Interview: Kenneth Cockrell
STS-111 Crew Interview with Kenneth Cockrell, commander.
Let's start at the beginning. Why did you want to become an astronaut
in the first place?
almost ancient history now. But unlike some people, I developed
my interest in the astronaut profession later in life. At first,
as a child, I was mainly interested in flying. I remember at age
5 seeing an airplane fly over our house when we lived in, for a
few months up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And this airplane, for
some reason, struck a chord in me. And, it remained a dream in my
life from that point on. And the action that I took on that dream
was to… do the schooling and…get the degrees necessary
to, the degree necessary to get into one of the military services.
And, I chose the Navy. And, I joined the Navy and learned to fly.
And then, got more and more interested in flying. I found it truly
was a love of mine. And I decided that, at some point when I was
in the Navy, that I'd like to become a test pilot, because it seemed
like that was the best way to just understand in every detail everything
about flying and airplanes. And so I eventually did get accepted
to the Navy's Test Pilot School. And, while I was there NASA put
out a request for application for astronaut to the various military
services, as well as to the civilian community. And I looked at
the requirements in their document, and having just graduated from
Test Pilot School, I met the requirements. So now their rockets
had wings on it, they were hiring for space shuttle astronauts,
and it looked like the best kind of flying machine that you could
hope to fly. And that has turned out to be true. So I got really
interested in it then, and started making my applications to the
some other people that came up the same way to NASA. Are there,
were there people, in your military experience, or other places
that significantly influenced you to make that decision to apply
a little bit of a groundswell of interest amongst the fellow pilots
at the Naval Air Test Center, and I'm sure the same thing was happening
at the other military services. But it was pretty self-sustaining.
When I saw the concept of the space shuttle and the fact that you'd
be landing it after orbiting the Earth, it just seemed like the
greatest thing for a pilot to be able to do. And so several of us
were really interested in it. In fact, I interviewed with three
or four of my classmates from Test Pilot School on that very first
attempt back in 1979.
advice can you give someone considering becoming an astronaut?
a very good question. I get asked the question quite often, especially
from students or people that are young and still trying to figure
out what kind of career they want to do. And the strange part of
the advice is that you need to forget about being an astronaut and
concentrate on being something else first. None of us that have
been hired as astronauts come straight from college. We all have
developed or worked at some sort of profession before we got here.
Astronaut is always at least a second profession that you get involved
in, because NASA is looking for people that have excelled in their
profession, that have achieved qualifications in, in the case of
pilots, that are a little above and beyond what you need to do just
to be a pilot. And so, what I tell people is, "Study hard"
(obviously) "and work hard, and pick something that you like,
that you enjoy…for a profession. If you're a science-minded
person, then pick a discipline in science that interests you a lot.
If you're a pilot-minded person, well, then, pursue being a pilot
and give it, in whatever you pursue -- science, pilot, medicine
-- give it all you've got. And to give it all you've got, you kind
of, you need to forget a little bit about the ultimate goal, otherwise
you'll be distracted from doing the immediate goal. So, my advice
is to pursue an immediate goal of being something that qualifies
you for being an astronaut, but it has to be something that you
like. And then, excel at that, and then make your application to
NASA from there."
it certainly worked for you. You're a veteran of four spaceflights.
you're assigned to the, you were assigned as the pilot of Endeavour
during your second shuttle spaceflight...
in September of '95. Has the orbiter Endeavour changed much since
Well, I haven't
really seen it much since then. I was in it a few weeks ago during
our first introduction to all the equipment that's inside it. But,
it looks pretty much the same as I saw it before. There's a new
television capability, a digital television capability, a built-in
recorder device that wasn't there before. But, Endeavour is the
last orbiter to receive the upgraded cockpit with the liquid crystal
display screens in it. And so, it still has the same instruments
that I looked at when I flew it in '95.
know that you've actually flown on all four orbiters.
was just wondering how they are different from each other. Are they
significantly different from each other? Is it like driving a totally
No, it's not
like driving a totally different vehicle. But, they do each have
their own idiosyncrasies. To be honest I flew Discovery in 1993.
I flew as the Flight Engineer, Mission Specialist number 2. And
I didn't get to handle the vehicle during entry for landing. And,
we didn't, I didn't get to do the rendezvous that was done on that
flight. Endeavour and Discovery and Columbia are as solid as a rock
after the boosters come off during ascent. They're just smooth.
It's like you're in an electric-powered vehicle. Atlantis, for whatever
reason, continues to shake around a little bit, just a little bit
of motion. It feels like you're riding in kind of an older pickup
truck maybe. And, I don't know what it is about Atlantis that does
that. Columbia is the best glider. And, the, probably the easiest
one to land because it's a little heavier, a little smoother aerodynamically,
and it glides just a tiny bit better, but noticeably so and makes
it easier to make a sweet landing.
nice that you have that experience to be able to tell us that. You
mentioned the glass cockpit, the…liquid crystal displays in
Lockhart was actually on a team to help implement some new procedures
and new capabilities within the cockpit area of the shuttle.
each member of your crew brings special skills to their job, in
addition to their skills that they're performing during this mission.
have a, as you said, a multitude of skills in their background,
even before they became astronauts. Let's talk about each one of
those separately, and I'd like to get your thoughts on the team
that you're working with. What about Paul Lockhart?
