And apparently they called about six or seven times. And they kept running down and telling me I had a phone. I'm like, "Call them back, I'll call them back." You know, I didn't know who it was! So I get back in there, get out of my wet suit (I was in the water with some animals), and there's these notes all over my office: "Call NASA. NASA called. Call this." So I jump on the phone and I call up, and I have this number. And sure enough, it's the guy you don't want to hear from. And I'm like, "Oh!" So I'm sitting there going, you know, "I don't even want to talk to this guy!" And I'm kidding because he's a great guy. But as it turns out, they worked a little trick on me. In fact, he put the other guy on after I answered the phone, who could ask me if I wanted to come out and work for NASA. And you know, so what was I going to say at that point? "Yeah, I think so. I'll do that." So in '92 I came out with the 14th class, called "The Hogs," and been here since 1992 in Houston and flew my first mission. I was a bit of a straggler for about four years in STS-78. The second one about two years after that, STS-90. And it's been another four years for 109, which will fly, hopefully, in about 2, 2½ months or so.

Okay.

I'm lucky.

That's a great story. Can you pick…is there one most memorable experience since becoming an astronaut? Or are they spread out.

You know, there are some memorable experiences. I can think of several. I mean, some funny anecdotes, things like that. But I would say, you know, that first space flight. I mean, because it's your first space flight. And you know, you don't know what to expect. You do all this training and you're wondering. It's kind of like being in vet school again. It's like, "What should I study? What's the most important? What do I need to know more than this?" Then you finally say, "Well, I need to know it all! So what do I, how do I prioritize it? How do I study?" And you know, not that I know any better now, but I have a general idea of kind of what to expect. And that first mission, you just, you know, you want to do so well. You want to perform. And you're really hyped up. And you don't really have time to enjoy yourself at all until you're finally up in space and you realize, and you look out and you go, "Man, I'm here! I'm actually here! I'm floating around, looking out." And the doors open and you look out, and you're like, my, so I have to say that first view out the overheads was incredible because the first thing out, my first job as an astronaut was to take pictures of the external tank as it separated with a huge camera lens. It was about the size of a bazooka! And I had to like wedge myself in the window and take these pictures. And that, in and of itself, was like I didn't even know if I could do that, much less, you know, worry about if I put film in the camera, you know, and then try to explain that when you get back down because you're so excited! But I think what I remember really is everybody was around the aft windows and the doors just opened. And then, we were on our tail. Our orientation, well, here's the Earth and here's the tail of the orbiter, and we were actually going this way. And as you looked down, there's the tail of the orbiter and just the Earth and the oceans. And it was just like, you know, it's like no one said anything. It was…there was nothing to say! It's like you can't say anything that would explain how you feel. So that was a real highlight for me. And one other thing I had mentioned the same flight. I'm kind of into astronomy myself. And I'd never really got to see a good picture of the Southern Cross. It's really hard to see from the northern hemisphere. And the first night up there, I got up and I'm looking out at the stars and we're going over the southern hemisphere, and there's this huge, just bright constellation, the Southern Cross is up there! And I just, I still remember: I just stared at it. I couldn't believe it! You know, that I could see it that well and it was so bright. And I just…I'll always remember that.

Were there…you mentioned some of the people…talking about your career steps that…influenced you.

Yeah.

Are there more people that...?

I think, you know, that's a tough one because, you know, if you really think about it, one little turn, misstep, here or there…I should say misstep or chance thing that happened when you met somebody and they got you interested in something…a teacher in school who…maybe you weren't interested in science but they got you interested in science. And all these little things. You never know where you would've ended up or what would've happened if you hadn't met that one person or done that thing. And so I can think of people in high school and college, just really great teachers, good professors. I can think of several people in college who helped me out a lot. And you know, not so much with NASA but just with surviving school and life and helping me, really good friends from…my advisors in undergraduate, the Moores, who was a professor of mine (Joe and Maggie). They ended up putting me up at their house and helping me through vet school. And he advised me about what to do. And you know, people like that are probably the most important people for me in my life in terms of letting me see what it was like and, you know, how you could be helped and how they did help me in terms of helping me with my undergraduate education and pushing me to apply to vet school and basically helping me get in. And if I hadn't obviously been accepted at veterinary school, which was, to me, a hard thing to do, too, I would never have ever made it into NASA. So I can look back and all the things that happened, even as far as late high school and early college, and see that, you know, "Wow, if I hadn't have done that! Or, if that person hadn't done this for me or helped me out, I wouldn't be here today." So it's like…I think it's really…I think you can't say…I think I and most people in this office cannot take credit for who they are and what they are and their success. And it's easy to say, "I'm lucky." And I think I am. But, it's not just me that was successful. It was all those people who made me what I am. And I'm lucky that I got to meet them and I'm here today because of them.

