Return to Human Space Flight home page

STS-112: Home | The Crew | Cargo | Timeline | EVA
Crew Interviews
IMAGE: Fyodor Yurchikhin
Click on the image to hear Mission Specialist Fyodor Yurchikhin's greeting (501 Kb wav). Click here to hear his greeting in Russian (610 Kb wav).

Preflight Interview: Fyodor Yurchikhin

The STS-112 Crew Interview with Fyodor Yurchikhin, mission specialist.

Q: First of all let me ask, where are you from? Where did you grow up?

A: Oh, this is interesting story. I was born in a little town, Batumi Autonomous Republic Adjara in Georgia. This is very multinational town, very nice town, and a nature like Houston's nature. This really, yes. And then, when I finished high school, I was studying in Moscow Aviation Institute. After graduating this institute in 1983, I work a long time in Energia in Russian MCC. And in this moment I with my family live in Shyolkovo. Shyolkovo, this is a little town near, in Moscow region near Korolev City between Korolev City and Star City. And I have wife, two daughters. Very nice daughters. My older daughter eight-and-a-half years old, and my younger daughter is one years old. Is okay?

Yeah. Very good. Okay. When did you first think that, you know, "I would love to be a cosmonaut." When did that become a dream for you?

Oh, thank you for a very interesting question for me. And I think when I understand myself, yes, I in this moment, I have this task for me, yes. I must be a cosmonaut. It must be yet this is very nice profession. Because I was born when Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space have this historical flight, I am only two years old. But, I, maybe I don't remember very well this time. But, I remember that the old people have a very nice, this is about holiday. A big holiday. Not official holiday, but very big holiday. And, I remember this time very well. I think, in this time, I, because, for example, in the first class in high school, when my first teacher asked me about the, my future profession. She asked, "What do you think about future profession?" Why, I answered, this is "I must be goal keeper in the football team," this is the Soviet team. "Yes, but," she told me, "this not profession." "Oh, okay. I am, I will be a cosmonaut." And, I think in 1961, I think. This [is] my answer.

Very good. When, at what point then did it become, go from a dream...

Yeah., "Okay, I can actually achieve this. I can become a cosmonaut." When did you decide that?

Oh, wow I don't really, okay. This is next point in my, oh, in my life, yeah? The, for example, the first point in when I was finishing my high school, yes? And a long time I played football, soccer, too. Yes, and for me, very, I don't have very much time. Yes. And, I finished playing football and soccer because this is, this is my dream, too. Yes, I, I was a younger man then, yes. But, I don't have enough time for studying in school because I thought this, "I must, I should continue with my studying, can we institute way in Moscow Aviation Institute." Because a lot of Russian cosmonaut finished this institute, too. Yeah. This way, too. And this is all my life. But, really, when I begun work in Energia, a lot of time I work in MCC, Russian MCC. And I understand the, this profession very well. I understand this is very difficult profession. Very difficult profession. I see this profession and the, a lot of people in this profession. I know a lot of cosmonauts, Russian cosmonauts, yeah? And, I think in this moment, I really understand this profession. And, told myself, "I am ready for this profession."

And, you went for it. You were working in the MCC. What were you doing in that job? Were you, you were an engineer? What were you in charge of?

Okay. No, I work in, I work with schedule. With schedule. This is a daily plan, daily plan. Every day we have a new daily plan for next four days. Yes. And, in this daily plan we understand the, all data for aboard, for Salyut aboard the first, my station, the Salyut-7. The Mir station board will order do crew in this moment. What do, with what equipment we work in this moment? With what payload we work with at this moment? This is very interesting. And, I worked in [unintelligible] group. We work I sit in MCC near flight director Russian flight director, yes? And, this very nice and very good, my experience. A lot of experience, yes. And, for example Sergei Krikalev, our very nice cosmonaut, very good cosmonaut, very well cosmonaut, he has worked a long time in MCC, too. This is very good, very nice school.



Good training for...

Good training, yes.

-what would follow.

And I remember when we began program ISS, for example, I work with Mir, Mir-Shuttle Program, yes, a long time. This very nice time because this a new experience. And, two big objects-Mir, Mir and shuttle-have a docking, they has docking. This is a holiday, too, for, I think. This is maybe second holiday in American and Russian generations after Soyuz-Apollo Program.

Yeah. When you became a cosmonaut, at what time did you hear, or did you decide to come to America to train, to go for, to ride on the shuttle?

