Interview: Daniel Barry
STS-96 Crew Interviews with Daniel Barry, mission specialist.
Dan, you've got a job
that most people in the world could only dream about having. Tell
us what it was that drove you to want to become an astronaut? Is
that something from your childhood or something that developed later
in your life?
It's something that I dreamed
about for a long time. I wanted to do this job for as long as I
can remember. Way back in first grade when Mercury shots were going
up, that wasn't unusual. Every kid in first grade wanted to grow
up to be an astronaut. But as time went on different people wanted
different goals, but this was one I had with me my whole life. And
it's one thing to say it in first grade. It's a little different
to say it in high school. It's substantially different to tell the
chairman of your department while you're trying to get tenure that
what you really want to do is go fly for NASA. So it's a dream I
kept alive for a long time and I still pinch myself when I think
about the opportunity I'm going to have to go fly.
Why? In first grade
every kid wanted to be an astronaut. Why did Dan Barry, little first
grade Dan Barry, want to be an astronaut?
Yes, well, motivations
change as you get older. I mean, in first grade "astronaut" meant
exploration, getting ready to go to the moon, fire and smoke, lots
of speed, glory and parades, that sort of thing. Mid-thirties Dan
Barry, astronaut, was all that still, except for the glory and parades.
But it was also a challenging job with scientific opportunities
and a chance to work in an environment that is really different.
A chance to not just do the fire and smoke and go fast, but also
to apply some of the scientific principles that I'd learned through
lots of years of school. A chance to begin exploration of space,
which I think, really is the future for human beings.
Now these years later
you're assigned to the second of many Space Shuttle flights to assemble
a new space station in orbit. Can you give us a sense of how you
see the complexity of the job, of building a massive space station
some 200 miles straight up?
Sure, first of all, the
crew is just a very, very tiny part of the team that does this job.
We are the lucky ones, from my point of view, in the sense that
we get to actually go into space and assemble the station. But this
is almost the last step in a very long process of developing a piece
of hardware that is incredible in its performance. Think about what
we're planning to do with the station: it's really our stepping
stone to Mars. We're going to learn how to live and work long-term
in space. We're going to learn how to keep people healthy up there
for long periods of time. So the structure that we're building is
home for people and that means food, water, air, everything that
people need to survive and do better than we've done before. Not
just survive and come back and be carried out after a year in flight,
but actually be able to come down to a planet and work, build a
habitat and survive on their own.
Your flight, STS-96,
is described as a logistics and resupply mission. Fill that in for
us. What is it that you and your crewmates are going to do on this
The station that's up there
is like a house with no furniture. It's ready to be lived in, but
it doesn't have the things you need day to day. So we're going to
start bringing up parts and supplies that will make it a livable
place. We're also going to have a number of spare parts; in case
something breaks, the crew won't have to wait for a shuttle to come
up to resupply. There'll be pieces on board to take care of that.
The other kinds of thing that we're going to bring are parts and
components that are required for the continuing assembly of the
Space Station. So, for example, on the outside we're going to bring
two cranes, an American crane and the Russian crane, that will be
used to move hardware about and continue the construction of the
Help us fill that in.
Talk about how the work that you've just described is important
to the overall assembly and operation of the station. Why do you
have to do this before the next mission can do what it needs to,
or before the first crews can go and live there?
For one thing, some of
the components that we're bringing for example, the cranes and
also some of the restraints that people are going to use to stand
outside the Station while they assemble it are needed to be able
to bring other components that are required for a larger parts of
the Station. So, for example, the crane that we're bringing up will
be attached to the outside of the Space Station. Then there are
boxes: basically things like electrical components, data handlers,
things like that, that are too big for an EVA astronaut to handle
and install properly. So these cranes really allow us to take these
large objects and move them from one place to another so that they
can be installed properly. So that's just one small example of what
Another example is what
we call a foot restraint, which again allows an astronaut, outside
during an EVA, to do something he wouldn't otherwise be able to
do. For example, if the astronaut is trying to connect one of these
big boxes after it's been put in place by the crane; it may be that
the connectors are far apart. The person has to bring them together,
and in order to do that and use both hands, they're going to have
to have their feet solidly locked into position. And that's what
one of these foot restraints is going to allow. So it means that
you can do tasks on orbit that you otherwise might not be able to
Inside, a lot of the equipment
that we're bringing up really is in case there's a failure that
would cause the station to not be able to operate normally, for
example, if there were a problem, with electrical components. One
of the pieces that we're going to be bringing up is going to help
a component that already seems to be having some trouble and that
has to do with the batteries and the way the batteries are charged.