Life is funny like that.

Yeah.

I'll tell you. When all is said and done, when you guys are finished servicing the Hubble, what impact personally and professionally do you think working with such an advanced tool will have on you?

You know, I've thought about this a lot. John Grunsfeld, who's EV-1 and who'll be my team lead on the EVA teams, is a really good friend. He's in my class. We came in together. One of the smartest guys, hands down, I've ever met in my life! And John flew the last Hubble mission. He's an astrophysicist, you know, University of Chicago, MIT. Just knows his stuff cold. And excellent skills EVA. And I'm looking towards him kind of to lead me along, so to speak. And I talk with John a lot, you know. His background is an astrophysicist. Much of what he's done has involved Hubble before he ever came to NASA…you know the great telescopes, the land-based ones. He worked at Palomar, and he's obviously done some research on Hubble and other things like that. So it kind of…it's an incredible experience for him to be greased in like that. And here I am, the veterinarian, and people are going, "Well, what's a veterinarian going on the Hubble for?" And I'm just lucky to be in the mission and to get to do an EVA, an extravehicular activity. But I also have some interest in astronomy, even though I may take care of animals. And I've always been interested in astrophysics…as a layman. And I look at this mission; I've had two missions before this, both life sciences missions. This will probably…I think I'll look back on this in my old age (which isn't that far off now!), but I'll look back on this and think, "And this is probably going to be the most important thing I've ever done in my life." And I really don't think, I mean, not to belittle myself, but I really don't see anything else happening later on in my life that's going to be as important as this mission. And the reason I say that is: both missions I had before that were very important. We got a lot of research, a lot of life sciences, basic science and data. But, when you think about Hubble, it's probably the most important scientific instrument ever built by man. It definitely has made more discoveries than any piece of scientific equipment ever built by man. It's NASA's icon. It's pretty much the crown jewel. And people look at NASA or think about NASA or think about astronomy or stars, everything we look at, I mean, it's almost become like a part of Americana; a myth. Everything has to do with Hubble that we see. I mean, look at these old Star Trek episodes, with all these funny stars and these wild, like psychedelic galaxies; and you go like, "That doesn't look like that!" And then you see pictures of the real thing and go, "It does look like that!" You know, and it's just amazing that I'm going to [be] part of this! Because I consider Hubble to be like I said, part of the American myth. I don't know how else to put it. Like, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, you know. The Saturn V Program. Apollo. Hubble is right there. And when you gauge history and time, scientific knowledge and how it progresses, and society and civilization, I think you've got to have Hubble in there as a big bookmark. Because it took us from land-based astronomy to space-based astronomy. And we had smaller, other things up there before, sure. But, nothing, nothing like Hubble! And we're not going to have anything like Hubble for quite a while again. We have actually looked back in time, like at least 12 billion years! We can actually see 12 billion years back in time what the universe was like. And nothing like that has ever happened before. And with the ACS (the Advanced Camera for Surveys), we're going to be able to increase by ten-fold the imaging capability of what we can see in terms of areas and light gathering. And it's going to be a whole [other] era of exploration and scientific research and, you know, new findings that we can't even imagine. So for me, even to be a small part of that and say, "Yeah, I went to Hubble; I was the guy who put the solar arrays on it and allowed them to get the power and these scientists to make these discoveries." Or, "I fixed the power transfer box. I did something small. You know, I'm kind of like, the carpenter kind of guy who goes up there, or the journeyman, the astronaut." But, I still feel like I'd be amazed I'll be a part not only…I'm proud to be a part of NASA but also a part of history as far as I'm concerned in terms of what the Hubble is and what it has been and what it's going to be for the next decade.

