Interview: Julie Payette
STS-96 Crew Interviews with Julie Payette, mission specialist.
Julie, you have got
a job that a lot of other people in the world would only, can only
dream about having. What is it that drove you to want to be an astronaut?
Was it something that started back when you were a little girl or
a later in life thing?
I wanted to be an astronaut
since I've been a little girl. I was growing up in Montreal, Canada,
and during the Apollo mission I was watching that on TV, on French
TV because that's the only language I spoke when I was ten, and
I was fascinated. Fascinated by them living in a little capsule
and going to the moon, driving that rover and then coming back with
these three parachutes on their little capsule. And I wanted to
do the same thing, so I said so to everybody that one day I'd be
Just to fly in space?
It was both. I wanted to
do the things. I wanted to wear a space suit and activate systems
and do some scientific experiments. I wanted to drive that rover
on the moon big time. You can imagine that when you are ten, twelve
years old and you're growing up in a town in Canada and you're French
Canadian and you're telling everybody "Hey, I'd like to be an astronaut
one day." Then people pat you on the back, smile a little bit and
say "Yeah, sure." And they hope that you're going to change your
mind and find a more down-to-earth job, which is what I did eventually.
That was still heading
in the direction of being an astronaut, though, wasn't it?
There was so little opportunity
at the time I was growing up. When I went to high school, and when
I first went to the university, Canada didn't have a human space
program. We had participated as a player from the very early times;
we were actually the third nation to have sent a satellite in space.
But we didn't have a human space flight program until 1983 and that's
a little bit after I started the university. So because of that,
it was kind of crazy to think that one day I could be come an astronaut
coming from Canada because we didn't have a program. But still you
make those small choices in life that maybe, if indeed, that opportunity
comes through one day, you never know, then you'll be prepared for
You became an astronaut
and now after years of training, STS-96 will be your first space
flight. Can you describe how you felt when you got the word last
year that you're finally going to get to fly?
I was taken by surprise,
completely. First I had just finished my training program with NASA
in what we call the basic training program for astronauts, the astronaut
candidate years. And I had just graduated in April of '98 from that
program, so I didn't really expect to be given a flight assignment
right away or just after that. So I'm sitting at my desk and doing
my job on the ground, working on some robotic issues for the crew
office. And I get a sign from our chief astronaut to come in his
office and I thought of something completely different. I thought
maybe I'd been caught speeding in the Center or something like that,
and instead I was told of my flight assignment. And I was really
surprised; I really didn't expect to be assigned so quickly. I was
the first one of my class to get an assignment after the graduation
What does it mean in
your home country for you to be participating in a mission like
this to an International Space Station under construction?
Well, it means a lot to
Canada to be a partner in the International Space Station. We've
been players in the aerospace business since the beginning, and
we are providing a higher robotic technology to the International
Space Station. But we also providing human resources, and I am part
of those human resources; the country is now celebrating our first
participation in the International Space Station. We're all very
excited about this; this is just a first step to our contribution
and our partnership, of which we're very proud.
As things are laid out
right now, history will record that Julie Payette was the first
Canadian to go aboard the Space Station. What does that mean to
I think it's a nice, pleasant
coincidence, but that's really all it is. I find myself extremely
privileged to be able to fly aboard the Space Shuttle, to fly with
my crewmembers, to be able in such a tiny little way to contribute
to the advancement of our knowledge and our pushing the frontier
of what we know today. I just find myself part of a whole and a
bigger endeavor that is much bigger than who I am. So I have the
immense privilege to be the first one to represent my country aboard
the International Space Station; that is something I take with much
Let's talk about that
larger endeavor, the International Space Station, the assembly of
which you are going to be a part on orbit. Overall, can you give
us some sense of the difficulty and the complexity of assembling
this space station in orbit?