Right now there's a problem with the component that controls the
charging of the batteries and part of our mission is going to be
to go up and replace those components. So already we're seeing some
things that aren't perfect about that station, and we need to be
able to be responsive and go up and fix it just like you fix the
gutters on your house.
It's a dynamic situation
as you describe it. In fact, the changes in the launch schedule
for some components of the station have also changed the list of
tasks that were originally planned for STS-96. Some have been moved
off to later missions. How has changing flight plan impacting the
training that you and your crewmates are going through?
It makes the training different
from my first flight. In that flight, we had a very good idea of
exactly what we were going to do several months from launch. And
here we are less than three months from launch and we're just starting
to really learn exactly what our tasks are going to be. And that
does make training harder, but I think it's something that we need
to learn as an office, as astronauts, and as an organization as
NASA. We need to learn how to do that because we can't really predict
six months ahead of time what we're going to need on that Space
Station. If a component fails, we need to be responsive enough to
be able to bring up a replacement or to be able to bring up the
parts to fix it on a short time scale.
So I think that in some
sense, we are having a little more trouble training because of these
late changes, but I think we're learning something, which is that
we need to be flexible and responsive because this is a station
that's going to be up there a long time. Things are going to change,
objectives are going to change, parts are going to break, we need
to be able to get in there and fix that. Talking to some of the
people who were here when shuttle was first starting to fly, it
sounds like they've seen that before. The shuttle, in its first
flights, had some things that were unexpected. People needed to
be able to respond quickly to change in some of those missions.
So in that sense, NASA, as an organization, has been there before.
That was before my time and most of the folks that fly right now,
so I think we're learning something new but we can do this.
Another thing that is
a first for your mission is that it is the first to fly with a piece
of equipment called the Integrated Cargo Carrier, referred to as
ICC. Tell us about this cargo carrier and the items that you're
going to use it for to bring it to orbit.
The cargo carrier is really
just a platform that sits in the Shuttle payload bay and is really
a mounting plate for some of the parts that we're going to take
from the shuttle onto the Space Station and leave outside the Station.
I mentioned the two cranes that we're going to bring; one is an
American crane and the other is a Russian one, and both of those
will be mounted on this plate which goes across the Shuttle payload
bay. There's a third component called the SHOSS box and what that
has inside of it is, again, some parts that we'll be leaving outside
the Station: three bags that have various components inside of them
as well as some parts that we attach to the cranes. So really, this
is just what it says. It's a cargo carrier; it's carrying three
big pieces of hardware that we will take off the platform, the ICC,
and actually install right on the outside of the Space Station during
We've referred to your
space walk a couple of times, as well as other details; I'd like
to start plugging some of those other pieces together. A couple
of days after you launch, you and your crewmates are going to conduct
the first-ever rendezvous and docking with the two-module International
Space Station. Describe the whole operation for us, as well as the
part that you will play as a member of this crew while Kent and
Rick fly the Shuttle to meet up with the Station.
This is an exciting part
of our flight, an opportunity to be the first crew to dock with
the station. We're going to fly up to the Station. In fact, our
launch time and our sleep cycles are oriented precisely to get us
at the Station at the right time, so that we can fly up to it and
actually fly around it and then come in toward it and dock with
it. Inside the shuttle what we're doing at that time really is being
very precise about the control of our trajectory to make sure that
we arrive at just the right spot. If you get too close to the station
and you fire some jets from the orbiter, you could damage the Station
by pluming it from our jets. If you're too far away, well then orbital
mechanics has a tendency to pull you even farther away and so you
can overshoot and miss.
We don't have enough fuel
for too many tries, so it has to be done right the first time. Our
commander, Kent Rominger, and pilot, Rick Husband, as well as the
other members of the rendezvous team, Ellen Ochoa and Tammy Jernigan,
have been training intensively to make sure that it happens right
the first time.
My job on board, not as
a member of the primary four rendezvous team, is twofold. One is
to make sure that our onboard laptop computers work properly and
give those crewmembers the information they need to rendezvous.
We have computer software that runs on the laptops and that gives
a diagrammatic display of where we are in relationship to the Space
Station. And even though we could actually perform the whole operation
without that software, having it there makes it a much more precise
maneuver. So if, as has been known to happen, our computers have
a problem, one of my jobs is to get the thing booted back up and
Another job I have has
to do with the lighting as we approach. It turns out that, as the
sun comes in from an angle, it can be hard to see some of the features
on the Station that we need to be able to see in order to dock properly.
