couple of weeks prior to scheduled launch, STS-88 commander Robert
Cabana took some time out from training to answer questions about
it has been two years since you were named to the crew of STS-88;
well, now you're closing in on the scheduled launch; what are
your feelings as this flight really begins to approach reality?
I have an extremely excited
crew that is very well trained, and we are anxious to go. I think
you kind of postpone your, "getting ready" a little bit: you don't
want to think that, "Hey, I got to really get into this and get
psyched and get going" until you know it's going to happen. And
within the last month we've reached that point-this is going to
happen, the crew is really getting focused and psyched to go do
this, and we're ready.
target launch date has been postponed twice because of delays
in getting station hardware prepared. Have the postponements been
frustrating to you and your crewmates, or did it provide you an
opportunity to get better prepared?
I think both is the answer.
You always want to go fly, so it's disappointing when a launch
slips out. But we've benefited tremendously from the launch slips,
we've had a real opportunity to get down to the Cape, over to
Russia, to see the hardware, to learn more about it, especially
the computer software that's going to be used, on the space station.
We've had a number of runs developing new software, making sure
things work right, and it's made us a lot more knowledgeable.
And it's made the community as a whole a lot more knowledgeable
on what we have, in ensuring success when we get up there on orbit.
have been working with a crew of four other folks, three veterans
and one spaceflight rookie, for close to two years now. As the
Commander, tell me how have you seen them all, and yourself, begin
to grow together to work as a team?
I think we've grown together
real well. It's interesting working with a crew that's very experienced
as opposed to dealing with a crew that has not flown before. In
one case, you've got to provide maybe a little more guidance or
direction, or you're helping out a little bit more. But in this
case, I know these folks are extremely talented, they know what
they're doing, and so you got to step back a little bit and not
get quite as involved - let them develop the issues and work them.
And it's been a real pleasure to see their enthusiasm for the
flight, for their jobs, and digging into it and making sure that
everything works when we get up there.
after all of this time with the five of you folks working together
as a group, you recently acquired another crewmate with the addition
of Sergei Krikalev to this mission. How is this change, relatively
late in the game from your point of view, going to have an impact
on your preparations to fly?
Sergei adds a lot of
experience to the crew. We could've accomplished the mission without
him, but it's an extremely challenging mission from a time-scheduling
point of view, and Sergei's going to provide expertise on the
Zarya, the Russian Functional Cargo Block - with him it just makes
it a little easier. He's also going to be backing us up on a lot
of the other tasks that we have on the flight. He'll be helping
with the Space Vision System; he's going to be doing a lot of
Photo/TV work, documentation, helping there. With his EVA experience
we're going to task him to be IV2 inside the vehicle during the
EVAs, helping the crew get suited up, etc, and track everything
along in those regards. So we've added a lot of tasks that he's
going to be able to offload, whereas before, we had no spare time;
and now we still don't have any spare time but at least we can
get things done with a little more backup. In some cases we may
have had somebody working on something without the benefit of
having somebody with them, and now we have that advantage. So
Sergei brings a lot of experience, but specifically, we've made
him prime for the FGB and all its systems during the ingress.
the point of view of symbolism, if nothing else, does it make
sense to you to have a multinational crew on board the first mission
to begin assembly of an international space station?
Without a doubt. I mean,
we do have a piece of Russian hardware up there, that they built,
that we paid for, that they're launching, and I think this is
a stepping-stone to the future
an international cooperative
effort. And so getting the first crew up there, having that cooperative
effort show at that stage of the game, I think it adds something
to the flight.
your mind what's the historical significance of this flight? Why
should we be building a space station in Earth orbit?