Assembling the International
Space Station in orbit is extraordinarily complicated, and it's
hard to realize it, because most people haven't been to space, so
it's kind of far away. But most people have been on a lake or at
sea, so it would be just very similar as if we wanted to assemble
a full ship crew in the middle of the ocean during a storm. It's
just as complicated as that. We don't have any infrastructure out
there in the middle of the ocean. We have to bring along every single
piece of material, every single bolt, every single cable. We have
to make sure they fit somehow before you leave in the middle of
the sea in the storm, because you won't have time there to devise
a new cable, you have to connect it at that time. So basically that's
what we're doing: we're building an enormous infrastructure in a
very hostile environment, in very difficult conditions, and we have
to bring everything with us. And if things don't fit, and if we
don't have the right bolt, well, we just can't go and walk to the
store and buy it and then come back to the work site; that brings
The other difficulty about
the International Space Station is in the word international. We
have several different nations putting together pieces, developing
and designing these pieces in their own country, sometimes under
a different measurement system because we have both imperial and
metric measurement systems onboard the International Space Station.
And then having everything fit together in orbit for the first time
because sometimes those pieces won't see each other on the ground
before they get to space. And that is an extraordinary challenge
to make sure that everything is going to be fitting together, everything
will connect and talk to each of the other systems. That is a challenge
that we've been tackling now for several years and we see, so far,
that it's working quite fine.
Your mission is not
scheduled to bring another large piece of the station as the last
assembly mission, STS-88, did. How can you gauge the complexity
of what you folks are going to do in the sense of what the framework
of that you've just described?
When the assembly sequence
of the International Space Station was first put together, it was
mostly big pieces. One module will be sent up and another module
will be sent up, and both of them will be docked together and then
another one piece, big piece will be sent up. And then soon people
realize that these big modules are just the walls and the outer
infrastructure of the International Space Station just like a
house or a skyscraper or a big boat that you're building. The outer
shell is only the outer shell; you have to equip the inside, you
have to connect the inside. You also have to make sure that all
the pieces of the outer shell fit together and connect together
and that's what logistics and resupply missions are for. In between
the big pieces you have to bring all the small pieces that outfit
the inside of the International Space Station. That's exactly what
STS-96 is doing.
Talk about how that
work was, go a little more in detail rather than how that work (bringing
logistics and supplies) is important to the overall assembly sequence.
Let me put it this way: Why does the work that you're planning to
do have to be done in order for subsequent missions and crews to
One of the difficult aspects
of planning an assembly sequence of such a large infrastructure
on orbit is to plan ahead for all the pieces that the next construction
crew will require. When we start having a permanent crew on the
International Space Station, all the equipment that this crew requires
will be onboard before they get there. So in order for that to happen,
then the resupply mission brings a lot of equipment several thousand
pounds of equipment that we transfer from the inside of the space
shuttle into the International Space Station. And then we put it
inside the station, install it, and activate it if needed, such
that when the next construction crew comes in, then all the equipment
for them to continue is in place. The problem with that is that
there is a limited amount of cargo that we can bring on one Space
Shuttle. So in between big pieces, then we bring small pieces, so
that the next flight can be using what we brought up to continue
the construction. And this is completely essential. That wouldn't
happen, the construction would stop dead if it weren't for the resupply
mission making sure that all necessary equipment is activated, installed
and ready to use for the next flight to happen.
The plan to assemble
the Station stretches out over years and literally dozens of space
flights. There are already changes that are being made and some
of the changes in the launch schedule for station components has
led to changes in the training for your mission, led to changes
in the tasks on your mission. How have the changes in the flight
plan impacted the training for you and your crewmates?
The training for International
Space Station assembly flights is a little different than the training
that we used to do at NASA for a shuttle mission. Our philosophy,
our culture was to assign a crew way ahead of time, and practice
every single detail of the specific task of a mission many, many
times over, so that by the time you get into orbit you know exactly
what to do and do the mission as planned and then come back. With
the International Space Station we can't do all of this planning
way ahead of time, but most of it we can. But because each flight
depends on the other, if a flight occurs two months before another,
there might be conditions that have changed in between those two
flights that will impact what people will do on the next mission.
And, therefore, we'll have to now reconsider completely the timeline,
the task that we're going to do onboard and the training for it.
This has already happened with STS-96; it's only the second assembly
flight on the International Space Station.
Just a few months before
the flight we learned that a new important task has been put onboard.
