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Crew Interviews
IMAGE: Sandy Magnus
Click on the image to hear Mission Specialist Sandy Magnus' greeting (342 Kb wav).

Preflight Interview: Sandy Magnus

The STS-112 Crew Interview with Sandy Magnus, mission specialist.

Q: First of all, tell me about where you grew up and where you call home.

Well, I grew in a small town in Illinois called Belleville, Illinois. It's located just east of St. Louis, across the Mississippi River. So, it was sort of on the edge of being rural, but we had the city there to jaunt off to, to watch soccer games or baseball games and stuff like that. So, it was really a nice place to grow up. It was really, it's a great little city.

And, when did you first have that dream of becoming an astronaut?

You know, they asked me that during the interview. And asked why I wanted to become an astronaut, and I didn't really have a strong defining moment that's, you know, I saw Neil Armstrong walk on the Moon. I was four years old, when they landed on the Moon. So, that didn't really register. But I was in junior high school, and I sort of latched on to the idea of exploring. You know, going into new environments, learning new things. just the whole idea of exploring was fascinating to me. I always was curious about why things worked and how they worked. And, I latched on to space. It's like, "I want to fly in space. I want to go explore space. That just sounds like a really cool thing to do." So, it sort of stuck with me in junior high school and has been with me ever since.

At what point did that dream become a reality in the sense of you [deciding], "Okay, I actually can do this." And, you started on your path. And also tell me how, what path did you take to get here?

Well, I was in, going into high school actually when Sally Ride and Shannon Lucid and some of the other women first got selected. And, I remember reading that in the newspaper going into my freshman year in high school. And, you know, it was a big, huge article about how NASA had selected the first group of women to be astronauts. And, that was huge for me! I remember, still remember how I felt when I was reading that. I was like, "Wow! They're taking women now! This, I can really do this thing." I mean, you know, I was still going to try for it, one way or the other. But, with the acceptance of these women, it was a clear path as opposed to kind of a murky path. And so, right then, I started working for it. I thought about how I could line up my high school science classes and get ready to go into college and take science. And go from there. It's funny. You lay out these plans for your life, and nothing ever works the way you planned. Because I was basically going to go study physics, go all the way through, and get a PhD in physics and then apply to NASA. And, poof! You know, presto, whammo, I'd be an astronaut! Well, it's not that simple obviously. And so when I got to college, I went ahead, I majored in physics and I learned more about engineering. When I was in high school, I really did not know anything about engineering. It's real interesting, you know. You get exposed in high school to biology, chemistry, physics, the basic sciences. But, you don't get exposed to some of the other types of technical-based fields. And so, I…ended up going to an engineering school and I got exposed to engineering. And, I got interested in engineering as well. And from there I finished [my] bachelor's degree and I was kind of tired of being in school. You know, I wanted to go out and see what the real world was like. So I started working at McDonnell Douglas and got my master's in electrical engineering at night school. Eventually I did want to get a PhD, but I was enjoying the work I was doing at McDonnell Douglas. And, worked for a while there until the program I was working on got canceled. And at that point, I decided it was time to go back to school and get my PhD. And then, once I got my PhD I decided it was time to go ahead and apply to NASA. You know, I'd gotten some work experience. I'd finished my PhD. So, as opposed to the path where I'm just going straight through school and applying, and all in physics I ended up wandering around quite a bit. And, it was actually a lot more fun, because I got to do a lot of different things.

Who were major influences or role models in your life?

Oh, I'd have to say, easily I'd have to say my parents. You know, obviously your parents have the greatest influence on you as you're growing up. And, my parents always supported me. I, when I remember telling them I wanted to be an astronaut and, you know, I didn't get any, "Oh my gosh! What are you thinking?" or "That's impossible!" or, "No"; they were very supportive from day one. "Yeah, you know, if you want to do that, you should just do it," you know. And taught me how to, you know, work hard and just try no matter what, failure is not trying, you know, as long as you do your best and work hard, everything works out. And, so I easily have to say that my parents are. And, they're going to, they're coming to launch. They're very thrilled about the whole idea. And I'm really happy they're going to share this with me.