For example, there's a docking target, which you can think of as
a stick, which kind of sticks out from the side of the station.
If the sun comes in from an angle, there'll be a shadow behind that
which can make it hard to see the target. So one of my jobs is as
the HISL Operator, which is a High Intensity Search Lamp. What I'll
do is try to reduce the effects of some of those shadows by shining
a very bright light onto the target and allowing the target to be
seen better in a shadowy situation.
You have talked, I'm
sure, with your colleagues who flew on STS-88 and who have been
to the Station that you're about to go to. What have they told you
about the Station that you're about to link up to? Are their first-hand
Really, it's absolutely
essential to hear from the people who have been there before. I
can tell you first off, their impressions of inside the Station
are fantastic. The opportunity to have this much volume to move
about, the sense that this is a place where people are really going
to live, the concept that this is the place where we're going to
prepare to go to Mars, just gives you chills. It's really exciting
and I think the 88 crew hearing them talk about it they had
a full appreciation for all those things, and they relayed those
sorts of thoughts and feelings back to us.
On the outside of the station,
for EVA, what I'm hearing is that it's a jungle out there. There
are cables and antennas and there's a lot of structure that we have
to study in great detail; and we have to be sure that we don't disturb
the work that they've done, bump an antenna, bang a radiator. There
really are a lot of very delicate objects on the outside of this
structure. So that's one of the things that will be different, I
think, from my last space walk, where it was pretty much confined
in the Shuttle bay and we had a satellite to watch out for, that
we didn't kick. But here I really feel like I have to be very aware
of where I am and where my feet are, where all of my suit is all
Let's talk about what
I would guess is probably a highlight of the mission for you: the
space walk that you've referred to. You and Tammy Jernigan are scheduled
to make a six-hour space walk to the exterior of the Space Station
on the day after you have docked to it. Take us out there with you.
Talk us through the timeline of the tasks that you're going to be
performing during this space walk.
First of all there are
two of us and so we have two somewhat separate roles, even though
we'll be a team. Tammy Jernigan will be [in place] on the robot
arm. She'll actually have her feet clamped into a platform that
allows Ellen Ochoa to drive her where she needs to go on the robot
arm. And in order to move some of the very large pieces that I described
on the ICC, we'll have Ellen drive Tammy down to that area. Together
we'll release some of these large cranes and bags and that sort
of thing, and Tammy will actually just physically hold onto them
as Ellen drives the robot arm up onto the station. So that's sort
of one aspect of the task.
I will be what we call
the free floater. So it will be my job to scramble around on the
Station, going from the Shuttle, climbing all the way up the stack
past what we call the PMAs onto the node, up onto the Russian segment,
the FGB. And our very first task, really, will be to set up Tammy's
equipment on the robot arm. So my opportunity to go up the stack
to do that is a good one for me, because I'll have some time to
just get used to the whole orientation where it's pointing, where
I am, to look around, get a sense of where all those cables and
antennas are, and to do a very fairly simple task.
We'll then come back down
to the ICC, we'll take the American crane, bring it up, put it in
its place on the Station. We'll follow that by coming back down
and taking the Russian crane, putting it in its spot way up on the
Russian segment. I'm particularly looking forward to that part because
it will take Tammy and me much farther away from the shuttle than
I've ever been about as far away as anyone's ever been. So it'll
be real what you would call "high-wire construction."
On your first mission
that you've referred to, you conducted a space walk. It was part
of a program to develop the tools and the techniques to build a
space station on orbit. These are some tools and techniques, I guess,
that you're going to be among the first to put to use. Can you give
us a sense of how challenging a task it is, to do the space walks
outside the International Space Station? Is it work that's similar
to anything that we have seen astronauts do in space walks before
or, or similar to what you did on your own previous space walk?
One of the objectives of
the space walk that Leroy Chiao and I did on STS-72 was to test,
as you said, some of the equipment and materials that we're now
starting to bring up to the Space Station. But another objective
of that space walk was to train the astronauts, to train Leroy and
me and also Winston Scott on that mission to do this job. So I feel
very fortunate, actually, because I had a chance to actually go
outside and train for this job that I'm about to do on STS-96. On
a typical space walk you don't get that opportunity to really go
outside and train; so I feel very well prepared to go do the things
on STS-96 that I practiced doing on STS-72 while we were checking
out the tools, the materials, and the structures for the Station.