Okay.

And that was a long answer, but, --

It was great.

-- I thought about this a lot, and I really do feel that this will be the most important thing I ever do. So we've got to do a good job!

It was a great answer. Good, you guys will do fine. You talked a little bit about your previous flights. What were those experiences like on STS-78 and -90? They were some of the longest...

Yeah, they were two of the longest shuttle flights. As a matter of fact, my first flight was the longest shuttle flight. And then, like, two flights later, they stay up an extra day because of bad weather and they beat us. So we were kind of like, we were hoping to hold that record for a little bit longer. But, I think STS-80 now is, I believe, is the longest space flight. But, my first flight was all life sciences. Actually, the first flight had microgravity research on too. But, I was involved mainly in a lot of the life sciences experiments. And you know, those life sciences flights, they don't get the publicity that some of these space station flights do. But, man, you work hard! Those are…I don't think I'm ever going to work as hard in terms of the time I put in and the midnight oil burnt and especially in the second flight, which was STS-90, Neurolab, because I was the payload commander on that flight, as John is on this flight. And that meant I pretty much ran the whole science part of the flight, the Spacelab module. And I had three other people working with me, the payload crew, just three incredible, great guys. A couple of docs. One physiologist. Smart, smart people. Much smarter than me. But, we had them along because they helped us all look good! But we did so much work. We worked, you know, 16-hour days. We had a bunch of animals on board. We had over 2,000 life forms on board the shuttle when we launched.

Wow.

But a lot of them…we had 1,500 crickets. So you know, little small guys. We had mice, rats, fish, snails. Different things, and four primates. I was one of them. And we were as much of the experiment as any of those other things. As a matter of fact, they experimented on us more than they did on those guys. So it was a very busy flight. It was tiring. I remember getting back and just being exhausted! And not to get off on a tangent, but that's why in certain ways flying the shuttle is so much different than being on the space station, because the time schedule and the compression factor in terms of what you want to get accomplished cannot be accomplished or kept up for that amount of time when you're on station. So it's a different schedule. And we would get, -109, those two flights prepared me very well for what's going to happen on -109. You know, they were the two longest flights. So I remember the first thing, this is a little anecdote, the first thing that I thought when I got up there, after the first day was over on STS-78 was like, "My God, I've got 16 more days to go! I don't know if I can do this!" And everyone's drifting around, looking at each other. And I'm like, "Well, I'm not going to say anything." You know. And some, you don't feel well the first day. And you're just like, "Oh man!" You've got a headache and you're, like, "Seventeen more days!" And then, it's amazing! It's like going from elementary school through college, and you know how time just seems to go faster and faster as you get older. Pretty soon two days went by, then it was five days, then it was six days, then it was nine, ten days. And I'm like, "Where did all the time go?" And then, pretty soon it was, like, "Well, if I can do this for ten days, I can stay up here for another ten or twenty days no problem!" So your whole attitude changes in terms of, and by the time it was time to come home, I didn't want to come home. I was perfectly happy to stay up there another two weeks. Unfortunately, the shuttle can't stay up that long, so we did end up coming home. But just great experiences. As I said, you know, any flight is a good space flight. And my two life sciences flights were really good for me because that's what I'm here for. I'm a life scientist. But of course, the opportunity to get out and do an EVA like every mission specialist wants to do when they get here is something that it's always been in the back of my head, like was to apply to NASA when I was in, just doing veterinary medicine. And so I kind of look at this as a next level up for me, and I'm looking forward to it.

What's that going to be like? Your first translation out into space?