We've decided that some battery chargers in the Russian module,
Zarya, have to be replaced eighteen units of them, and that is
a late addition to the flight. So now crewmembers will have to go
to Russia to get the training because it's a Russian system, and
also we'll have to find room inside the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle
to house those eighteen units that weren't supposed to be onboard.
And we all do that just a few weeks before launch. But that will
be the business that we're in for constructing such a large structure
Another first for your
mission is that it is going to be the first to fly with the integrated
cargo carrier, what we call the ICC, in the cargo bay. Tell us about
this carrier and what it'll be used to carry to orbit.
The integrated cargo carrier,
the ICC we'll call it, is a platform that will be outfitted in the
cargo bay of the Space Shuttle; it's an outside platform, an external
platform. We can't access it from inside the space shuttle. Only
the EVA crewmembers that do the space walking go and access the
equipment that will be stowed on it. And what it is, is a platform
on which we attach our equipment that we need to transfer from the
space shuttle to outside the space station. And that equipment is
not pressurized. We fix it to the ICC, and then the space walkers
will get to this equipment, unbolt it and transfer it and install
it on the exterior of the space station, leaving it there for the
subsequent crews to use.
We'll talk in more detail
about the space walk in a moment. Before the space walk happens,
all of you will have to dock to the station that's scheduled to
occur on Flight Day Three, the first-ever docking to the International
Space Station. I'd like to have you describe the operation for us
and make note of the part that you'll be playing in, as part of
that team while Kent and Rick fly the shuttle to that docking.
For us who grew up in French,
it's always very interesting to realize that NASA has used a French
word to describe this absolutely incredible operation, which is
the approach, the docking of two space vehicles in space. It's called
a rendezvous and a docking. And this rendezvous is extremely complex
because objects in space don't quite behave like they do on the
ground and in two dimensions. We have orbital mechanics, we have
definite orbits and speed, so it is almost just as tricky to fly
a rendezvous with a space shuttle as it is to land an airplane on
the carrier while the carrier is going up and down in the sea. So
all of this operation is extremely rehearsed on the ground with
as many flight simulators as we can find and under all kinds of
conditions. Our crew is very well trained to do this rendezvous;
it will be flown by our Commander Kent Rominger. But everybody inside
the orbiter will be participating in this process. We're going to
approach it very slowly, we're going to make sure that we're right
aligned, and we're going to continue flying very slowly.
And by the time we finally
dock, one of the crewmembers will activate a system to capture the
Space Station with our docking system. Then we'll be docked and
then we can start checking for leaks and eventually ingress inside
the Space Station. My role during that approach and rendezvous is
the one of documentation. I am the one in charge of all the cameras,
including all the photo survey that we need to do. A lot of the
systems in space have changes that occur to them due to the hostile
environment of space, and we need to document these changes. So
there are requirements for us to use extremely precise and extreme
powerful lenses to document some parts of the station before we
dock to it and then the same after we undock from it.
So I will be sharing the
one window with the Commander that we'll be swapping in and out
all the time. Whenever he has a second, he will get away from his
control and I'll zoom in with a 400-millimeter lens attached to
a camera, which is a huge lens to photo survey the Space Station
while we're approaching. I'm also going to be providing some of
the downlink that everybody will be able to see as we approach and
dock to the Space station.
I am assuming that you
had an opportunity to talk with your colleagues who have been to
the International Space Station, those folks from STS-88. Have their
firsthand descriptions of what that station is like
how have they
assisted you and your crewmates in preparing for your rendezvous?
They're extremely important.
The crewmembers of STS-88 are the only people that can give us a
precise description of what it is to work inside the International
Space Station. They're the only ones who have actually, physically
been there. So obviously we've been talking to them extensively
to find out how they did it. They had a bit more time to train than
we did; and because of that, they had time to think about how they
would conduct the space walk, how they would conduct operations,
and what they would do differently if they could. That is extremely
useful for us because these are lessons learned. Also they have
their impressions. We're going to work in an environment where we've
never been either. So it's very interesting, it's also very useful
to know what other people think about it. And it's impressive to
hear them talk about it. First, also, to talk about how much space
they felt there was inside the Space Station. But when you think
of it, there are [now] only two small pieces up, compared to the
entire infrastructure when it'll be complete.