Now, this is going to be your first flight in space. How did you feel when you got the call? How do you feel now that it's getting closer? What are your thoughts?

I, of course, was very excited when I got the call from Charlie Precourt that I was assigned to a flight. You know, [you're] kind of always waiting for that first call. "When I am, when do I get to go? When do I get to go?" Because you've trained and trained and trained, and you get into the Corps, and you know it's going to happen eventually. And it was really exciting. I was working station Capcom at the time. And being involved in the day-to-day activities over in the Control Room is the next best thing I think to actually going there. Because you're in the middle of it. You're keeping up with the, with what's going on, on orbit. You're helping to support the guys on orbit. And, it just makes, it made me that much more excited to get the call for my first mission because I had kind of been in the day-to-day ops. And, it was just, "All right! Now, I get to go do it! And, talk with the Control guy from on orbit." And, it was going to be really fun.

What are you going to be thinking when they count down to start the engines?

Oh, I'll, hopefully I'll be focusing on the, my job as MS-2 is to support Pam and Jeff as the Flight Engineer. So, I'm kind of picturing half my brain's going to be focused on that, and half my brain's going to be going, "Oh my gosh! This is really happening! Oh my gosh!" you know. But it's hard, I'll tell you when I come back exactly. But, it's going to be, I think, a mixture of excitement and you know, making sure I do my job right. And wondering what my mom's thinking. You know, stuff like that.

Now, you have some experience in Russia. You spent some time there. And with that, do you think that's helped you prepare for the mission, for spaceflight?

Oh, definitely. You know, our, even though it's a shuttle flight and it's primarily a U.S.-based mission, there really isn't a mission that you can't consider international these days. Even off the shuttle. Because the station is such an international project, and everything we do, everything we take there, you have to interface with the different partners. And so the experience I've gotten with Russia and before, being a Russian Crusader, I'd worked with ESA and Japan and some of the other international partners on payloads. That experience as well, I think, is very useful in preparing for a mission because it's the environment that we work in. And, you learn a lot from the different cultures, the different approaches, the different programs that really prepares you to be flexible and gives you a lot of different viewpoints on how things can be done. I found it highly useful.

You mentioned being a Russian Crusader. And you worked some with Peggy, who's on Expedition Five up there right now. And, you'll be visiting her. How is this, how did that kind of background that you had with her help you in the training for this mission?

Yeah. That was really great. Peggy and I and Piers actually as well, we all worked in Russia together. And, we worked quite closely. We were part of a group that, we were trying to help get the operational products ready and hardware assisting the Russians with some of the English operational language and things like that. So, we'd spend a lot of time working together. And then, when Peggy and I started training for robotics together for the space station we already knew each other really well. We knew our, how we thought, how we communicate, and our communication is really great. And so, we can sit at the robotics workstation and almost finish each other's sentences because we're so used to working together. So, it was really nice. And, I'm really thrilled to be able to go and work with her on orbit after all the experiences we had in Russia together. So, it's going to be great.

Part of your training, as you mentioned, was with the Expedition Five crew prior to them going up. And, you will be essentially their first visitors since they've been up there for quite a while. What's that reunion going to be like?

Oh, I'm looking forward to it! It's going to be great! You know, I don't know if you've watched some of the other reunions with the crews coming up. Everyone's coming across the hatch, and with big smiles and hugging. And, I imagine we're going to be doing that. We'll stampede across the hatch, and it's like, "Guys! We're here!", you know, bringing some crew care packages and things I know they're going to look forward to -- fruit and oranges and apples, things like that. But, it's going to be great. We're going to open that hatch, and you'll see us the same way, big, huge smiles and just racing across the hatch to say, "Hello."

Let's talk a little bit about the mission. This will be the fifteenth flight to the station. It's flight 9A. Give me a brief overview of the mission of STS-112.

Our primary goal for this mission is to deliver the S1 truss. The truss is the, sort of the backbone of the station. It supports the solar arrays, which provide power to the station, as well as the radiators, which help cool the, or keep the thermal environment okay for the equipment and the people that live there. And, each flight is taking, you know, you can't build the whole truss at one time. So, each flight has to take segments up. 8A took the S0 truss. We're taking the S1, which is the first one on the starboard side. We have one of the radiators on our truss, and then subsequent trusses will have the solar arrays. So, we're just part of the first of a long line of truss builders, if you will. So, our prime mission is to take this truss up, attach it, and make it functional and ready to go so that you can slowly work on the sections of the truss as you build them out. So, that's…number one. And number two, we're taking some supplies up to the station guys and bringing some things back as well.