Well, the International
Space Station, in spite of all the technical benefit that it's
going to give us in Earth science, life science, exploring; I
think the primary benefit is that it's a stepping-stone to the
future, and the future of space exploration is all of us working
together. Space exploration has become part too costly for any
one nation to pursue on its own, and truly, we are one world as
seen from space, and I think that when we explore beyond the confines
of Earth's gravity, it should be at a multinational level. And
we are learning through the International Space Station to cooperate
on that level. When you consider the task that we have before
us - we're bringing hardware from all over the world together
and assembling it in space with people from all over the world.
Different languages, different backgrounds, different customs,
different ways of doing things
and making that all work; this
is a tremendous opportunity that's extremely valuable to our future.
well aware there are people who question the value of the United
States working with Russia or any of the other international partners
in the space station. What's your response to that criticism?
My response, drawing
on what I've just said, is that it's all our responsibility, space
we have to learn how to get together. And, maybe
if we can learn to work together in space we can get a along a
little better here on Earth. But I think the true benefit is to
draw from everybody's experience. Everybody has a little something
to add to this space station, space exploration project. And I
don't think we should overlook anybody's abilities or experience.
So I think it's definitely the right thing to be doing. From a
technical point of view, we could've done it alone; but it adds
even more bringing not just the Russians, but the Canadians, the
Japanese, the European Space Agency and all its partners. Everybody's
got something to add, and I think this is a step toward even greater
cooperation in the future.
your point of view, what've been the most valuable lessons that
have come out of the Shuttle/Mir effort?
Well, first off, we couldn't
have done the International Space Station with the Russians as
partners had we not done Shuttle/Mir. We have learned an awful
lot, and not just technical stuff. We've learned to inter-react
on a personal level with them - they have to get to know us and
we have to get to know them in order to work together, and Phase
1 has provided that. Operationally, they do things different than
we do, and we've learned how they operate and they've learned
how we operate. And bringing thirty years of space experience
on both sides of the ocean together has not been an easy task.
Everybody naturally kind of thinks they have the right way of
doing things, and I think learning how to operate together is
extremely important. So, Phase 1 was crucial to the success of
the International Space Station. The cooperation, getting to know
the Russians on a personal level, and developing trust - you got
to have trust before you can do anything, and I think they've
learned, and we've learned, to hopefully trust one another.
the second Shuttle/Mir docking mission, in which the shuttle crew
used the robot arm to install a new Docking Module to the Mir
space station. How important is that in setting the stage for
your mission, in which your crew will use the robot arm to grapple
the Unity node, put it in place in order to dock to the first
piece of the space station?
Well, we learned from
in some aspects there are similarities, but in other
aspects they're greatly different. As far as actually taking Unity
out of the payload bay and mating it with the orbiter docking
station, it's very similar to STS-74; but from there on, that's
were the similarities end. The difference is on STS-74, they had
cameras mounted such that when they docked with the Mir space
station they were looking directly through the other end of the
docking adapter and were able to fly the orbiter precisely onto
the mating surface of Mir. What we're doing, however, is we're
going to rendezvous with Zarya up in space and actually fly it
down into the payload bay behind the Node where we can't even
see it out the windows. And then using television cameras and
the arm, we're going to grab onto it and then position it over
the top of the Node and mate the two pieces together. And again,
we don't have a direct camera view to line everything up precisely;
we're going to be relying on the Canadian Space Vision System,
which uses photogrammetry to line up a bunch of dots. And by knowing
where they are, using cameras, it can precisely align the two
pieces together. And then we'll fire the orbiter jets, to cause
a mating just like when we mate with Mir space station.
me about the complexity of arranging the whole process, and then
of executing a plan to put together a space station in space.
We've got an extremely
complex and challenging task ahead of us for the next four years.
We're doing more EVAs, spacewalks, than we've ever done before
and every one of them is a challenge. Every piece that comes up
requires precise mating to the space station, which is not always
done with direct viewing. It relies on the Space Vision System,
a series of new robot arms, and, so on. So we have a lot of new
hardware coming up, and we're putting it together in ways that
we haven't done before, and all of it involves challenging EVAs.