Well, I keep wondering about that myself. I have these nightmares. It's like I just keep telling John, I go, "John, whatever you do, don't let me float away!" So the big thing is, your proper tether protocol, making sure you're always tethered, and of course, you don't want to make a mistake, and you want to remember everything. And you have all this going through your head. And I think ultimately what it's going to come down to is I'm just going to kind of go into the memories I have from the training and just let myself go and take it slow and enjoy myself. So I'm really wondering what it's going to be like for me when that hatch comes open the first time, you know. You're in the airlock in your vacuum. But, when the hatch comes open and you look out, you're like, it's like, "Hey, it's there!" you know. And you're going to go out. And I'm sure, you know, everyone says, "Oh, it's no big deal. You know, whatever. It's like I just do my job." But I know when I go out there it's going to be like, I'm just going to be, I know, I'm going to take a couple of seconds and just kind of stare and enjoy it. And then get to work.

That's great. Okay, let's talk about the mission now.

Sure.

Can you give a brief overview of the goals of the mission, and just a little background about how achieving each--

Sure.

--of those goals will help?

Well, this is the fourth servicing mission. And as you know, you know when Hubble was launched, there was a problem with the main optics; and the first mission dealt mainly with the correcting those optics and doing some other adjustments and upgrades. And then, several missions after that, John was, like I said, on the last mission. And a lot of the training that we're, a lot of the planned things that we're doing on this mission actually in some cases were thought that maybe they were going to be done on the last mission. But things change in terms of launch schedules, priorities, timelines, and what can be done because of certain problems, say, with launching later over, and waiting, waiting, waiting, and you have launch delays. And then maybe you don't launch in the right window so you lose prop. And so the guys on the last mission actually lost at least one EVA. And they ended up not doing, they did three EVAs. And they were going to do an extra one, maybe doing even another one if they had the time. And it just didn't work out. So I won't say we're lucky. But a lot of the things that were planned earlier on are now on our mission. So we actually have five scheduled EVAs, and there's a chance we might actually do a sixth EVA, which really has never been done before, a sixth EVA, six EVAs in a row. And of course, John and I will go out on alternate days. Jim (excuse me) and Mike in the middle; they'll do two, we'll do three; we'll do it 1, 3, and 5; they'll do 2 and 4. And the first EVA is going to…the first two actually, mainly is meant to just replace the solar arrays on Hubble. And they've already been replaced once. But these are a new design. And they're actually kind of similar to an iridium solar array, the iridium satellite system, in that they're rigid arrays. I think a lot of people are used to [seeing] the arrays on Hubble kind of flapping around, those pretty kind of gossamer gold arrays. Those were built by ESA (the European Space Agency) and they're flexible arrays. These are actually two hinged panels that'll fold out. They're about…they're quite a bit smaller. They're a lot smaller, they're a bit wider, a lot blunter than the old arrays. And the cool part about it is they have this greenish blue glass covering, which, gallium arsenide photocells, which are going to collect the sunlight and turn it to electricity. And on one side, they're blank. They're just a big white panel. And so those arrays are always going to have to have the gallium arsenide faces pointed to the Sun and the controls on the ground will do that with Hubble for the…for slew and stuff. But, when we have replaced these arrays, we're going to increase the capability, the power capability in Hubble because they're much more efficient [arrays], by maybe about 20% or so. Twenty percent more power will be available. And that's a whole lot actually when you think about it because with the new scientific instruments that are going into Hubble - the ACS, upgrades to NICMOS to see if the cooling system works - it's going to need that extra power to look and do the science. And so the arrays are a very, very big deal. And on day 3, something that…probably the most crucial, the highest priority in the mission is ACS, which is Advanced Camera for Surveys. That is the priority, scientific priority. But yet as you know, if you don't have gas in your car, it doesn't matter. It's not going to work. And we have to provide power to all these instruments. And there's the main Power Control Unit (or PCU) on Hubble [that] actually has a problem with it. It's a little bit sick. It's got a very small short between one of the…when it's…internally one of the diodes. And it's slowly draining to the point where they believe, over a period of, you know, months, or however much time that it could get worse or it could degrade the amount of science that's available, or they may have to discontinue power to certain arrays within the box, which would, you know, obviously, hurt the science and certain other boxes that are hooked up to that couldn't be powered. And right now everything is functioning pretty well. But, they know there's a problem with this PCU box. So they designed another main Power Control Unit. It looks just like the old one, almost. There's a few changes in terms of how the connectors are on. But, this thing was never meant to be replaced or worked on in space. And it's this huge black box with rows and rows of about 36 connectors on the sides and on the bottom. And we will actually have to get in there with really little clearance. We have to use a special tool that'll go in and grab the connectors and take them off, because there's no room for your hands to get in there. And we'll hopefully get all these connectors off. And then, we'll replace the box. John will put the new one in. And after I disconnect, he will reconnect all the connectors. And the scary part about this is that the Hubble power is going to have to be turned off. So this pretty much means it's like there's a big on-off switch, and the power has never been turned off before on Hubble. I mean, it will be like turning the light switch off your main switch box in your house. It's just dead. And we had a special…caps and the batteries, different things to prevent shorts for live batteries that aren't connected in line; things like that. But the main Hubble instruments and the core of the instrument will be powerless. And we don't know if, when we turn the switch, that the, you know, we think it's going to be fine. But, you could always think of a scenario where there's some relay that doesn't flip back the way it needs to or something goes wrong; and we could put this in, turn the power back on, and it still doesn't work! And we don't think that's going to happen because the engineers did a great job. And it's redundant, redundant, redundant. They've built in level upon level of, you know, failure modes where they can work around things. But, we're hoping that once we get the new box in, flip the power on, boom! It's energized and everything works. And if that is the case, then it's great. Then, we put ACS in, and then the last day, Jim and Mike will put ACS in, which is the big scientific instrument on the flight. As I said, ten times more scientific-gathering, light-gathering capability imaging. And the last day, there's an instrument called NICMOS, which is an infrared camera, similar in some ways, I guess, it just looks at different wavelengths of light. And when they launched that, there was a special cooling unit that launched with it to keep it, basically you need it to be a certain temperature to image the infrared that hits the screen. If it's too hot, it interferes with the infrared imaging. And there is a block of liquid nitrogen. And it's sublimated. There was, apparently, a leak or a little bit more sublimation than they thought. They initially extrapolated out, and it's gone. So they can't use the instrument. So some really, really smart guys at Goddard figured out a way to use a noble gas; it's at cryogenic temperatures, and pump this gas in (neon) and actually cool the whole instrument down using this giant radiator, which is going to be mounted on the outside of Hubble. So we're actually changing the whole look of Hubble!