You mentioned S0 was put up on flight 110. And, you guys are taking up S1. What's the importance of the S1 truss or the truss altogether?

Well, you kind of have to speak in terms of the truss altogether. Each segment, of course, has different structural supports. For example, we have the radiators on S1. And, as you get out to S6 and P6, you have solar arrays and things like that. But, the whole truss is an important part of the station because, one, it supports the solar arrays that lets you generate power; two, it supports the radiators that you can bleed heat loads and keep the equilibrium, thermal equilibrium, good for the station; and, three, it supports the Canadian arm and the mobile transporter that let, that allows the station robotic arm to move around on the station as it rolls up and down the truss. So, it's a very important part of the station. It's just going to take a few flights to build it, and it's great to be part of that actually.

I believe Peggy is going to be actually installing the S1. Are you going to be assisting her with that?

Yeah. It's a...

What role will you play in there?

She's going to be the prime operator. I'm the secondary operator. We call them M-1 and M-2. She'll actually have control of the hand controllers, and I'll be right next to her taking care of the comm. and the camera views, and working some of the support software that we have. It's really a two-person job at the robotics workstation. So, she's going to be primarily focusing on the actual flying task, and I will be sort of doing the nav. and the comm., if you will, in support of that. And then, we swap for the EVAs. But, she's been training on it. She worked on it before. We worked together on it before we left for orbit. And, it's going to be great.

Can you give me any specifics about the installation of the S1? I know there's some latches that are obviously involved to secure it. Kind of, can you tell me about those?

Basically we're going to reach over with the station arm, we're going to pick it up out of the payload bay, we kind of slide it up out of the payload bay, swing it around, get it into the install position, up, you know, aligned with S0, and then, when we bring it in to install it, there's a big claw that grabs onto a bar in the S1 and it pulls the S1 truss into S0 as we tighten the claw. As we tighten the claw, there's some alignment cones that allow the two trusses to line up in such a way that you can, the bolts and the nut plates between the two trusses align up. And then, once the claw is latched down and we have them real close together, we drive the bolts. And, once we drive the bolts, the EVA guys show up and start attaching fluid lines and electrical lines and data lines. So, in a nutshell, that's what we'll be doing.

And this is kind of a question I've been asking, because here on Earth, obviously, when you have a structure and then you have a very large piece of it, sticking out to one side, obviously it leans over. But in space microgravity, that's not quite the case. Kind of tell me a little bit about that, the fact that you're putting up this huge truss on one side of the station. How is that going to affect...

Oh, how the station flies? Yeah. Obviously we don't have to worry about it leaning over. What it will do, you know, the station is basically in free fall around the Earth, which is how it stays in orbit. And occasionally, the orbit decays. Because even though there's no atmosphere or air up there, there are particles and molecules and atoms and things like that. And, they do create a little bit of drag on the station, which is why we occasionally have to reboost the station. I'm sure you've seen in some of the shuttle missions we've done some reboosts. So now when you add the truss out to one side, you are making a little bit of an asymmetric drag, if you will, on the station. But, it's not a lot. And, they can adjust that with the propulsion system on board. I do not know the magnitude of that drag. I'm not even going to go there. But they do, the motion control people and the orbit people, do watch for that. But, we're not a stable configuration for the station yet. Once it's a stable configuration, obviously, that'll make their job a lot easier. But, there's people who do worry about that, and do a good job.

Tell me a little bit more about the robotic operations that you'll be performing with Peggy. If you can, you can go into as much detail as you'd like about what you'll be doing throughout your mission.