Oh, thank you a lot for this question. Because, this is interesting question. There, my first flight in a space shuttle cannot be the flight 9A. This is a secret, yes? Just a little near, yeah? Early. Just a little early. But, a long time I sit in Moscow for, and I don't understand why I don't have a training in Houston, yes, a long time. This, this terrible time for me. And one very nice very good time for me, this is August. Yes? When I understand then in this moment I cannot have a travel in Houston, too, and begin my training. I [Russian name] this secretary in NASA-Houston and in Star City, too, near then my huge Commander, Jeff Ashby, should have a call, a phone with me. "Why? Who is Jeff Ashby?" Yes it's an, yes, and this day and I remember in 6 o'clock Moscow time, this is very early in America. "Yeah, thank you, Jeff, for the, your patient." And, really Jeff have a, had a, this is first talk in phone. Yes. And, Jeff told me about my future crew. About Piers, Sandy, Pam, Dave. It's very nice time, yes. And, he told me then he prefers he meet in Houston the first September. I told him, "Yes, I'm ready." But, I think this is not real. But, just a little time, this was very terrible time because five, ten days and I, the first September, I am at Houston, and the second of September, on September 2nd, I have a first meet meeting with Piers. And, Piers come in my apartment and talked with me. And, I understand then my crew, one member in my crew know Russian very well, yes. And third, on third September I see, I had a meeting with, with Jeff and other crewmembers. And, I start, I starting my study in Houston now like crewmember STS-112. Thank you for, a lot for this, guys, and for Jeff. Because I think really, in this moment, I begun this, my way in space.

So, I guess, how were you feeling to realize that you were actually going to be going up into space? This is your first flight. And, how does that make you feel?

I think very well! Yes. I had a long my way in space very long because I begun this really in 1987, when I ride the first late our general designer look at the space systems. And the whole time I understand that I am ready for this flight. For flight. Not this, for flight in space. And, because I in the first time, I don't have know, like I don't know like the animal in Spring? Yes, I don't jump, I did not jump, yes. And, in this moment, in the first moment in Houston, I feel, I felt very terrible because this is a new job and new relations in, with crew. A new training. A new direction, training direction, yeah? And but all my crew, every day, every time, everywhere, helped me. And I, sometimes I don't understand American. This is terrible. Yes. But, a lot of time I work with American people, and I thought this, I understand the, all in American. But, sometimes, yes. And, but in this moment we are about palm. Yeah? If you see the palm, the palm, we see the all finger is, help, our difficult, different direction, yes? And, I think, I think that all our training, the finger work very well and sometimes this leave this. And, when we have a landing in our flight, it must be about this I think. And, I hope I am one crew with STS -112. And, I hope we will, I know we will have very nice work. We are feeling very well, yes? And, I hope maybe my work in space will be a very nice time. Very good. I am ready.

You were talking earlier about you were working in MCC-Moscow with, when Mir was up. And...


...and, the Shuttle-Mir operations. And one of your crewmembers, David Wolf, was...


...on Mir for a little while. What are your thoughts on what the Mir was like? And how we've progressed now to the International Space Station? And how has that progressed and the international cooperation there?

Yeah. No. First just a little remark. A little remark, yes? Not a short time Dave Wolf work four and a half month. This is a very long time. And, this crew, this is my last crew with whom I worked in MCC. Because in 1997, I finished my work in MCC. And, then on September 1997, I continued my work in Energia like conduct test cosmonaut. Yes. What do, what I thought, think about Mir station and ISS station? Yes. Mir station our history. Not the history only Russian. Not the history only American and other countries. Mir station program begun like Russian program but finished really like international program. Because, for example, the first docking shuttle with Mir station is a, is a history, I think, American people. The first long flight in space American, after Skylab Program; this is the Mir station, too. We had a very good experience. And, I think we, excuse me. I know this very strong word, but I, we must remember our history. But, we must think about our now and our future. And, I assess this moment, our now history. And, our future history, too. And, every day, every time, we think about this Russian, American, French, Japanese, other countries, Canadian and other countries, and I think we build every day, every time very good home. Our home in space.

What is your view on the international cooperation that is involved with the space station and making everything, because there're systems from everywhere, and people working on the station from everywhere, how do you view that?

Yeah. This program ISS Program begun like a real international program. Yes. We, when we begun this program and in this moment, we had and have a lot of problems. A lot of problems. And the people different cultures, with different designers, with different understanding I think. Yes? But we continued this program. We begun this program in 1995 and continued seven, eight years. And, I hope and really now that's last maybe 15, maybe 20. I hope maybe 30 years we work with this very nice station. Yes. And, this is very big and very good experience, because different countries, different cultures, work about one team. Out there, problems we have only one choice and continue this program. And, maybe in future, this experience is a very good experience. Because we have just a little bigger station, too. This station is planet Earth. And, in this station, if we can work with international teams in ISS Program, maybe we, in future we work with big political program in the planet Earth, too. Because the ISS Program begun with government level, then next level designers' learn, and then engineers' learn, then workmen level. In this moment, a lot of people work in this program, yes? And, maybe in future, with the planet Earth, a big station, space station, who have fly around Sun, we have about this program, international program in the world.