As MS-3, what's your primary responsibility on the mission?

Well, my prime responsibility for Hubble will be EV-2, which is extravehicular-2 with John. I'm part of that first EVA team that'll go out, as I said, on days 1, 3, and 5 and do those…do the solar array, the PCU, and the NICMOS, the NCC. I have other, everybody has other, you know, additional duties. On day 4 when Mike and Jim are out, I'll be the prime IV; I'll be the one that leads them in terms of talking with them and basically be the coach inside. We call it "IV," but it's basically a guy who's the coach or lady who's the coach and talks to these people, and runs them through the whole game plan while they're outside. And that's what I'll do. John will be that on day 2, and Jim and Mike will alternate as they come in when we're out there for our EVAs. So my prime duty's, as I look at it, is just learning the EVAs as best as I can, the equipment, and what Hubble is about. And then I have internal duties of the shuttle. I help with photo, TV. I'll be the entry MS, so I'll sit up on the flight deck in entry and be part of the flight crew as they come in and do the crosschecks with the MS-2 and make sure systems are looking good so we land the way we should. And we train for all this. It… always seems like there's a million things we need to do and there's never enough time to study for them. But for me in this mission, the EVAs are the thing. I mean, if I make a mistake with the Pentax inside or I forget to put a roll of…a tape in the VCR or something like that, that's bad. But, I'll recover from that. I won't, but the EVAs are what I'm spending all my time on. And as I see, the most important thing in the mission because that's why we're going up there: to fix Hubble. And if we don't, then, you know, we can't say we were successful.

Can you take us through what will happen for rendezvous and grapple, what you'll be doing for that event?