Well, he comes
from a similar background to me. He was not in the Navy but the
Air Force and flew fighter airplanes not too different than the
kinds that I flew. So…it's easy to talk to Paul. He and I speak
the same language when it comes to flying airplanes. And, we do
real well flying together in formation. Every time we go somewhere
as a crew, we're always a flight of two T-38s, and so we continue
to sort of live that previous life that we had of, as fighter pilots
in part of our lives here when we're flying the T-38 for proficiency.
So we speak the same language. He is the rookie, one of the two
rookies on the shuttle crew. So, it's been a lot of fun, it's always
fun with a rookie to bring them along and show them, explain to
them what's going to be interesting and what the feelings and the
sensations are going to be like. And so, I sort of…treat him
--as well as the other rookie on the flight, Philippe -- as my children.
And, you know, showing them what it's going to be like and explaining
it to them as the old guy that's flown before. The other experienced
person on the flight has got more experience than me, Franklin Chang-Diaz.
And, it's kind of interesting that Franklin and I both got off the
same airplane to attend our first interview together. We arrived
in Houston and we were standing around the terminal waiting for
the car from the hotel to come pick us up. And struck up a conversation,
realized what we were both here to do, and that was in 1979. And,
now we're flying together for the first time. Franklin's got a lot
of experience, six flights. This is his seventh. He'll be the only,
the second person to do seven flights in the space shuttle. Or,
in any kind of space vehicle. But he and I don't speak exactly the
same language. He's a physicist…a plasma physicist, to be precise.
And, he is as smart of a man as I've ever met. And, really knows
about things in depth that I don't even consider in my day-to-day
life. So he brings the other side of the astronaut corps to the
crew, the scientific side. The understanding, the research, the
you and Franklin have different approaches to helping the new fliers
learn what they need to learn for their mission?
No, I think
we have probably a very similar approach in that we talk about what
it's like just every time we're training for, discussing a certain
phase of flight, we just try to share what our experience has been.
And, I think that's probably the best way, or actually the only
way you can do it before they get there and experience it for themselves,
which is really when you learn what it's like.
of your mission specialists, Philippe Perrin is another new flier…
he comes from a military pilot background also.
can you tell me about Philippe?
we speak a very similar language. He flew reconnaissance airplanes
and then fighters in the French Air Force. And again, they're very
similar airplanes to what Paul and I flew. And so, we do speak a
similar language. With a sort of a different twist to it because
the French Air Force did things a little differently than we do.
Which stands to reason. A different country, a different part of
the world, a different mission. And yet that does enable us to communicate
and understand each other without a lot of communication. His role
on the flight, along with Franklin, is to be a spacewalker. And,
that is capturing his entire attention right now. It's a real big
deal. It's hard work. It's a lot of training to get ready for space
shuttle EVAs because our time is so precious. We're only going to
be docked to the station for eight days. We have to get everything
done in those eight days. So, each EVA needs to go perfectly. So,
we train really hard. And, Philippe and Franklin are some of the
best at paying attention to detail and making sure they got things
nailed down before the flight. So, their approach might be a little
different to me in that regard in that I'm kind of the big picture
person, I need to be the one that looks at the whole mission and
doesn't get too bogged down into the details, although it's hard
not to in the case of a four-person crew. Because we each have plenty
to do. But those two guys are very detail-oriented. And it's a…necessity
for the EVA because there are so many fine details. And, to get
the job done right, you have to know each detail perfectly. And
I don't know the details that they know. But, I do sort of balance
their detailed piece of things with the rest of the things that
need to go on and have a bigger picture view.
you expect to be called back to the ISS so soon?
No. I sure
didn't. I didn't expect to get another flight so soon, which is
were on STS-98...
the space station. What do you expect to see different? How would
you like to see firsthand what the delivery of Destiny has done
to help the station crewmembers?
there's a number of ways to look at your question. One is when I
went there, there was a crew on board, it was the Expedition One.
And we had just delivered the Lab. It only had five racks in it,
and most of them were just, well, all of them were just to support
the systems of the space station as a whole. Now it, the Lab, is
fully outfitted with experiments and stowage and the equipment to
keep the station running. And so, it's going to look totally different.
There's a different crew up there. In fact, they'll be Expedition
Four when we get there and Expedition Five when we leave that will
be in charge of it. So, I think what I expect to see is that the
flavor of operations on board the station will be a different one
compared to the Expedition One crew, as I would expect each Expedition
will set its own tone and have its own flavor. The station is in
a different configuration now. We've got the Lab with the PMA on
the front of it. We docked to the bottom of the Node on the Laboratory
delivery mission so that we could move the Lab out of the payload
bay and attach it. Now, we're going to dock to the front of the
station, which doesn't seem like a big deal. But, the difference
is a whole different approach. We came up from below the station
and flew straight up and docked into the bottom of it. This time
we do come up to the station from underneath. We stop a little while
on that same line of bearing, straight under the Node, and then
we do this little circle maneuver that brings us up in front of
the station, and then we fall back onto it and dock to it. And,
the orbital mechanics of those two different approaches are totally
different. And so, I've had to not, I wouldn't say relearn, but
learn some finer details that are totally different from the way
that we rendezvoused last time. So, I expect there're, from the
time we rendezvous and dock throughout the time that we're on board
to see some very key differences in a lot of areas on the station.