And every one of the assembly missions is a little bit different
than the one that preceded it or the one that follows it, so you
can't really say that we're going to do it just like we did the
previous one - each one presents a new challenge, a new training
challenge, and new technical challenges. It's a lot of hardware
going up, and the hardware's built, I've seen it. It's not just
Unity and Zarya, I mean the rest of the pieces are built too,
and they're stacking up down at the Cape getting ready to go.
So once we get this thing going, there's no slowing down. And
that's another key point when you look at the challenges
part requires a certain other part to get up there within a certain
time frame or you start running into problems. So once we start,
we've got to maintain that schedule and get the pieces up there.
It's certainly challenging, just from the complexity of it. Challenging
in regards to the EVAs, and getting a lot of this hardware up
there together in space for the first time and making sure that
it all operates.
talk about the first two pieces, the two with which you will be
involved: the Zarya control module, which the Russians are launching,
and the Unity node, which you are bringing up on orbit with you.
Describe these two pieces of hardware and what their roles are
in the operation of the station.
Sure. Zarya, the Functional
Cargo Block, is essentially the initial module which provides
propellant for thruster control, and electricity and environmental
control systems for the initial stages of the space station. Unity,
the node, is a connector piece that holds all the other pieces
together. We're going to have the Z1 Truss mounted on it, which
eventually all those solar arrays are going to go off of, as well
as other structure. And it'll have the U.S. Laboratory hooked
up to one end; it's going to have a cupola so that we can see
outside. It's going to have the airlock hooked onto it, and eventually
it'll have a TransHab Module hooked up. When I relate it to children
I say "Remember Tinker Toys when you were a kid? The Russians
are going to have one of those sticks up there, and we're going
to take up one of those round pieces and hook the two together
so that we can add on all the other pieces." So, it sounds simplistic
but that's essentially what Unity is, and then it's got its own
systems and storage inside. Of course, once the Service Module
comes up, then the FGB ends up transferring a lot of the capability
that it had, the functions that it was serving, over to the Service
sometimes is called the FGB, we've been calling Zarya, it's the
same piece of hardware?
All the same.
of the first highlights of this mission is going to be when you
fly the rendezvous, Endeavour to Zarya, and set it up so Nancy
Currie can use the shuttle's robot arm to grab that module. Take
us on to the flight deck with you and talk us through that rendezvous
timeline and what you're going to be doing that day.
Well, hopefully we're
going to get a really good night's sleep the night before, because
we want to be well rested and ready to go; we're going to get
up early in the morning, and we've got a full day. We start our
burns right away, to start the phasing so that we can join up
with Zarya. Once we get in close, from our TI burn, we'll be one
rev out and we'll come around on in, and we come in on the plus
R-bar, down below. If Zarya's orbiting the Earth on the vector
that points down to the center of the Earth, that's where we intercept
and start driving on up to it. Then, when we get about 550 feet
away from it, we're going to do a flyaround at twice the orbital
rate. So if it takes ninety minutes to orbit the Earth, we'd be
flying at a rate such that we'd orbit Zarya in forty-five minutes.
So in 22-and-a-half minutes we'll be intercepting the minus R-bar,
up at the top, and as we spiral around, we'll be getting a little
closer. We'll start out at about 500 to 550 feet; when we're out
in front of it we'll be at about 350 feet; and then we'll come
in at the top at about 250 feet. And now it's getting pretty big,
and we're watching it rotate around, now we're at the right end
of it. The reason for this flyaround, and not just joining up
with it from below, is so that we're not blocking Russian command
to it, from the ground - the shuttle's not acting as a blockage
there. So we'll come down from the top and, we'll fly it right
down into the payload bay. We've got a camera in the keel of the
orbiter, actually we have a prime and a backup, and we'll be able
to center the FGB right in the field of view of the camera and
fly it right down. And then when it's about, oh, thirty feet away
or so, the end effector camera will pick up the grapple fixture
in its field of view and we'll get everything nice and stable
so that it's not moving. We'll go free drift on the orbiter's
jets, and prior to bringing it down in there, the Russians, once
it's all stable, they'll go free drift also. So when everything's
nice and stable there, Nancy'll just reach over and grab it with
the arm. And once we've got it captured, then we transition it
up to the top for final mating.
you've got Zarya on the end of the arm; now it has to be attached
to the piece of hardware that you have brought with you, the Unity
node. How does that work?