This is a little different
than what we've done before. However, I think the experience with
EVAs on Mir has certainly given us a lot of insight into the sort
of things that are different about a space walk when the Shuttle
is docked to a Station, as opposed to our more typical EVAs in the
past where we've had the Shuttle free floating. One example of that
is that when the Shuttle is out there by itself, if a crew member
happens to come untethered and starts to float away, the shuttle
commander is very capable of just flying over and picking you up.
On the Station, you can't
do that anymore, really, 'cause with the Shuttle firmly docked to
the Station, the structure's just too large to go fly away and pick
someone up. So we are changing some of the ways that we tether to
the station, we have what we call a dual tether. We also wear a
backpack called SAFER so that if we do get away, we'll have the
possibility of flying back. So there are some different aspects
to being on the Station. And, of course, as I mentioned before,
being on the Station means you have the opportunity to get much
farther away from the orbiter than we have in the past. We've different
geometry. I think as the Station gets bigger, there's going to be
the possibility of getting lost out there, really. That won't happen
on our flight.
Let me take you back
to the far end of Zarya: you were attaching the Russian cargo crane.
And pick up the story of the space walk and the rest of the agenda
of tasks that you and Tammy Jernigan have to perform.
After we get the two cranes
attached, the American crane and the Russian crane, once again we
come back down to the orbiter. We're going to take the foot restraints
that I mentioned to you earlier, take them out, plug them into their
appropriate spots on the station. Then we come back down to the
orbiter, go to the ICC, and we open a box that contains three bags.
We'll take those bags out and, again, go up and attach 'em to the
Station. And that's really the essence of the EVA. It's transferring
equipment from the orbiter up onto the Station: equipment that is
going to be used, for sure, by some future crews, and some equipment
that is spare parts in case things break.
The day after your space
walk, all seven of you are going to get your first chance to enter
the International Space Station. What do you expect that you will
feel when you first float inside the Station you've been studying
for so long?
Talking to the STS-88 folks,
some of their emotions, I think, I will mirror. The idea that we
going onto a place that is an International Station it's not just
the United States, it's the world up there. We are going to a place
that is preparing us to go to Mars; we're walking into a large volume
than we've seen since Skylab. These are things that bring out all
of a lifetime of dreams of flying. We'll have enough volume to move
from one side to the other like Superman for real. So there are
personal emotions involved in that, "Wow, you're really going to
get to do these things that you've dreamed about for a long time."
But then there are also
the daunting aspects that this is the beginning of a new age of
space exploration for the world. This is the way that we are going
to learn how to go to Mars. And, of course, Mars is the stepping
stone to the rest of the universe. So those kinds of things will
definitely be going through my head. I think the people that enter
the Station are going to have some more mundane things to think
about. When you do a task like that, you want to make sure you do
it perfectly. So, of course, there are issues with simply operating
the hatch correctly, sniffing the air, or in space objects that
are sort of everyday ordinary things.
Sometimes the paints that
are involved in those things will give off some volatile gases.
There are issues with walking into a station that has been closed
up for many months. So the first people to walk in, we joke with
them a little bit
they're our canaries. But fortunately I think
it's going to be okay. The Station itself will be scrubbing the
air for days before we get there, but nevertheless, there is the
issue of walking inside and sniffing a little bit and making sure
it's okay. So there's the mundane and then there's sort of the personal
"wow." But then there's also the large picture that this is a really
significant thing we're doing.
You're scheduled to
spend several days with Discovery docked to the station to transfer
materials. Talk about the plans for the supply transfers and the
kinds of things that you're going to be moving and what specifically
you are scheduled to be doing during these several days.
Well as we talked about
earlier, some of the tasks are changing as we speak. We're starting
to have a little more definition of exactly what we're going to
be doing. But for the most part, my job is going to be "gofer."
Ellen Ochoa is our stow master in the SPACEHAB, so she will be organizing
what pieces, what things we're going to be bringing out in what
order. And the types of things that we're going to have, as I said
before, are basically spare parts, things to make life livable up
there. And it looks like now we're going to have this task that
I mentioned earlier to help the battery chargers. It looks like
we might be changing out a large number of those. But again, my
job is really going to be taking the bag that Ellen Ochoa gives
me, carrying it to the place that she told me to, and handing it
off to Julie Payette, who is our stow master back in the FGB. And
I let Julie tell me where to put it up there and then go back for
some more. So I'm expecting to have a few days of salute, "Yes ma'am
and take this where you tell me to."