Of course, the big one we talked about is the installation of the S1. And this is the first time we're going to use the arm on the MBS on the S0 truss. And, that'll be really exciting. We're, there's going to be parked just starboard of the Lab intersection with S0. And, we're going to, like I said, reach down into the payload bay and slide it up the tail, swing it over, and install it. Once we install it and we have the bolts attached we are going to use the arm to support the EVA the same day. And, that's where Peggy and I will switch and she will, she will do the nav. and the comm. and I'll do the flying. And then we'll have to get the arm all the way back down by the CETA cart, which is on the base of the S1. And, we'll just basically have an EVA guy climb on, and we'll drive him around for the rest of the day during EVA-1. The day after that, flight day 4, is a rest day. And then, we have two more EVAs subsequent to that. And, we'll also fly the EVA guys around on the arm to help them with their tasks. So, we go into a support sort of mode for the EVA guys after we do the major task with the arm of installing the S1 truss.

And, you briefly mentioned that this will be the first time that the station arm will be used on the MBS. Kind of, tell me the significance of that. How significant or important is that?

If, you know, it's significant in the fact that it's a new, it's another new step for the station. It's very quietly happening with each shuttle mission, we do new things with the station. We expand the capabilities of the station and learn more. Every flight we learn more. Every day on orbit when the Expedition crews are working, we learn more. So, this is another small step in the expansion of the station. We put, for the first time, the arm on the MBS. And, what that means is now, with the arm operational on the MBS and this mobile transporter, it now has the capability to start moving along the truss. And so, for example, when the P1 truss goes up in the next mission, they'll move the MBS to a different spot. Once the P1 and the S1 and the S0, they can move the arm all the way around the whole truss. And so, things get really interesting because now the arm is slowly reaching its full potential of how it can translate itself around the station. It's really exciting.

And also kind of talk about the fact that the mobility is basically essential because, for the S1, you kind of have to be off center because it's so far out there but then even beyond that, when you get into the farther ones you have to have the mobility.

Yeah, that's actually a really good point. As we build out, you know, S1, S3, S4, S5, you can, what you'll end up getting into situations where you'll have the shuttle arm pick the truss element up out of the payload bay and swing it over, and the station arm, which will be based further out on the truss (say, for example, at the end of S1 or the end of S3), and reach over and pick up the truss element to attach it to the further outskirts of the truss. So, you need, you definitely need the ability to move the arm down the truss as we build the truss out. So, it's sort of like we're building the structure that we need to help build the other structure as we build the truss out. It's really interesting.

Let's talk about the EVAs you'll be supporting and what the arm…kind of give me a brief overview of the EVAs from your perspective.

Yeah. Of course, the most important thing that the EVA crew are doing is the first day after we install the truss, they have to hook up the fluid lines and the power lines and the data lines to the S1 truss. And, the first position we go to actually after the install, once we un-grapple, is we go all the way down to the intersection of the S0 and the S1 truss and support Dave as he does the zenith connections there. That's probably the, that one and the, later Piers is on the arm at the same location but nadir, and he's doing the nadir connections. So that's probably the single-most important thing that they're doing. The rest of the time what they're doing is getting the truss ready for ops. And so, the arm support that we're doing for them helps them get to some of their worksites a lot easier and gives them a stabilizing factor, a place to work off of. So, most of their worksites that we're using for the arm is, number one, they're carrying something rather large like the SAS antenna or they relocate it from face one, which is where the CETA cart, up to the operational face. Because we can do that on the arm, it helps them keep that antenna safe while we're translating. And there's a couple of other cleanup steps that make the, with the arm that make them work more efficiently. But, a lot of the support that we give them with the arm is mainly along face one, where the CETA cart is, and some of the faces adjacent to that. So, the arm helps them work a lot more efficiently. And, they're pretty straightforward arm moves for this, for these tasks. So, it's working out really well.

Now, when the EVAs are not occupying your time, there are a lot of transfer activities going on. And, from what I've heard, you are the master at the transfer ops. So, kind of give me an overview and go into some detail about what you're transferring and where is it going? And, also some of the things you're bringing back.