Nancy positions it with
the arm over the other Pressurized Mating Adapter, and we have
an APAS docking system just like we use when we dock with Mir.
We'll position the two pieces so that they're approximately six
inches apart, perfectly aligned in "X" and "Y" and in pitch, roll
and yaw, so that it's straight above it, six inches apart, and
then we fire our post-contact thrusters. Essentially we're going
to use the orbiter jets just like when we dock with Mir - we'll
have it all set up, we'll fire the jets, and the two pieces will
come together and then the APAS will lock on to the extended ring.
Once they're mated, then we'll draw the two pieces together until
they pressurize, surfaces are together, and then we drive hooks
to lock them together.
you think through that entire process of that day's tasks, what
are the most difficult parts of the job for you and for your crew?
Well, let's see
all difficult. We get used to making it look pretty easy; I hope
it's that easy on orbit. I think probably one of the most challenging
tasks is that we're flying Zarya down into the payload bay blind.
From about a hundred feet on down, we can't see it because the
Node blocks it out of the window, and we're strictly relying on
the cameras to keep it all centered up. Positioning it over Unity,
for berthing the two pieces together, again we don't have a really
excellent camera view to ensure that everything is precisely aligned
because it's so far above, where we're putting everything together,
where we can see with the cameras. So ensuring that that's all
precise before we fire those post-contact thrusters
hate to see it bounce off because it wasn't aligned right. So,
I think the final stages of the rendezvous, and the alignment,
when we actually drive the two pieces together, I think they're
probably the most two challenging parts of the timeline there.
with Zarya is going to be something of a first-you have a manned
spacecraft that's being controlled from here in Houston, meeting
up with an unmanned module that's being controlled from Moscow.
Are there new levels of coordination or communication that are
necessary to make this happen successfully?
Well, we have done similar
tasks in the past, but I think the level of coordination is going
to be extremely high; the folks on the ground are working very
hard to ensure good communications between MCC Moscow and MCC
Houston. There are a lot of calls back and forth to ensure that
everybody has the right attitude control at the right time and
that we get all our "go"s for capture and docking at the appropriate
times. So I think the key is, we've set the groundwork during
Phase 1 - getting to know those folks over in Moscow. Our control
teams have a very good rapport, and I think that's going to help
tremendously to ensure that we have that same level of communication
when we do our task.
the simulations, you say it seems to go pretty smoothly but, I
presume that you've also trained for scenarios in which everything
doesn't go exactly the way
We've seen a lot of scenarios
that we don't ever want to see again, especially on orbit.
me an idea of what the critical failure scenarios for this operation
are, and how you've trained to respond to those should they happen.
Well, we've done a lot
of training with malfunctions to the RMS, the robot arm on the
space shuttle, various backup modes, if it doesn't work as it's
supposed to work, how can we get around that? What backup modes
can we use to still accomplish our task? And Nancy Currie, our
prime arm operator, has just done a fantastic job pulling all
those malfunctions together and ensuring success. We've spent
an awful lot of time playing "what ifs" just in the office: what
if this happens, how can we work around that? I think that's one
of the benefits of having the schedule slips that we've had, we've
had a lot of time to consider all the things that can possibly
go wrong and try to have a plan in place to handle it should it
happen on orbit. That's not to say we've thought of everything,
but we sure have done our best. Loss of cameras greatly effects
how we do our task: what backup views do we have, what other cameras
can we use if we lose our prime cameras for the various tasks?