It'll be fun.
haven't had as much time to prepare for this flight as you did for
that last trip to the space station.
much does it help to have been there before?
a lot of help. And I would trade off the shorter preparation time
for the "recency" of experience not just having been there
before. But, having been there before just a year ago, really helps
me a lot. I don't, I find that I haven't forgotten as many things
about the fine details of the training that I had between that flight
and the flight before, which was a four-year span. So, it's been
much more comfortable for me getting back up to speed.
was a pivotal mission for the International Space Station. This
mission is also really important to the future of the station. In
summary, what are the goals of STS-111?
A couple of
things in a couple of different areas. One is we're going to provide
a new crew and bring home Expedition Four, who, by the time we get
there and bring them home, will have been there a pretty long time.
So, they'll be happy to come home. And, I'm sure they'll be really
smiling when we open the hatch...after we actually get there. We
also put down the groundwork for expanded robotic operations on
space station. The flight that's on orbit now has just installed
the S0 truss on top of the Laboratory. And, on top of the S0 truss
will go the piece that we're bringing, which is the mobile base
system. It's a little base that goes on top of the railcar that
will run the length of the truss out to the beginning of the solar
arrays and provide an ability for the robotic arm, the station robotic
arm, to roll along on this little train and reach virtually anywhere
on the station robotically, which is a very key capability.
the ISS changed much since you've last visited?
We have a
couple of new modules on board and the S0 truss which do expand
the size of it and the view of it. So, I'm looking forward to the,
well, when we're there, we'll have the volume of the station, the
volume of the space shuttle, the volume of the logistics module
that we will have taken out of the payload bay and stuck to the
bottom of the Node, and since I was there, there's also the airlock,
which is a very sizeable module, and the Russian docking compartment
in between the FGB and the service module, which is also a sizeable
compartment. So, there's a lot more space to move around in and
to explore. And so, I think it will be quite different inside.
mentioned that this is a crew exchange mission. How is it to train
with the Russians for this? You have two Russian crewmembers...
up in Expedition Five...
you're bringing Expedition Four down. How do you feel about training
Oh, it's been
great. Ah, from the beginning, we made a conscious decision to get
all together in the same office. So, we have, it's not really quite
large enough for all seven of us, but we have all seven of us sharing
an office in our building. And so, every time we come to work, we're
together. And, that's the way we've done shuttle crews ever since
we've had shuttle crews. It's put us all in an office together,
make us work together daily, and that way you work out any kind
of interpersonal conflicts there might be and figure out how everybody
does their business and learn to get along as a crew. So, we've
done the same thing with the Expedition crew. The fact that they're
Russian doesn't play into it. Except that it makes it a richer cultural
experience. We have more new things that we can learn about each
other and more, we have very interesting times. The Commander of
the Expedition Five crew is also one of the Russian guys. And, he's
a MiG-29 pilot from the Russian Air Force. So, I flew F-18s, which
is the same size and the same type mission as a MiG-29, so we've
compared notes like that. So, besides training for the mission,
we have a lot of other things in common and have had a great time
of the things that you have in common is both you and the Commander
of the Expedition Five mission have to manage a large group of priorities.
Do you have any philosophies for dealing with so many tasks that
you have to do in your amount of time? Obviously, his stretches
over a longer amount of time. But, your schedule is completely packed
while you're up there.
you have any ways or advice on how to handle...
that… we do all that now on the ground. I mean, we figure out
all those priorities that are listed in Flight Rules. And they're
fairly rigid. We decide - with long and hard thought and a lot of
meetings with everybody that's involved - what is a priority and
how it should fit together with the other priorities. So, that's
all decided. And, what we do on orbit is execute it as efficiently
as we can. So I guess the simple answer to your question is: we've
already done that. And, when we get there, we're just going to work
hard…and follow the plan that we've made.
of your priorities for this mission have changed as time passes
by. And, the targeted launch date has slipped for this mission as
some of those tasks have changed. Is it difficult to see the launch
date pushed back? Or, is this just another way that, an example
of NASA demonstrating its ability to respond dynamically to a permanent
crew in space?
not difficult to see a date change. That's very common. So, we're
used to it. In this case the date change was a minor aspect of the
changes that have occurred on the mission. So, the decision was
made and it was a difficult decision because we had to weigh delaying
our launch in order to incorporate this repair job that we're going
to do now…we wanted to get the repair done mainly because we
want to get the joint back and analyze it, and see what the failure
mode was so that if it's lurking in another joint that we can get
the fix in. Maybe preclude other failures like this. But to counter
that was the fact that the Expedition Four crew should be coming
home early in May, but now they won't be coming home 'til early
in June. So, it's that, that was a little bit of a tradeoff that
the space station program had to make. But, in the end, they decided
it was more important to get the arm working. Because if we suffer
another failure on it, then it, depending on what the failure is,
we could render it inoperative until we can bring a shuttle up and
fix it. And, it's very key to all these assembly missions. So, a
task was added to the flight, which involved adding a third spacewalk.