With that in mind, then,
as all is taken into account as you conclude the docked portion
of the mission, what part of the planned activities do you think
will have to be completed for your mission to be considered a successful
I would hope that we will
be able to transfer everything we're expected to, we will have successfully
installed the battery chargers, and we will have put the objects
outside the Station that people are going to need to continue the
construction. I think that that is sort of our basic mission in
a nutshell right there.
All the work is done,
the docked days are over and the time has come for you all to leave.
Similar to the rendezvous question from a few minutes ago, describe
what you'll be doing as Discovery undocks from the Space Station,
views it and departs the scene.
For our actual separation
procedure, again I'll be responsible to make sure the laptop computers
are running the software and running it properly to give our rendezvous
crew the opportunity to have a very good picture of where we are
with respect to the Station. This time, since we won't need that
high-intensity lamp, I think I'll have much more opportunity to
take a photographic survey of the Station.
If we do get a chance to
fly all the way around the station, then that will certainly be
one of the jobs that I'll be trying to do well. Not just to send
back pretty pictures, but also to document precisely how we left
that station, where everything is, how the structures that are on
Station are doing, information that the next crew's going to need
in order to do their job properly. So I expect that that will be
one of my biggest roles in the separation, to simply get a very
good, accurate, and thorough photographic survey. Course, Julie
Payette, as our lead photo/TV person, will be doing the same thing
probably from another window.
On your way home, you
are part of the team that's scheduled to deploy a satellite that
is known as Starshine. Describe for us the science of this satellite
and what it is that you all do to deploy it as you return to Earth.
Basically, Starshine is
a big metal mirror and it's a ball that we're going to shoot out
of the back of our payload bay. It's a simple process for us. We
flip a few switches that arm a mechanism and then fire a mechanism
that is just basically a big push up out of the bay. So what we'll
see is, from our point of view, a big disco ball coming up out of
the bay. And the purpose of it is, really, as an educational project.
It's going to allow students to actually track this ball, and figure
out where the satellite is up in the heavens, be able to bounce
signals off of it, record those signals and then exchange that information
throughout a network of schools.
You've made reference
a couple of times to the mission of the International Space Station.
In training to go there, you clearly know more about the goals of
the program than people who are not involved in the space program
or don't work in it. I want to give you another opportunity to make
that point. In your mind, what is the role that International Space
Station will play in the future of space exploration?
I think that the Station
has many, many different roles. So in the sense of what are the
most important, that's almost an individual decision. Although,
I think if you look across the spectrum of countries that are flying
on the Station, you'll also see different national perspectives.
As an individual, I see the Space Station as a way to get to Mars.
I think that it's our chance to figure out what it takes for a human
being to survive long term in space and be able to have the strength,
the coordination, and the cardiovascular ability to land on a planet
with no assistance. Granted, Mars has less gravity than Earth, but
it will still require all of these things, strength, coordination,
to be able to assemble a habitat, to be able to survive, build a
laboratory, and exist on another planet. That's a real challenge.
Now when people come back
from a year in space, they would not be capable of doing that. We
have a whole team of people, the Russians do, that pick up the cosmonauts
after long-term flight on Mir and they go through a significant
period of rehabilitation. We won't have that opportunity on Mars
unless there are folks there that we don't know about yet. So to
me, that's one of the real goals of the Space Station.
But while we're learning
that there's so much else that can be done, there's a tremendous
amount of scientific knowledge that we can pursue. There's the issue
of how to get countries to cooperate on a mission like this, so
there's even a sort of, well, I don't know if you would call it
a political aspect to the Space Station, but we have made tremendous
strides in learning how to deal with other countries. People and
organizations have their own goals and own agendas that we need
to blend with ours
their own hardware that we need to make interface
with ours. And that's been a learning process.
But I don't think we're
going to go to Mars as the United States. I think we're going to
go to Mars as people from Earth. So that, to me, is a significant
goal of the station, learning how to work as a crew from Earth,
not a crew from the United States. We have different languages on
Earth; we have different cultures on Earth; that's going to need
to become unified in space. There are other applications, probably
too many to list: looking at pharmaceuticals, looking at material
properties, learning about thermodynamic parts of materials, we
have just all kinds of what I would call smaller specific applications
of this unique environment. You have a chance to be in free fall,
to not have gravity pulling you down. You can see lots of effects
that you can't see in an Earth environment. But I think we're doing
those, sort of at the same time as we're doing, to me, the bigger
issue, which is preparing to go to Mars.
That's the last question.