We've looked at failure of the grapple fixture; should it fail
what can we do? Are there other ways of getting around that? What
if we have control problems of the FGB, what if it's not in the
right attitude when we get up there? You know, can we get it stabilized
with the backup means of control for Zarya and then do a fly-out
of the missed attitude, and still come in and get it. So, yeah,
a lot of time training for some really off-nominal situations
that, again, I hope we don't ever see.
the two pieces are successfully joined, Jim Newman and Jerry Ross
are going to conduct three spacewalks to complete the connections
between the two modules. Tell us about your responsibilities inside
the shuttle while they're working outside on the first two pieces
of the new station.
Once we get the two pieces
joined together and they're all attached to the shuttle, then
our work really begins. We're not even halfway through the flight
yet because we've got those three EVAs, and going inside, the
activation to do. On the first day, during the first EVA, we will
mate all of the electrical connectors and get some of the outfitting
done. Once that's complete and we have power from Zarya to the
Node, we can actually power-up the MDMs, multiplexer-demultiplexer
- it's the computers on the Node, to actually activate the space
station and its systems. And we'll be doing that from a portable
computer system, talking through the aft flight deck of the space
shuttle to the space station. So there's a point during that EVA
when we get a "go" for activation, and I get to send the commands
to actually power everything up, so we're kind of looking forward
to that. We recently completed a full test of all of that down
at the Kennedy Space Center a week ago and everything actually
worked, so we want to see it work as well on orbit.
these two pieces are mated and after the second of the three spacewalks,
you and your crew are going to be the first group of people who
will actually go aboard the International Space Station; what're
your feelings about being in that position?
Well, we're extremely
excited, as you can well imagine, to get to do that. We'll have
everything powered-up and then, we'll go inside and start outfitting.
We've got a lot of hardware on the middeck of the space shuttle
that we're going to transfer into the space station. And there's
a lot of equipment on the space station, some panels and stuff,
that provide structural support for launch that will no longer
be needed, that we'll be able to take off and bring back home
- so the crews don't have to deal with that on orbit. We'll also
be installing an Early Communications system on the Unity, and
it's a couple of antennas and boxes inside that Jerry Ross and
I are going to hook up that will allow commanding and communication
from MCC Houston directly to the space station. It will provide
the crew on board, the first crew, to actually have video teleconference
capability with Houston. Hopefully we'll get a chance to check
that out while we're up there too.
you determined which one of you gets to go through the hatch and
onto the station first?
Well, I think the Commander
oughta be the first one on board.
into Unity; is there any other discussion about who would be the
first to go inside the other piece of the station?
Well, we're looking at
it as one space station.
us some more detail about what you expect to see once you get
inside Zarya and what you have to do to activate it?
Well, in all of the modules,
what we're going to have to do first is open a series of hatches
and ensure that the pressure and environment inside is safe. We're
going to have supplemental oxygen masks available should there
be a concern with outgassing of the various materials, not having
a good environment until we get a chance to activate all the systems
and purge the air, but we don't expect that to be a problem. So
the real key is making sure that the temperature, pressure, and
oxygen levels are correct. And then as we open the hatches, the
middeck hatch will be open, and the airlock hatch, and the hatch
to the orbiter docking station, and then there's the hatch on
the PMA, and then there's the hatch between the PMA and the Node.
And now we're inside Unity and there's the hatch between Unity
and the other PMA, and then there's the hatch from the PMA to
the first compartment of Zarya, and then there's the hatch between
that compartment and the main compartment of Zarya. Plus you got
to turn on all the lights as you're progressing on in through
there because none of those lights were on when you initially
went in. So it's going to take us pretty much a full afternoon
from the time we start leaving the orbiter, transitioning inside
the space station, to actually completing everything. Once we
make sure everything's right, then we're ready for the transfer
ops to start.
terms of the whole sequence of assembling this space station,
just how critical is any one step? Does the whole assembly sequence
come to a halt if you don't do each and every little thing that
is on the timeline for STS-88? Or is there some required threshold
at each step that's required in order to facilitate the next step?