Yeah. I'm part of the rendezvous team. It's going to be a very, very crowded flight deck, you can imagine! With everybody looking out through those two small windows, watching Hubble come up, and then flying the orbiter up to it. Scott Altman, "Scooter," the CDR, he'll be doing all the flying to get us up to Hubble. But on the first, well, the rendezvous, actually flying up to Hubble and making sure it's in the right orientation, and then aligning the shuttle with its bays so it's exactly right for Hubble to come up and basically Hubble will be here, and then the arm will come up. Nancy will take the arm, place it on Hubble, grapple it, and bring it right down in the bay of the orbiter so it's standing straight in the end of the bay. My job, during that day, during the rendezvous day, before we grapple, will be to use the handheld radar, the lidar. Actually I'll be taking shots off Hubble, and in addition to the radar that the Ku-band provides on the shuttle, imaging Hubble, I will be using a handheld unit not unlike what they get you with on the highways when you're speeding. The same kind of unit. And I will back up calls with the computer and the radar to make sure that we have, you know, I guess an extra level of redundancy, which will be me. So I'll be trying to stay out of the way but working on some computers and taking readings with this radar, handheld radar unit, up until…close to the point when Nancy's ready to grapple. At that point, I'll get out of the way; and then I'm going to try and photo-document the grapple, take pictures of the interior of the crew, and do some cleanups in the computer specs and whatever people need me to do. But the main thing for me that day is, on the rendezvous, is helping with backup radar. And then, obviously that night it's starting to get into the suits, pull all of the equipment out, making sure everything looks good, and then going over the EVA procedures to get ready for the days coming up, so we can go outside and start working on Hubble once we have it berthed.

When all is wrapped up and you guys are ready to send Hubble back on its way, you're going to ungrapple it and deploy it. Can you take us through what you'll be doing for that event?

Well, I won't be as busy on the deploy. I may, we may have the radar unit out if there was a problem. But, basically, what's going to happen on deploy is Nancy, after the scope is rotated the way we want it, Nancy will take the robot arm, come in, and grapple Hubble. The locking mechanisms of the latches that hold Hubble in the payload bay will release, and she will fly Hubble up to a safe position. And now, there's also a planned maneuver where we will try and reboost Hubble, which will occur before that, where we actually reboost the whole telescope up using the shuttle's propellant and then release it. She'll release it at a certain set Sun angle, so Hubble will kind of, knows where it is, and then slowly back away, trying not to put any perturbations in the Hubble of its, by itself, so it's very still. And then, we slowly back away using very, kind of angled-out light jets to get away from Hubble so we don't plume the solar arrays or damage any equipment. And at that point…, depending on what kind of attitude we're in, maybe a quick fly-around. But probably more than likely just watching it slowly take off, not take off but drift away into the distance. And we'd be up there for a bit more time, getting everything shipshape, powering systems down, making sure Hubble is acting the way it's supposed to and getting good confirmation with ground. And then, of course, we have all the cleanups to do, like getting the payload bay door shut when it's time for entry, and there's a lot going on for the last couple of days because we're at that point getting the space suits put away, getting our entry suits taken out. It's amazing, with the small amount of space, and the time you have what you have to unpack and pack. It's kind of like being a kid where, you know, you rip open all your presents and you get them out, and they came in this, and they're, it's like the volume is five-fold increase. And you say, "There's no way I'm ever going to get this back." But somehow, you get it back where it came out of. And you'd be amazed at how long that takes sometime to get that. And so there's a lot of high-end there involved in those last couple of days, getting everybody ready and getting the orbiter ready for reentry. And so, hopefully after we have a successful deploy and reboost, Hubble will be on its way and we'll be able to come back down to another orbit out of the way and decrease our altitude until we finally, you know, aero-capture, reenter, and have a safe landing at KSC.

Let's talk a little bit more in depth about the EVAs. Can you take us through the timeline for EVA 1, where you and John will install the first solar array?