Yeah, we, well, of course the stowage plan is changing a little bit day by day. But currently we have a bunch of these huge, they call them five middeck locker equipment bags. They're bags that are probably about, oh, I don't know, five feet by two feet by two feet. And, we have nine of those on our flight in the middeck. And once we get on orbit, we have to get those organized and kind of find the nooks and crannies to put them in so we can live. Because before we dock to the station, we're basically living and eating and working and sleeping on the middeck. So we're working out a plan to deal with that. But, a lot of the contents of those bags are getting transferred to station. Right now there's things like an external camera group with its light that we're taking up for a subsequent flight to install on EVA. We're actually installing two of them on EVA as well, but our light and camera groups are already there. So, we're taking some more for subsequent flights. We're taking up some resupply for the station crew for, you know, their photo/TV equipment. Things like that. We're taking up some payloads, which we can talk about in more detail in a moment. We're taking up some space station hardware that they need on board. We're bringing back some hardware that they've removed that they're doing some work, they're going to do some work on, on the ground. We're taking up a couple of life science experiments for the station guys, and bringing back some of their data. We're, and every flight does some sampling of air and water and things like that. So, we're bringing up equipment to do the samples, and taking that back as well. It's still changing a little bit. But, that's primarily the big, kind of the big items that we're working with. It's not like an MPLM flight, where you have a whole carrier of logistics. We basically are just putting the middeck together with a bunch of stuff and coming and going with that.

One of the things, there were, some of the things that you'll be taking is a new EMU suit...


...for the station and then also a SAFER or several SAFERs, I'm not sure. Tell me about those...


...key points, and, what, why are you taking them up there?

Yeah. Every flight, you know, shuttle flights are now starting to do their EVAs out of the station airlock. And so, we take up some EVA equipment, lug it across, and then bring back some other EVA equipment. And, the EMUs, the spacewalk suits, and the SAFERs have, they get changed out periodically for a couple of reasons. Number one, they have a lifetime, on-orbit lifetime issues. Same with SAFER. And two, more importantly, the logistics and stowage people, and these, they're a very impressive group of people because they have to think [of] all of these variables, you, different crewmembers need different-sized suits. And so, what happens is you have to figure out what size suit you need on the station at what time. And then, how do you get it up there and reconfigure it and get it back? And, that's essentially what we're doing. There's a medium on station right now that Peggy's been primarily using. It's for her. And we are going to replace that with a large for some subsequent crews, and the reason why we, they couldn't do it later, when those crews, I think it's Expedition Six was up, because that flight was, there's no stowage space on that flight. So, we're basically taking a suit up to get it up there early and stage it for the next crew. And then, Peggy would have to use the large if she needed to go EVA. So, we're taking up the large and bringing back the medium, and then bringing back, I think it's two SAFERs back with us as well. It becomes quite entertaining to try and keep track of all these piece parts, because we're moving arms and legs and pieces of suits around. It's, the EVA guys are going to do a great job on that, I know.

Now let's talk a little more detail about some of the payloads that you'll be transferring. Give me some specifics about what's going up and what's coming down.

We have, basically the way that it's set up is: there's a couple of what we call EXPRESS racks on the space station. And, there's big science racks. And, they have drawers where you can plug in payloads, and then they can stay there for a while, and then you can bring them back. And, these are very easily transferable to and from orbit with the shuttle. And so, we have several of these kinds of, you know, plug-in experiments that we're transferring from the middeck to the station, and then bringing back after a lengthy on-orbit stay for the payloads. Some of the payloads that we're…going to take up include a plant growth experiment, some crystal growth experiments, and we're also collecting some data from material, some samples from some materials experiments on board and bringing those back as well. And those guys right now on orbit are working on these experiments and gathering the data so that when we get up there, we'll be ready to bring it back.

Also, what about some of the ISS utilization payloads? Are there any specific things, kind of like EarthKAM, things like that, that you could talk about? That you're bringing up?

Well, a film, we obviously for these Earth ops types of experiments we would leave the cameras there and bring back the film. And, that's a standard with every shuttle flight that you do a photo resupply and bring back whatever they've taken. And some of that stuff they've actually been able to send down digitally as well. So, that's kind of a combination of bringing things back on the shuttle and sending things down for the Earth ops. And, of course, the standard EXPRESS rack types of payloads we bring back. And, there are even some experiments that you can fly up on the shuttle and they'll just stay on the shuttle the whole time, and we bring them back down. It depends upon the kind of data that the experimenters want, whether it's short term or long term. Because now we have the capability with the space station to do long-term experiments. We can leave an experiment on orbit for six months or so, and they can gather a lot more data to help them understand what their results are. So, it's really great to have the station up there with this EXPRESS rack capability, this drawer capability. It's really nice.