And it also involved adding a 12th day to the mission to give us
time for that spacewalk. And, it's caused us to compress into a
smaller time space some of the other things that we need to do,
like to transfer the goods and food that we need for the Expedition
Five and Six crews and bring back the return items that are stored
on station, that it's gradually getting a little too crowded, so,
we've got to get those things back! But, we don't have as much time
to do it. So, our mission has taken on a lot of additional tasks
that we need to get done. So, that's really the big part. The fact
that we have to slip the date to accommodate getting ready for that
is the secondary part of it. Now, the Expedition Four guys may not
agree with me. They probably think that's kind of more primary,
because we're making them wait for a few extra weeks. But, it actually
works out in all of our favor, at least in one regard. One of the
key things that station program wants to do is to de-clutter the
station. There's too much old spare parts and food containers (trash,
if you will) in the station, and we need to do a spring cleaning
of it and bring a lot of the stuff home. The delay has allowed,
will allow Dan and Carl and Yury to get more things packed up and
ready to be transferred home. And, when we get there, they're going
to be more ready for us than they would've been had we launched
on May 6th. And, I think we'll be more efficient because of that,
getting more things off station. So, it'll probably help in that
are so many things that are happening during this mission. There's
a crew exchange. There's some repair. But, this is designated Utilization
it was originally manifested, it was meant to bring up some more
science in the MPLM, which we are doing, and use the shuttle to
utilize to get experiments to station and, therefore, utilize us
as a, (it's kind of a stretch, I agree). But, to utilize us as a
facilitator for keeping science going and operations going on the
space station. The fact that now we have three EVAs, which makes
us look a lot more like a construction flight or an assembly flight.
So we could very well be called 8A-and-a-half, but we're called
new capabilities [will] this mission add to the space station?
A couple of
things. Some minor things in the ability to transfer oxygen and
nitrogen from the space shuttle to the space station to replenish
those things that are used during, especially during EVA. And the
other, the major thing that we should accomplish, it's our goal
to accomplish, is to enhance the capabilities of robotics operations
on the station. Sort of a NASA word way of saying, "We're going
to enable the robot arm to get out further and reach more places
on the station, and be able to do its job better."
is the new device, called the MBS, or the mobile base system…
you'll be installing. What is the mobile base system? Can you tell
us about it? Who built it? And what will it do to increase the effectiveness
of the ISS?
It's a Canadian-built
platform. It's about the size of a large kitchen table. A little
more expensive. It's made out of aluminum truss structure. On it,
it has four grapple fixtures that the station robot arm can grapple
itself to. And right now, the station robot arm is grappled to the
bottom side of the Laboratory, and it reaches around from that location.
When we install the mobile base system on the center piece of the
truss that's on top of the Lab, we're gonna actually install it
with the Canadian robot arm, the station one. It'll reach into our
payload bay and pull out the MBS and attach it to the truss. And
then, once it's all checked out, a little while later, after we've
left, after we leave actually it will un-grapple itself from the
Laboratory, and what used to be the tip of the arm will now be the
base of the arm and it'll be based on the mobile base system. And,
from there as more truss segments are added, the little train car
that the mobile base system's on top of can run left and right on
the truss, can stop in a location, clamp itself down, and you can
use the arm from that position again to reach almost anywhere on
mentioned that these are attached through a device called grapple
fixtures, or power data grapple fixtures. Can you describe what
these are? And, how they operate?
It's a, the
power data grapple fixture is an enhancement to the grapple fixtures
we've been using since the beginning of the Space Shuttle Program.
And, it's a very ingenious and clever design. The grapple fixture
itself is just a spike. A metal rod. At the end of the rod is a
knob on it that's very strong; both the rod and the knob. And, the
arm is hollow at the end; and it comes down, it goes over the end
of the arm end of the rod, and then inside the arm there's a rotating
can that has three wire snares on it. And, the can just rotates
until the snares get really tight on the rod, and then the can that
has the snares on it retracts itself into the arm, which in turn
pulls the arm down firmly against the grapple fixture. It's an enhancement
over the shuttle one in that, when it pulls itself down firmly over
the fixture, it makes a connection that applies power to the arm
and also allows the flow of data back and forth in the arm so you
can control it. So, anywhere the station robot arm attaches itself
to one of those PDGFs (power data grapple fixtures) that can now
become its base. And so, the arm can go from one power data grapple
fixture to another and leapfrog its way to different locations.
power data grapple fixture, that data's not just computer data.
It's also things like video...
cameras along the length of the arm. Each one of them is, or almost
all of them are swivel-able and you can tilt them, change the focus,
and zoom in and out. And, those controls pass through the same data
addition to the installation of the MBS, Franklin Chang-Diaz and
Philippe Perrin will stow several service module debris panels on
pressurized mating adapter 1...
believe. What will this accomplish?
will deliver those panels. Eventually those panels will be installed
around the service module; hence, their name. We've decided, the
experts in orbital debris have decided that they'd like to have
a little more protection around the service module. So, 24 panels
are being manufactured to go in the certain area of the service
module; it's actually in the conical area where it necks down from
a large diameter to a smaller one. We're going to deliver the first
six of those. We don't have time to install them on the service
module. That will be done [by] Valery and Peggy later on during
their mission. But we will temporarily stow them on PMA-1, which
is right next to the FGB, the first Russian module, and leave them
there for them to install later. It's
a statistical thing. We want to have a certain probability that
we want to have a smaller number than, of the likelihood of getting
a penetration from a piece of orbital debris. And, this just improves
the statistics. It makes it less likely for that to happen.
a lot of other things that'll be in the Leonardo MPLM when you go
up. What else is in it?
We have two
racks that we'll transfer wholesale over to the U.S. Laboratory.