Yeah. We're going to try to get out the door early. All the EVAs, we're trying, we would like to keep around six hours to 6½ hours. We already know that PCU, just because of the nature of the beast, is going to be a long EVA. It may take eight hours or longer, we don't, we are accepting that already just because it's so critical that we fix it. The first day basically entails, as I said, going out and replacing the solar array. And what that obviously entails first off is you've got to take the old one off and stow that, and then go and get the new one and put it on. And that's really all we're doing. So we're going to maneuver up on the arm. We will take the old array off. I'll be on the arm for this whole first EVA; and I'll be moving around with the arrays and handing them, moving them up to John, who'll be on the telescope and he'll be putting them in the sockets and tightening up connections, connecting the electrical conduits. Things of that nature. We've got a few other things that we're doing that day. The WIFPIC thermal covers protections. [There are] different things we need to do to get Hubble protected and ready so we can power it down. Like protecting the Fixed Head Star Trackers that actually look out and are the guidance system of Hubble. Very, very delicate machinery. Can't get any debris or anything in those, in those apertures because that would have dire consequences for the telescope later on. So we're putting shades on to cover those. We're putting thermal shields on some of the bays. We're taking thermal shields off some of the bays, depending on what kind of heat parameters they want, what temperature they want that internal bay to be at. The funny part is that, and I didn't know this, is that, you know, you're in space and you think everything's going to be, you know, at absolute zero, -200 degrees; and in fact, most of the equipment inside Hubble operates at about room temperature. And that amazed me! Because you consider that, you know, it's just the big hunk of metal, for the most part, and glass and wire floating out in space, it should be very cold. But, one of the things that you don't have up there is convection; it's much harder to get rid of heat, because it's just radiative, and that's the only way to lose it. And so, you know, the same thing with the shuttle. You would think that it's going to be really hard to stay warm. But in fact, it's more important to get rid of heat, to eject heat and stay cold. And that's the same with Hubble. So when we do PCU on the third day, once we get that installed, then we're able to go back and take off certain thermal shields and remove other things that we were using to condition the instrument to make sure it stayed within normal parameters while we're doing all this work to it. I guess it'd be similar to like putting tarps up on your house to protect the furniture. When you're done painting, you can take the tarps down. But there will be a lot of that. And…the other thing that amazed me is that…sometimes it's just busywork. It's nothing, you know, scientific instruments, it's great to put one of those in. But, most of the work involves going back, getting tools, figuring out how to use a tool, moving around, translating, getting something on that fits just right, making sure you don't damage something while you're putting it on, and it's so much technique and movement and being very careful and very, very definite about how you move and what you do. And that takes a lot of time. The, you know, the thing is, the faster you go, the slower you are;…you know you've heard that before. The faster you go, the less effective you are and the more chance you're going to damage something. So we're going to be as efficient as we can be, but we're not going to rush and we're not going to be any faster than we have to be to have that margin and be efficient.

I'm trying to jump around here because you've touched on a lot of stuff that--

Yeah.

--that were in subsequent questions here. --

Pretty much the same for PCU. I could almost say the same thing for the other three, all the other, pretty much, you know, we talked about PCU, when with the whole PCU pretty much involves just getting that main power box out after we disconnect the batteries, and then changing the power box and reconnecting. And then, we have a few cleanup steps after that, as do Jim and Mike the day before to get ready for us. And then day 5 will be the cooling system. We talked about the new radiator, the NCC, the new type of cooling system that'll help NICMOS, hopefully, image in the infrared. …But the technique and what you do is pretty much the same. You move around the scope. You're just really careful. You're definite about what you're doing. Everything has been choreographed many, many times already in the pool about this particular piece of equipment. How you're moving with it. Where you're going with it. How it's going to be installed. Who you talk to at the right time. How you get the arm to move where you need it to. And that's what takes the time is the choreography and kind of the interplay between people and making sure, you know, all of a sudden you look down and say, "Oh, my foot just…we're bumping into Hubble. We can't have that!" You know. That never happens, of course. But, I'm giving you an instance. You always have to be in the lookout, so you're always at this heightened level of awareness. And you know, as you know, after a while when you stay like that for a long period of time, it can be a little draining after a while. So you don't want to rush things.

What's the idea behind the breakout strategy plan? And where did that originate from?