Can you tell me anything about SHIMMER and what you guys will be doing with that?

SHIMMER's an experiment that we will be running on the shuttle after undock. And, it's an experiment that we attach to the side hatch in the shuttle, where the window is, and it looks at the upper atmosphere. It looks at hydroxyls in the upper atmosphere. And basically it just, we kind of aim the shuttle at the upper atmosphere, and the SHIMMER collects the data through an interferometer and a CCD camera. And then we'll bring it back down, and they'll look at it, for example, to see what's going on with the ozone and things like that. So, we'll run that all day, the day after we undock. Hopefully get some good data for those guys.

What, with your experiences so far with the space station and with the international partners, what are your thoughts on the cooperation that's involved with all of these countries and cultures and people and, to work on the International Space Station and all that's involved there?

I've been very fortunate to work with many of the different international partners. Not only Russia, but the ESA group and the group out of Japan; a little bit with even the Brazilians and a little bit with the Canadians. And, I have always thought the greatest benefit that we're going to get from the space station, and probably the most intangible, is that all of these countries, all of these different cultures, all of these different people are learning to work together and understand each other in a way that we've never done before at all on this planet. And it's really, it's interesting, because everybody, every different culture approaches problems a different way. And, it's a great give-and-take. And, I think it's just a very, very strong, positive thing that is happening with the space station program, and it's happening on a daily basis, that goes really unnoticed and unremarked on. It's really interesting. And, I think it's great that we have such a huge broad, cooperative international program.

Kind of talk about the international cooperation that you've seen with your mission specifically, since you have a cosmonaut on board, Fyodor's on your mission. Kind of talk about the cooperation that you all have with him, and then also with everyone else that's involved on your mission specifically.

Yeah, obviously Russia's a little bit more of a factor for our mission because Fyodor is on the crew. And, of course, amongst the crew, we're a big team. It doesn't matter where you're from, you know. We're working together as a team to get the mission done. The cooperation or the interfaces we have mainly on our mission with Russia concern scheduling of training and things like that. You know, Fyodor had to leave his duties as cosmonaut in Russia and come over here to train. And, of course, we did a little bit of training in Russia to be familiar with the Russian segment, the Russian part of the space station when we go up. And so, all of the interfaces have to work to set these kinds of scheduling conflicts and training conflicts and training program together. So it's been, the level of interaction with the Russians on this mission isn't as great as, perhaps, they have a crew rotation flight but there has been some interaction. You know, a crew rotation flight, you have to worry about the Expedition crew returning, the families coming over, and how do you do the physical rehab? And, there's a whole myriad of things that they deal with. So, we're a little bit easier in that sense. But we have had a lot of interaction just trying to get the whole scheduling and training issues worked out.

Kind of tell me, you kind of touched on it, but kind of tell me the, I guess the necessity of cooperation. How, because the International Space Station, not all the parts are being made in one place. Talk about kind of the coordination that has to happen there.