There's a thing called EXPRESS rack, and it's EXPRESS rack number
3. And, it's just a rack that carries, it has power and data and
cooling that can be supplied to this rack. And, it will carry a
few experiments in this EXPRESS rack. We'll just transfer it wholesale
from Leonardo into the Lab. And then, there's the [microgravity]…science
glove box. A glove box is sort of like a standard piece of laboratory
hardware, where you want to deal with hazardous or toxic or potentially
hazardous equipment or samples or you name it. If you need to protect
the humans from the science that they're doing, you do the science
in a glove box. And, this MSG (the microgravity science glove box)
has a couple of places where the operator will insert their hands
in through a pair of gloves that are sealed from the outside world
and, using gloves and the tools that are pre-positioned inside the
glove box, can do experiments on potentially toxic or hazardous
samples. So, it's sort of a facilitator of many experiments. It'll
be used throughout the life of station to do experiments in.
of experiments, sometimes you're the researcher on things or your
crew is. Sometimes you're the ones having research done on you.
wearing a device called an actilight watch during this mission.
It's not really a watch. What does this do?
Well, it tells
time. But, it doesn't tell you the time. It's a sleep study. It,
as probably most people know, your sleep, ability to sleep and keeping
your body and your mind into a rhythm that enables you to sleep
well to some degree depends on the fact that it's light outside
when you're awake (generally speaking, or at least during a large
part of your awake time) and it's dark outside when you're asleep.
That's why and that helps you to sleep, the fact that you spent
some time in the light, it creates a chemical cycle in your body
that reaches the right mix of chemicals to enable you to sleep when
it's, when your workday is finished.
it is a watch, just not in the traditional sense of the word.
the watch keeps time and records data. And, it actually records
the motion of your arm. And, when your arm is not moving it has
assumed that you're asleep. And, when your arm is moving, you are
not asleep. And then, it also has a light sensor on it that compares
the time when you're asleep with the ambient light that's around
you. And they plot the data out to show, okay, this, at this time,
he was asleep. And it was mostly dark. But, here the lights were
on for 30 minutes or whatever. On orbit, it's going to be light,
dark, light, dark every 90 minutes. And yet during that cycling
daylight/darkness, uh… period, we'll have eight hours of sleep
set aside and 16 hours of work set aside. And, they want to compare
how those, how our sleep is affected. They can tell when we're not
sleeping well by the amount of motion that our arm does. And, we
also will fill out a questionnaire every time we wake up to say
how well we slept, and how well we think we slept, and how rested
we feel. And then, they'll compare the data.
this is just a small part of research designed to help us know more
about the future of spaceflight.
I think it
will, it also, it, in a very broad sense, it helps you learn more
about sleep in general. But, it will help us design, perhaps, the
way that we, the schedule that we put people on for long-duration
exploratory missions, like a mission to Mars, where we may spend
several months traveling to get there. We want to get a crew that,
there that is that's rested and ready to work. So understanding
how best to compensate for the fact that the Sun goes up and down
(or in the case of going to Mars, never goes down) and make sleep
still work for the crewmembers is one of the long-term goals of
talked just a small amount about the rendezvous and docking with
the ISS. You'll be at the controls for this, so I wanted you to
go into a little bit more detail about the steps that it takes to
get the Orbiter or the space shuttle from the ground to the International
it's a great part of the flight. I, it's probably my favorite part
of the piloting of the space shuttle. The fir…the beginning
is launch. I mean, you launch into an orbit that is lined up with
the space station exactly. If you don't, the mission is blown. So,
that's the reason we have once you get into orbit you cannot change
the orbit from side to side. It takes a huge amount of propellant
to do so. So there are no space vehicles that really have a significant
ability to change the inclination of their orbit. How much it's
slanted with respect to the Earth. The space station's in a 51.6°-inclined
orbit. It's inclined 51-and-a-half degrees from the equator. We
need to not only be inclined that same amount to the equator, but
we have to be in the same plane. So, when we the Earth, if you can
imagine… the space station is orbiting around the Earth like
this. There's the Earth. The Earth is spinning underneath it. When
Florida, the launch pad, comes under the space station orbit, that's
when we need to launch (plus or minus about five minutes.) So, that's
the reason we have tight launch windows for space station flights
because we have to wait 'til the launch pad comes underneath it
and we can't launch too early or we can't steer over to that orbit.
We can't launch too late or we can't steer back to it. So that,
that's where the whole process begins and, it has to be very precise.
That's the reason for the short launch windows and for all the drama
that goes along with trying to get a space station assembly flight
off the ground. We will launch into a lower orbit. Generally speaking,
we'll be several thousand miles behind the space station. It really
doesn't matter where it is on its orbit so long as we're under the
track that it's on. We will stay down at a lower altitude, about
120 miles, and we will, the fact that we're at a lower altitude
makes us go around the Earth faster. So, in a matter of a day-and-a-half,
we will catch up with the space station. And, as we start to catch
up, we'll gradually raise our altitude up closer to the space station's
altitude so that our catch-up rate slows down. It becomes more gradual.
you actually speed up to slow down?
You do have to add speed to go to the higher orbit. When you get
to the higher orbit, that slows you down. It slow, you're going
faster, but it slows your progress around the Earth. So, with respect
to another body, you're going slower. I'm totally confused myself
there. But, that's the way it works.
let's pick it up from the point where you are under the space station
and you've done this day-and-a-half, trying to catch up to it.