Well, the break, on the PCU breakout, that's something hopefully we never hear, we never see. But, you know, well, obviously we want to talk about it. But what happens is, if for some reason the connectors don't come off, or we're running because of something that happened early in the EVA the day before, we're running behind and we only have so many hours that day in the EVA before, you know, all our consumables run out, like oxygen, water, things like that. We never get there; there's always a big margin. But, for safety reasons, we would have to come in; say, after eight hours max, even if we weren't done; well, you have to come in. It's time to come in. And so if we knew like, at six hours that there was no way we were going to get this done, even up to the maximum time we have left, we'd have to initiate a breakout plan, which just means you're breaking out away from the original plan and you're setting it up in a safe configuration for the next day. Or a safe configuration, say, if there was an emergency deploy of Hubble and we had to get rid of it that night, we couldn't go back out, where we could maybe have it in a safe mode where it wouldn't be damaged. Or maybe even a mode where we could get minimal science from a few electrical connectors that would still work. And it all depends on the timing. It all depends on how things are going. And it would all depend on how far we are with the connectors' mate or demate in terms of what we have connected. But there's been many, many scenarios played through. And we've broken it down to about maybe three main ones now in terms of how we will connect and what we won't connect, if we did not have time to finish. And that would always obviously depend, what scenario we use, on how much time we had when they made the decision what we needed to do. And as I said, you know, I try, I train it and I know about it. I try not to think about it because, in my head, I'm like, "We're going to do it. It's going to go the way we want it to. And we're going to get all the connectors on, all of them off, and we're going to get the new box in."

Okay.

But, you've got to have a backup plan.

Sure.

And you know, it's nice to be positive. And I'm staying positive. But if for some reason Hubble's not listening to me and I get up there and something doesn't turn the way we need it to and I spend, you know, an hour on five connectors, then we have to start thinking about what's going to happen the next day. Mike and Jim may have to go out and finish for us, and then maybe put in ACS, or we might have to put in ACS. And it may be that we have to rethink our whole schedule in terms of what we do. We may not get to do some of the EVAs we thought or put some of the equipment that we thought we would. It may turn out that some of the prime stuff that we were going to put on, we don't have time for. But, some of the backup things that are kind of, I guess, in the bullpen right now, we may take those out and use that time to put those on because it won't take as long. So we may actually change the plan depending on how perturbed we are with the EVA schedule.

As you, if you can envision the mission unfolding, what do you see as the big, which activities are the biggest challenges?

Well, I mean, not to beat a dead horse, but the EVAs are the biggest challenges. You know, Nancy Currie is probably one of the best, if not the best arm operator right now. She was on the original station flight. She put the first module of the space station in space. And she's had a lot of arm experience. And so I mean, for her, you know, I'm not trying to make her nervous or anything, but for her this is, I think it's a walk in the park for her. She's just that good. So if we get up there, obviously, and there's a problem with the rendezvous, then that would hurt us. But, I don't hopefully foresee that because once we can get to Hubble, we will grapple it and get it in the bay. Some other things have to happen, like the latches have to work; and if we had a latch problem, we'd have to deal with that. But seeing that everything works the way it normally should, and the rendezvous goes well, good grapple, we have it in the bay, then obviously the big thing then is getting the EVAs off on a good schedule. Starting early, if we can, and keeping them going to stay on that timeline. Because if we fall behind the timeline, it all cascades as a snowball effect.

Right.

And whatever we don't get done that day, we literally, this is a very, very kind of ambitious mission in terms of the EVAs. So we do not have, I guess we'd call it, a lot of slop in the timeline. So if we don't get something done, there's just probably not much chance that day that we're going to get it done. And it will fall into the next day and the next day. And we have a little bit of give in the schedule, you know. And perhaps we'll stay a little bit longer. But, overall, you know, it would be the timeline schedule to stay on it as much as possible. And of course, you know, that only is controlled insofar as that is, is how well we do. But, if we have a problem with Hubble, there's no way around it. Like a mechanical problem or something just won't turn or a connector's frozen or something like that. Then, you know, all bets are off and we have to come up with a plan on the fly and figure out how we're going to work that. And that's maybe where a breakout scenario would come in.


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