That's a really good question because it's another thing that people don't really think about. We are building a space station. And, we're building it on orbit. And, we're building it with designs that are, design approaches, engineering approaches, that are different. We're really working across two, you know, English-metric system. And all these parts are being designed and built in different countries. For example, the Canadian arm, which is sitting on the MBS, which is sitting on the MT, has at least two countries involved right there. The Russian segment interfaces to the S segment. There's pieces of equipment that wander around in the station from segment to segment. The Japanese are building an arm as well, which is going to interface to the same fixtures, grapple fixtures, that the station, the Canadian arm does. So, there's a huge amount of communication that has to occur. And, it's really complex. And, people don't think about it. Because you're communicating across languages. You're communicating across cultures, where your approach to problems are completely different. And, you're communicating across great distances as well, which we, which I have experience from the U.S. just dealing with English and two different companies in customs. And, it's just an amazingly complex project, and it requires people to really think about what they're doing, and really try and communicate, really get across these barriers that you might have culturally. And, it's happening. And, I think, you know, it sort of looks easy when you're watching NASA TV and watching the mission go off. And, "Oh, look! They just put the S0 truss on." Or, "Oh, look! They just put the Lab on." Or, "Oh, look! The service module and the Zarya module docked." Or, "Zarya," or, "The Zarya module, the FGB module, docked to the Node." And, this is a big deal. This is a big deal that this happened. And, it looks so easy. It's because all these people are working really hard to make sure they understand each other and communicate very well. And that's the kind of thing when we talk about the benefits of the space station program that again goes unnoticed. Because you've got all these people working towards this one big goal from all over the world. And, they're making it happen on a day-by-day basis. And, that's going to change. It's going to change the planet eventually. It's really, that's really neat. I really enjoy being a part of the space station program for that reason. It's such a strong, positive thing. Almost unnoticed at that level. But, it's really difficult to keep all of these different factors going in the same direction. And, it's really a mark of the quality of the people that are working in all the countries on this program, and the care that they have in what they're doing.

If you could speak directly to the audience, the viewing audience here in America or anywhere in the world really, what would you want them to kind of understand about the International Space Station and how it should be affecting the world?

I think the most important thing again is that the International Space Station is bringing, it's literally bringing the world together. Because we are all cooperating, in all these countries, on this huge, positive thing, and people are every day learning more about each other on the planet so that we can understand each other better and learn to work, work together better. And, the other thing is that the International Space Station and our space work in all countries, you know, a lot of different countries have developed space programs. And, it's because they're interested in exploring. Because we, as human beings, are interested in exploring. And, this is…our manifestation of that. And so, we are sort of meeting this need that humans have to explore. And, we're doing it in such a way that it's bringing everybody together. And, this is huge. I mean, it's what I usually call it the intangible benefit to the space station program. You know, we're going to have the tangible benefits of developing new technologies, understanding more about materials, understanding more about plants, being able to maybe live off the planet someday. Those are very tangible easy-to-be-seen, concrete results. This other sort of learning to work together and bringing people closer is an intangible, but still a huge, huge benefit of this program.

Kind of tell me briefly, also, the significance of the space station as it relates to science. The reason for the space station even being there.

Yeah. The, of course the great thing about having the space station up there is you now have a platform where you can go do science in a unique and new environment for a long period of time. We had started this with Skylab back in the Seventies. And unfortunately weren't able to continue that. And, this is our next chance to do that. I was talking with another person in our office, Don Pettit, one time about space science and experiments. And, I'll borrow something that he told me. When they first started doing experimenting with the ocean, for example, they dipped a bucket in the ocean and they dipped it down maybe a foot. And so, when they brought the bucket up and they had water from a sample of a foot down in the ocean they started analyzing it, and they were figuring out what the water was like. And, they got some data, and they reached some conclusions. And then, the next guy took the bucket and he dipped it down maybe twenty feet. And, they found, "Oh, there's a temperature difference." And, they got more information. And, as they got, went deeper and deeper with their bucket into the ocean, they realized they didn't even understand the environment of the ocean enough to know what they could do with the ocean. And so, we're kind of like that in space. We're still dipping our bucket into the environment of space. And so, as we learn more about the environment in space, we'll be able to figure out what to do next with it. And so, Don had a really good analogy of where we are in space with exploration and how we can use it. So, the station is giving us a great platform to dip our bucket and find out more about the environment. The materials people are coming up with different and new kinds of experiments. And, as we learn more, they'll be able to expand their experimental parameters even more, or even go off in new directions that we don't even know about. The life science people are learning more about the human body as we stay on orbit longer. And, a lot of that can be directly related to some of the problems that we're having here on Earth. The protein crystal growth investigators are getting, going to be able to grow bigger and bigger protein crystals, which will help them do some analysis, which will help them design better drugs. Plant growth, of course, we want to be able to grow, if we're going to live off the planet, and this is a little more technology development, if we want to live off planet someday or we want to take long trips to Mars or some other place, you have to have ways to sustain yourself. So, if you can grow plants or find some way to do closed, basic closed environment support systems, you know, you can only do that by experimenting. Now, we've got our platform to experiment. So, there are some infinite number of things that we are able to do now with the station that we could not before because we were limited to such short missions. And, the nice thing about the space station is we can take things and bring things back pretty easily with the shuttles. It's a really good system to get data back down. It's a problem they had with Mir. It was a great platform, but they could not bring things back at the level that we can bring things back to Earth to get back to the investigators. So, now we have the whole system. And, it's great. We've got a way to come and go fairly straightforward, and we have our platform. And, our platform can support experiments for a long period of time.