2,000 feet out from it, 2,000 to 4,000 feet out, we finish making
all the little computer-guided correction burns and we take over
control manually. It's sort of a combination of manual and automatic.
We use the autopilot to point the space shuttle, to keep it in the
right attitude; and what we do is, we tell the space shuttle to
take the, its tail and point it towards the Earth. And, we get it
to do it at a gradual rate. And, as it does that, we, the Pilots,
move a little hand controller that causes the shuttle to translate,
to move it, with respect to the station. So, as, (let's see…)
here's the station up here, and here's the space shuttle. We're
going to come underneath it. We just tell the autopilot to start
tilting the tail towards the Earth, and then we scoot it along so
that, as it tilts toward the Earth, we end up in front of the space
station. It's kind of quasi-magic, but it works. And then, while
we're up here, the, on, in front of the space station (if you could
imagine, this is the front of it, and we're 400 or 500 feet in front
of that) the computer or the autopilot just holds the tail pointed
straight at the Earth, and then we just guide it left, right, and
in and out, down towards the station.
And that, and it's really a fun piloting task. It's like driving
a ship because it, you make very small inputs that take a long time
to occur; but once they occur, they're very hard to stop. So, with,
it's something you need to do very precisely, and it takes a lot
of practice. It's, but it's fun to do the practice. So, we got it
very slowly and gradually, we slow down at about 30 feet away from
the docking port. And just look through a zoomed-in camera at the
target. And, the target has a little set of alignment guides on
it. And, we make sure that we're all lined up, that the two vehicles
are exactly in plane. And then, from 30 feet in, we just hold a
steady rate, and we crash into the station. That's a very slow crash.
It's one-tenth of a foot per second. So, it's like, it's as slow
as a snail would crawl (but a little faster than that), but that's...
how it's supposed to be.
that plus or minus 0.03 feet per second. And at that exact speed,
it puts the right amount of energy into the automatic latching/docking
system and it causes a couple of latches to engage. And then, once
they're engaged, we hook ourselves up real tight to the station,
pull ourselves down, make an air-tight seal, and we can go in and
you dock, when you finally open the doors and the hatches to the
space station, what happens during those first couple of hours?
Well, a lot
of hugs and handshakes in the first few minutes. We'll come over
to the station, get a safety briefing from the resident crew, figure
out where everybody's going to sleep for the first day or so, and
then we get right into preparation for docking or installing the
Leonardo module the next day. We also do some transfers of equipment
that we're carrying up in the middeck. We have a MPLM that's full
of logistical transfer stuff; thousands of pounds. We also have
several hundred pounds in the middeck that needs to be transferred
over, and things that we'll carry back down on the middeck on space
shuttle. So, we'll do a lot of that transfer on the first day.
be the fifth time that a multipurpose logistics module has been
docked with the ISS.
the third time that Leonardo's been that module. Have you and Philippe
learned from others before who've done this?
Oh yes. We
have been very heavily involved in the trials and errors of other
crews and other flights. It, there is a, we've got about 200 items
that we're delivering to station. And, if we get everything done,
about 100 items and I think about 90% by weight of the module can
carry, we'll be bringing back. So, we have if you can imagine: it's
like having the movers show up at your house with 200 boxes. And,
those boxes are going to be coming out of the module really fast,
and we've got to keep detailed track of what gets transferred and
where it goes on the station so they can find it later. So, it's
just a huge moving process. Just like when the Bekins man shows
up. And then, we reverse that process to bring back the return items
from station. So, I expect once we're docked, and when we're not
doing spacewalks, we're going to be in the MPLM doing transfer ops.
installing the MPLM… share any similarities to when you docked
Well I think
it's a little easier. The MPLM, all, even though it's the same diameter
as the Lab, it doesn't have as many things protruding off the sides
of it. So, it's not as tight a clearance coming out of the payload
bay. It's the same mechanism for attaching it. So the fact that
I've been through that training and seen that work before will serve
to at least make me more comfortable with the task. And there's
less gyrations we have to do. We pretty much pull the MPLM straight
out of the cargo bay, roll it a little bit to line it up with the
way the…mechanisms is oriented, and then slide it in and then
use the, this common berthing mechanism to elect…electrically
drive bolts to latch it down. The Lab, we had to pull out, flip
over upside-down, roll, and then put it into place. So, it was more
your last mission to the space station, you were the backup operator
for the shuttle RMS, the remote manipulator system. During this
mission, you're assigned as the prime operator of that system. How
is this a unique assign…assignment?
Well, I had
to be the prime because the other, the Mission Specialists who are
typically the ones that operate the arm are both doing spacewalks.
And, the Pilot is choreography manager for their spacewalks. So,
he's heavily involved in that. So, there's only one person left.
And, that's why I got the job of being the arm operator. It's, being
the backup is mainly watching over the other person's shoulder,
doing the computer entries to change the configuration of the arm
for that other person, and just giving them sanity checks on what
they're doing. Make, you know, coaching them, saying, "Yeah,
it looks like we're going the right way, and this is going to work
right." So the role is going to be reversed. I will have a
backup that sometimes it's Philippe, because we do some operations
when they're not spacewalking. Sometimes I'll just borrow one of
the Expedition crewmembers to come over and watch over my shoulder.
talk about this first EVA. What happens? Take me step-by-step through
this first one and give me an overview of what the tasks are.
basic tasks on the EVA. They're separated by a lot of distance,
a lot of traveling to be done. And, that's why it takes the six
hours to get these three seemingly small tasks done. We're carrying
up a new power data grapple fixture that goes onto the P6 truss
element. It goes on there so later in station assembly life it can
be grappled and maneuvered to its new home on the end of the truss.