So the station is like a microcosm.



Yes, yes. Yes, this is a microcosm. It may be the first step in future, in future our planet.

Let's talk a little bit about this mission, STS-112.


What are your primary responsibilities for this mission, this flight?

I am IV-2. In the main goal, role in our flight is install S1. This is a second SS, second, I am sorry, second segment future our truss, yes? And this is very very difficult work. And we should have three EVAs work. And I am IV crewmember. IV-1 is Pam Melroy. I am the second IV crewmember. We will have our EV crewmembers, Piers and Dave, with this with also very difficult work in space, yes, but I don't know why the American people talk of spacewalk. It's space work, I think, yes. And with this, this is my primary role in this flight, yes. And I work, I will work with the CWC systems, [unintelligible] systems. I will work with TV four time, PGFC, this is, too. But, primary role is my role with IV.

What, you mentioned briefly the goal of the mission is basically to install the S1 truss segment. This is the fifteenth flight to the space station...


...9A. I guess if you could give me a brief overview of what the goal of STS-112 is.

Okay. The first and main role is distillate and install the S1. Second segment of these. Then we distillate the potable water, for example some equipments two pilots two-pilot equipment then use for crewmember. This is very important, too, yes. And, we work I hope maybe for eight, maybe nine, ten, in with the ISS, with the ISS, a very nice but very difficult end, because this, in, we will have three EV. Three EVA work. This is very important, too. And our guys ready for this EVA because we will have a lot of training in NBL. I think this is very, it, if we installing S1 very well, I hope, and I know this really. Our task, yes? And we ready for this task we continue to our program next. We don't have a stop, we should not have a stop in this program.

Now the crew that is up there, Expedition Five, you trained with some before they went up. And you will be their first visitors...


...since they've been up there. What will that reunion be like? I think you know Peggy Whitson already. And, of course, the two cosmonauts you know also. What will that reunion be like to see them again?


And, for them also to see you, the first people that they will see in a long time?

I hope that by now this is and this is very important moment. And I close sometimes my eyes and I see the huge picture when we open the hatch, we open the hatch, and we see them smile, the Korzun smile, the Treschev smiles, and Peggy smiles. Yes? And we, all the people will smile, too, because this is very important. I like this moment, I hope this is very nice moment, yes. And yes, we had a lot of time training with ISS-5. This very nice guys, yeah. And I think that all crewmember, all Expedition, yeah, in ISS Expedition One, Two, Three, Fourth is very nice Expedition. Very, very nice crewmember, yes. And, these, too. We continue this very nice program. And we have some secrets for these guys, yeah. This is the crew secrets, yes. And we hope, we hope we will have a very good time in ISS Program. And in ISS in this flight. And, some news, special news for crewmembers. Some books, some magazines. This is very important, understand. Some very special meal for crewmember. But, this is a secret. I am sorry.

Can you talk about any of the EVAs? What will be the goals of the three EVAs? Maybe specifically. I know they will install the S1 truss. But do you know some other specifics, maybe, of the goals?

Okay. I think this is very special questions. And, I think the, for example, Pam Melroy, she's IV-1. And our EV guys, Piers and Wolf, answering these questions very well. Because now, now this work very well. But I know all three EVAs very difficult, very complex EVA, yes? And the first EVA after install S1, the crewmember work with bolts with S1 and S0. Then the crewmembers will work with the TV cameras, install TV cameras and CETA cart and S-band antenna in S1. Then, we work with jumpers nitrogen, and ammonia jumpers. And, we will work with umbilical. And, a lot of very hard and very difficult work. But, I think these guys are ready. And I am ready, too, for help for Piers and Wolf before EVA. Before EVA and after EVA.

And, you mentioned a while ago some, that you'll be taking some equipment to the station. You have a lot of transfer things that you'll be...


...doing. Can you tell us some of the things that you will be transferring to the station? Or, maybe some of the things that you will be bringing back?

Oh, okay. The first we change some TV equipment. We change some computers in ISS Program. We have two pilots equipment. We not, we install. We transfer this equipment into ISS. And return and our in ground the older equipment, yes. Potable water, technical water. Some equipments for EVA, and we this equipments. And, we our EMU, one of our EMU we transfer is ISS. And, this, and return small EMU size, yeah. EMU size, I am sorry. This all.

Now, you know, we're going to move a little bit away from the mission. How do you feel flying on the shuttle, the American-made shuttle, with a mostly American crew?