Now, what specifically about your mission are you most looking forward to?

What am I looking forward to the most? I'm looking forward to the whole mission. It's really hard to pick out any specific spot. Of course, to see the Earth out the Orbiter windows and later be on the space station I think are going to be my two highlights. So, I've been told that when you're a rookie and you get up there to orbit, you know, post-insertion, the time period after main engine cutoff where we turn the shuttle from basically a rocket to an orbiting habitat, is a very busy timeframe. And, I've been told that sometimes the rookies forget to go look out the window because you're just focused on getting all of this work done that you have do in the short period of time. And, sometimes the more experienced crewmembers have to sort of grab you by the shoulder and say, "You need to look out the window." So, I'm hoping that someone will do that for me so I can look out the window. That'll be a big highlight. And, the other thing will be to be on the space station after working on the program for so long. To actually see it and get the feel of it, and see it in operation myself will be great. I'd love to take the whole control room with me and all the people I've worked with on the program with me, so they can experience that as well. But, you know, when I come back, I want to convey that to them. Because so many people have put their hearts and soul into that space station, and it'll just be really neat to see it. I'm just really looking forward to that.

Tell me a little bit about your crewmates. There are six on your flight. You'll be in close quarters, and you've been training together for quite a while. Tell me about your crewmates.

Yeah. Your crew, of course, is your extended family. Because you're, we're going to be going on our camping trip, if you will, to our exotic location, is kind of how I think of this. And we'll be up there together. And, we all complement each other very well. It's been a thrill to get to know these guys and be on a crew with them. Of course Pam has prior experience. And, as another female, it's great to have her there to kind of give me some, give me the ropes. She's been very good about passing experience along. "Okay, when I was a rookie, this, this, and this." And that experience has been great. And, Jeff, of course, as the Commander, keeps us all going in the same direction. And sometimes we try and wander off, but Jeff kind of gathers us together and heads us off in the same direction. And, he's been a great Commander. He hands us over the responsibility that we need, and has total confidence in us. And it's just great to have that kind of support as a first-time flier from your Commander. And, Piers and Dave are doing a wonderful job with the EVAs. They're both so detail oriented on the getting the EVAs together. You know, Dave kind of looks at the big picture; and Piers may, gets the details in; and they complement each other very well. And, of course, Fyodor is everywhere when we're doing SIMs and things. He's just everywhere supporting and there to help out wherever he feels like he needs a hand. He's going to be one of our prime photo-TV guys, and it's in good shape with Fyodor. So, it's a great group of people.

Any other comments that you would like to share with viewers?

No. I guess the biggest thing is the space station is a great program. And I feel lucky to be able to go visit in person. But, make sure to look at it. There's a Website you can go to, to look at the trajectory of the space station. And, you can see it from, with your naked eye, going over at night. And, it's a really neat sight. You can kind of look up and see a sort of moving star go by, and, like there's people up there! Watching and working, all the time. So, it's a great program.

You mentioned earlier that your parents were very supportive of you when you talked about becoming an astronaut. What are they thinking now?

They're pretty, I think, they were very supportive when I called them and told them I was getting an interview. I think they were like, "Oh my gosh! It's really, she, it, this could happen," you know. Because you, it's not something that you would expect. You know, it's just one of those, it's like being a major league baseball pitcher. It's just something that's very unusual. And so, they were really excited when I got the call for the interview. And when I got the call for the job and told them I got the job, they were very happy. And, as I'm getting closer and closer to the flight, it's making them even more excited. Because it's more, it's more real. It's more visual that, you know, they went down to the Cape. They saw the hardware. They came back, and they were, "Wow!" You know. So, they're very excited about the flight coming up.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 10/24/2002
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