So, the P6 has to come out of the payload bay, get carried up by
one of the spacewalkers, and installed on the P6 truss, bolted down,
power connection made. The second thing is the service module debris
panels that we talked about earlier. They get pulled out of the
payload bay, delivered to the area just short of the FGB, and bolted
down. And then, finally, to get ready for the removal and installation
of the mobile base system, there's some thermal blankets that need
to be removed. They were there for protection of the element prior
to getting to orbit. And so, the spacewalkers go over there, remove
these covers…they're blankets but they're kind of intricate
blankets. They have to fit these unusual shapes, and they're held
down with these little fastener things. And, they will undo the
fasteners, fold up the blankets, and stow them away, bring them
will be Franklin Chang-Diaz's first time actually outside of the
space shuttle when he's in space. Have you [given] him any advice
because I've never been outside either! He has sought the advice
of other spacewalkers, and we have two that are assigned to our
crew to help us in the development of the techniques that we'll
use on the three EVAs. So, he's getting that advice from the people
that really have the experience. We obviously coordinate everything
that he's doing and everything that I'm doing inside. And, we've
talked many hours about that… making sure we understand what
each other is doing. But I leave the passing on of experience to
those that have actually got it!
and Philippe, too with his...
will, the mobile base system will stay up there overnight before
you take it back out to do other things with it.
At the end
of EVA 1 once the thermal blankets are removed, then the shuttle,
the station arm is cleared to come in and grapple it. We'll release
it from the payload bay, and they'll take it up and put it in a
pre-installed position, ready to install the next day. The shuttle
arm will be used to provide a camera view of that installation process.
So, both arms will be kind of working together to get this job done.
But, the installation itself should happen the next day.
steps are involved in the installation of the MBS?
by the station arm. And, it, the station arm reaches down into the
shuttle payload bay, grapples the MBS. Once it's grappled and safely
attached to the station arm, then we release the fittings that hold
it into the payload bay. And then, they very slowly pull it out
of the payload bay, move it around to the side of the Lab, and then
around to the front of the Lab, and then get it close to the S-Zero
truss, the center piece of truss. And then there is a kind of a
complicated capture system. It's a, well, not complicated; but interesting.
It's a big claw. And, there's a bar on the MBS; and when the MBS
is, the center of the MBS has this bar, gets down into the capture
area of this claw, then the claw clamps down and pulls it in tight.
It has a couple of little conical fittings on the corners of the
MBS that fit into a receptacle at each corner. Then it guides it
into holding it exactly straight. But, it's kind of a temporary
attachment. EVA 2 comes up, during EVA 2 our crewmembers come up
and do the bolting down of the four corners to hold it down rigidly
to the mobile transporter, the little railcar that's underneath
that the highlight of EVA 2?
EVA 2 primary
mission is to get the MBS bolted down to the mobile transporter
(the MT) and also to make the electrical and data connections from
the mobile transporter to the MBS. And then, to finish up EVA 2,
we'll do some preparation for the third EVA, which is, which might
be seen as kind of the big EVA on the flight. Because it's the one
that's just gotten added. We're rushing to get trained for it in
this last six weeks before flight. And it's a fairly complicated
EVA. It involves both arms again. And the, if we have time at the
end of EVA 2, we're going to set up the worksite and get the platforms
ready for the spacewalkers to put their feet into, to stabilize
them while they do the work on the arm.
third EVA is scheduled to fix a problem with the wrist roll joint...
the station's Canadian arm. What exactly is the problem? And, what's
being done to solve it?
going to replace the whole wrist. So that's how we're, we'll solve
it. The problem is…it's a little bit undefined. And, that's
the reason we want to replace it, so we can get the old wrist back
and figure out by looking at it what is wrong. But, there are two
paths of control for the space station arm to give it redundancy.
On the, I think on the secondary path or maybe it's on the primary
(I forget), but on one of the strings of control and power, there
was a short in the wrist roll joint. And, it shut down the arm on
that string under that control. The other path is working just fine,
and we plan to use it, use that other path for installation of the
MBS. But we would like to have, very strongly like to have both
sides of the arm working, both paths of control working, so that
we do have that redundancy again. So, to fix it, we're just going
to take off the end of the arm, swap out the bad joint for a good
one, put the end of the arm back on it, bolt it all down, and that
process I just described in 15 seconds will take about five hours
to do (we think).
also talk about what needs to happen to move the MPLM from the ISS
and berth it back to the payload bay of Endeavour. It's, is it as
simple as just reversing the steps?
much reversing the steps. I think the corridor that you have to
maintain to get it attached to the Node is about the same kind of
tolerance you need to maintain to get it back in the payload bay.