We have a minimum set
of tasks that we have to accomplish, and then we have a large
number of tasks that are get-aheads for future missions, so that
they have a better chance of success on their flights. Our third
EVA is not packed right now; if we have problems on either of
the first two EVAs, we can offload some of those tasks to the
third one in order to make up. So everything is planned out such
that you want to accomplish the things that you absolutely have
to get done, and then, hopefully, you'll have a little time to
do some of these get-ahead tasks to help out down the road. So,
yeah, if we don't get Unity and Zarya mated together with all
their electrical connectors made, and the computer system up and
running, then we've got a real problem for down the road. But
if we accomplish that much of the mission, we're well on our way,
and then we'll try and get ahead and help out on the future missions.
But each flight in sequence, in space station building, pretty
much has to be accomplished, maybe not in its entirety, but the
major mission objectives have to be accomplished before you can
proceed with the other missions.
after the third spacewalk, and after you undock and leave behind
the International Space Station, in your mind what will have had
to have happened in order for STS-88 to have been a success at
If we leave a working
space station up there, with control and good communication between
Moscow and Houston, and it's ready for the next piece of hardware
to come up, it'll be a success in my mind. And that's pretty much
doing everything that we have to do on our flight. I think it's
going to be extremely rewarding - to see it up there, a stepping-stone
to the future, to have been able to participate in that is going
to be really special.
your way home from the International Space Station you have got
plans to deploy two more satellites before you get all the way
home. Describe those payload for us, and discuss what's involved
for you and your crew in deploying them.
Well, we have two satellites
on board - MightySat, which is a Department of Defense payload,
and SAC-A, which is a satellite that's being launched by the Argentinean
Space Agency. They're carried in gas cans back in the orbiter
payload bay, and essentially, you open the lid and they've got
a spring propulsion type system that will deploy them at the appropriate
time. We'll precisely maneuver the attitude of the orbiter to
make it exactly right for what they want, and when everything's
right we'll deploy their payloads. So Rick Sturckow, my Pilot,
is the one that I've put in charge of ensuring that we're in the
right attitude and everything is done for those. He's looking
forward to deploying a couple of satellites on orbit.
strictly a philosophical stand point, what is the meaning of the
International Space Station for the future of space exploration,
whether it's to go to the moon or to Mars or to anywhere? Why
is this important?
Well when I said it's
a stepping-stone to the future, I truly believe it is. I think
that, us as one world, working together on an international space
station, learning to live together, to work together, to share
science, to share responsibilities, to really get to know one
another, is preparing us for going beyond the confines of Earth's
gravity. I think of the Hubble Deep Field picture, and here's
this little space up there by the Big Dipper, the size of your
fingernail, and you put it up there and you can't see anything.
And they point Hubble at it and they see not only a lot of stars,
they see galaxies. You know, for us to think that we're the only
ones capable of intelligent thought in this infinite universe
I think is not the right way to be thinking. And I think that
it's in our destiny to explore and to go beyond our solar system,
and I think this is the beginning. And I think we're
going to go back to the moon, we're going to go to Mars, and we're
going to do it united. So from a philosophical point of view,
I look at it as the beginning of us really working together, exploring.
We always learn when we explore. And the really neat thing about
exploring is it's always something new, and this is the beginning
all of that in mind then, since STS-88 starts this process, how
would you like history to remember the mission that you are going
As a crew, I'd like them
to remember that they worked hard and that they did a good job,
and they were successful. I'd really like to see this as a success.
I think a lot of folks, throughout NASA, throughout the whole
space agency, throughout all our participating partners, have
been working extremely hard to bring this to fruition, and we
are extremely proud and privileged to represent the end result
of all that effort. I'd like to ensure that we don't let anybody
down, and that we give their hardware and all their hard work
the just recognition that it deserves; by making it all work together