You and me not American people. You and me, I hope these my friend in this moment. Yeah? This is really my friend. Because we had a lot of training, each of us, and we have very nice integration in our crew, yes? And, sometimes we have a mistake. Sometimes I am have a mistake. A lot of mistakes. But, we help together, yes? And this is very nice crew. Not American people. Not Russian people. This is a crewmember. This is a real family, yes? We have our, I don't know this word. But the very nice helper, for example, in our crew. This is Pam Melroy, yes? If she solve the, a little problem, not problem for review, for she and he told me, okay? "You must be very patient. You must, this is not mistake. This very nice. Okay? That all people have a mistake." For example, this, yes, when I had a mistake in KSC, for example, yes? And, this is terrible, terrible time for me. Because we are family, we are family, and not American, not Russian. When we begun our training, yes, with American people and Russian, yes? But, in this moment, we are crew.

Very good. How has, what differences do you see or how do you view the training that you have here in America and the training that you had, the cosmonaut training, in Russia? Are there many differences? And I know they both prepare you. But kind of talk about the, your view on the differences maybe.

Yes. Sometimes our training, Russian training and American training, is different. Different. But, we have one task. The task is the Russian cosmonaut, American astronaut should be ready for flight, yes? And but the way, direction in this training is just a little different. For example, in Russia, in Star City, our instructor prefer when we have, before our practical lesson, our practical exercise, we have a lot of theoretical lessons. And, only after, when we have exam, we have a practical lessons in trainers?
And, in Houston, in JSC this is news for me. And, first time I think maybe next week when I begun in my training, I was in trainer's role in the real [unintelligible] shuttle system. I work with shuttle system. I don't have enough about Russian, enough theoretical lessons. But, I work with equipment, I, with real equipment. This is too differentials, too. And I think this not maybe, maybe very important. Very important we have one task. We must be ready for flight. And, Russian and American. But, sometimes I think maybe in future we will have one, maybe, I see the Russian instructors and people in this one, a lot of Russian instructors, for example, in this moment work in JSC, yes? And then return to Russia and told Russian chiefs, we will talk Russian chiefs, "Okay in American people prefer this way and this way and this way." I think American instructors when, after Star City, talk the American chiefs, too. "Okay, excuse me. But, this I think maybe just a little better. This just a little better." And, in future, we will have one way. I hope.

What, on this flight, on STS-112, what are you most looking forward to?

This is two really special things for me. The first, after MECO, for example, I will talk myself, "Yes, my dream is real." It, this is the first. The second, very important, too. Maybe when I will have a free time, I see in window in planet Earth, I talk, "Yes. The planet Earth. Earth is a sphere." Because I know this. But, I don't see this. Only just a little more four hundred people see the planet Earth, and the planet Earth, this is a sphere. But yes. I'm looking forward, the first and very important. This is when we open the hatch and see the Expedition Five guys. The first EVA. I know we really ready for this work. But, I think if we will begin this EVA very nice, and we continue it, our flight will be very nice. Because important hatch, EVA-1. These too very important, too. Then undocking. Just a little, not funny, yeah? And then, undocking. And then the entry and landing. Our family. Our friends on ground. This nice, yeah.

Tell me about your crewmembers. Your Commander, Jeff Ashby. You said he called you and was the first time you found out that you were flying. And then now you came to America and you met the rest of your crew. Tell me about some of them.

Okay. No, first time I read biographical data my crewmembers in Moscow in Internet in NASA site, yes? And after this, I know that Jeff had two flight in space like Pilot, yes? And, this flight, this first, first flight Commander, yes? And I know Dave Wolf because he a lot of time work in Star City training in, with Anatoly Solovyev and Pavel Vinogradov in expedition in Mir station, yes? The first but when I know, when I know that Dave, I did, I did not know that in future we will have one flight, yeah? Because the first real man with whom I had meeting, this is Piers Sellers. Piers is very know, very well know Russian. Have a very nice family, yes. Very nice guys. He like our, I don't know. Sometimes, I think he is everywhere. Everywhere. Because he'll, for example, when we head up NORSS, this is national [unintelligible] school in Utah state, he helps all crews, every time, everywhere. Jeff Ashby, our Commander. Sometimes I am afraid because I, and I think he didn't know anywhere. He know, all, the whole system shuttles and know very well. Not only your seat, only just equipment on the [unintelligible] the whole systems, it, it's master man, yes? Pam Melroy, very nice, very professional Pilot. And she is like mother, I think, in our crew, yeah. Dave Wolf. The strong man. Very nice man, yes? I think this is a future Hollywood star because a lot of funny stories. Know a lot of funny stories. And sometimes when we just a little tired, yes? One, two, three sort of funny stories. And, we have a good relax. Sandy Magnus. Sandy Magnus is, had a very, I think, she know all when each of things must be happening, yes, very organized, they all, all organized, they all work. And know very well the systems, too. We are, I have, this my crew. And, I have very nice, very good crew. Very best crew. The best, yes?

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 10/24/2002
Web Accessibility and Policy Notices