It's just about the same tightness. So, it's about, it's a similar
task of precision. And I will be the one that installs it, and Philippe
is going to be the one that takes it off and puts it back in the
payload bay. I think the time crunch won't be as much on the return
to the payload bay. We really want to get it done quickly when we
install it to the Node so we can get busy unloading it. The sooner
we get it there, the sooner we can start work inside it. On the
way back, we have all day to get it back in the payload bay. And
so a little bit of the pressure is off. And, if we've got it all
loaded up nicely, we'll feel more relaxed about getting that job
we haven't really talked about the crew exchange much yet. We've
talked about construction and repair. There's a certain point when
the Expedition Five crew officially becomes...
is that point?
point is when they get all of the…their rescue vehicle is the
Soyuz that's attached to the bottom, I think it's going to be the
bottom of the space station. And, the Soyuz has very special seats
in it that has seat liners that go into these metal seats that are
exactly fitted for the bodies of each cosmonaut or astronaut. So,
the seat liners that belong to Expedition Four need to come off
of there, and the seat liners that belong to Expedition Five have
to go on there. And, we should get that done on flight day 3 and
4. And, once all the seat liners for Expedition Five are on board
the Soyuz, then they would officially be the crew. If we had to
leave in a hurry, they would be the ones that stayed. Theoretically,
if we had to leave in a hurry, hurry, within a couple of hours after
getting docked, the Expedition Four guys would have to stay because
their seat liners are the ones that are in the Soyuz. We really
don't want that to happen, and we don't expect it to happen. But,
that's the official handover point.
talk about what happens when you start to go home. You undock from
the station, and you do a fly-around. Can you talk about that? Actually...
I don't get
to do it.
will be doing it.
it. This is his chance to get his first opportunity to fly the space
shuttle, which is really cool to be able to do that on your first
flight. It's, it's kind of a reverse process of arriving at the
space station. We will, Franklin and Philippe are running our docking
system, and the docking system is commanded to open up the hooks.
And, it has a little spring force that pushes you away gently from
the station. Once we're clear, Paul will use the thrusters to pull
ourselves a little more rapidly away from station. And, the station
will still be oriented, flying horizontally with the Lab forward,
and we will still be right on the front of it. So, when we undock,
he'll just back away. We'll get 400 feet away, and, at that point,
he'll use the thrusters to start a big loop. Depending on how much
propellant we have left after doing reboost and other attitude maneuvers
while we're docked, if we have enough propellant left, we'll do
a complete lap. We'll go all the way around the station, go back
over the top of it, and separate from there.
the reason for that?
us to photographically and with the video cameras map the station.
We can get a handle on how the exterior is holding up. And we can
make some good, pretty pictures as well. But, it's a documentation
of (A) our handiwork (what we've done), you can see the MBS and
the arm as its attached to it as we leave, but probably more important
it, it documents, in detail, the condition of the exterior of the
you've undocked. Your crew has flown around.
you're on your way home. The Expedition Four crew has been up there
for a while.
they've been in a weightless or near-weightless environment (microgravity)
for quite some time.
some procedures for helping them adjust back to a 1-g environment.
Can you talk about those?
The name of
the game is exercise. And, they will have added a lot of exercise
time to their timelines in the preceding weeks before our arrival.
We will facilitate the continuance of that by providing our bicycle
for them to work out on. The other big priority that we have to
do: adaptation is one thing, but getting them actually physically
ready to land is another. We have to set up a set of seats on the
middeck that is different from the way we launch. We use pieces
of the seats that we launch with and construct three horizontal
couches that we put them on. And, we will also to save space and
to actually get the job done, they will be using parts of the space
suits that the Expedition Five crew launched in, the orange suits.
So, they'll have different perhaps a different sleeve or boot or
helmet, and certainly gloves, and we'll have to assemble those suits
from the parts that we had from ascent. So, we'll put all those
suits together. On the day after we undock, we'll go through a dress
rehearsal. We'll dress all those three guys and make sure that the
suits all work and fit. And then, we'll assemble the seats, as I
mentioned, and sort of do a briefing, a talk-through of deorbit
and landing day, which is a very hectic day. And, they will not
have thought about any of this for months. I mean, they haven't
been in a shuttle for months. So, this, it'll be our job to reeducate
them, remind them of their role, and how they use the equipment
that we'll have on them for landing. And, just generally get them
in the mindset for coming back home.
also have a crewmember who will be down there with them on the middeck.
going to be the mother hen for the middeck for entry, so we'll have
only three on the flight deck and four out on the middeck. Philippe
has [an] upright-sitting chair, and then the three of them will
be on the reclined couches. And, Philippe will also provide a little
television monitor down there - a little, small, battery-powered
one - with a cable running from the camera that looks through the
pilot's HUD, so they'll, even though they don't have a window that
they can see out of when they're in their seats, they'll be able
to look out our front window with this little monitor.
talked about all the specifics and tasks and things like that. There's
got to be some fun in spaceflight. What do you do to have fun when
you're up there?
fun comes built-in. You don't have to do too much to get a, I think
the most, well, let me go in ascending order. Launch and landing
are very exciting. They're a lot of fun. More fun than that is seeing
this beautiful Earth from orbit and just taking in this panoramic
view that you can't get any other way. And then, the number one
fun thing is having 10 people up on orbit, all of us with a common
goal and a common bond of being space fliers. And, we just, it is
just a joy beyond description of camaraderie when the, I've never
had a group of 10. But, when I had a group of eight, there on the
last flight, it was a lot of fun. And so, I think for fun, looking
out the window, when we have time. We're going to be kind of busy
while we're docked. I think working hard with your comrades getting
an important job done, and trying to do it well will be rewarding
and fun. And I just think this is going to be a fantastic mission
because of the crew handover, the assembly work, and the logistics
work. We're going to be working very hard, but with people that
are sharing the common goal, it's going to be great.