We referred earlier
to the space walk. There's one space walk planned on your mission
for Tammy Jernigan and Dan Barry to leave Discovery for about six
hours. And you have, but although you don't get to go outside, a
very important role to play in that. Would you talk us through the
space walk, what is supposed to happen, and describe your role as
the IV, the intravehicular crewmember?
During STS-96, we'll conduct
one space walk. It is to take equipment from the cargo bay of the
Space Shuttle and install it on the exterior of the International
Space Station. We also have a few other tasks that we have to conduct
maintenance tasks as we go along and find out that a few details
need to be corrected. And during that space walk I'll be the intravehicular
crewmember, the IV we call it. The IV is kind of the chief d'orchestre
or the one that is conducting the space walk from inside the vehicle.
The space walk starts several hours before the crewmembers actually
come out of the hatch and go outside into the shuttle cargo bay
We have to prepare the
inside of the Space Shuttle, we have to depressurize the cabin,
we have to start configuring the tools that we will take outside,
and we have to know exactly what we're taking out, and have everything
ready. Once you're outside, there's no coming back inside to go
and find a tool that you might have forgotten. So everything has
to be placed. We also thoroughly check out the suits and that is
done in conjunction with the crewmember, but also with the IV.
And once everything is
ready and in place, then we have a full routine that we follow of
checks and verifications that we do while we suit up the crewmembers
and that, again, is my role. Then we install the crewmember inside
the air lock and it's my role, also, to do the leak check on their
suit once they're completely suited. And then we have to close the
hatch, wave them goodbye and then send them off on their six-hour
task. During the EVA itself, I'll be sitting at the aft window of
the Space Shuttle and looking outside. Unfortunately, because we're
docked to the International Space Station, it'll be the first time
in our history, and that's a new way of operating, we will not be
able to see our crewmembers directly with our eyes.
We'll have to use the shuttle
bay cameras and the cameras that are installed on the arm for us
to be able to see our crewmember while they're doing their task
outside. But I'll be the one talking to them, I'll be the one reminding
them of some of the settings and some of the locations they have
to go through and then answering any of the questions they might
have about details. So I'm the main communication between the crewmembers,
the orbiter and also to the ground. I'm basically supervising and
monitoring the space walk. And when the crewmembers are ready to
come back in, again I'll be making sure that they don't leave anything
that we don't want to leave outside, outside. We'll clean up the
work site, come back into the hatch, and I'm the one that will help
them repressurize the hatch and de-suit them after this long work.
The middle part, can
you fill in for us a thumbnail sketch, if you will, of the kinds
of the tests that are planned for the space walk?
There are several tasks
that we're planning for this one six-hour space walk. It will be
extremely busy. The main task is to transfer two cranes from the
external platform, the ICC, to the outside of the Space Station.
One is a device we call the ORU transfer device. It's a small crane
that will allow crewmembers to move big pieces of equipment. And
we'll install that on the node Unity. We also have pieces of a Russian
crane that will be installed on the Russian segment of the International
Space Station; this is a very massive piece of equipment that we
have to take from the Space Shuttle cargo bay. And, with the help
of the robotic arm, we'll bring it all the way up to the top of
the stack, where it'll be installed on the Russian module, Zarya.
We also will install a
number of tools and bags that we have in a box. It's a container
box, a small box, that the EVA crewmember can open; then inside
that box will be a number of pieces of equipment and bags that are
filled with equipment. And, again, Tammy Jernigan, my colleague,
will carry those bags at the tip of the arm and will be moved in
position, will hand those pieces of equipment and bags to Dan Barry,
who will then install them at various locations on the node. These
are our main tasks.
We also have a number of
secondary tasks in which we're going to install a pinion cover that
got away in the previous mission. We also will try to get a cable
away from one of our space vision system targets, such that the
target is not covered. We also have a few other tasks. We might
have to cover one of the Russian targets, which has been scratched,
and things like that. So these little tasks are going to be just
normal. We're constructing a huge structure and there're little
details and pieces that need to be fixed inside and outside.
And this is another
example, I think, of how tasks have changed because of the different
situation than Space Shuttle missions of old.
It is indeed very different,
now that we are constructing a structure that is already in orbit.
We're adding to it. So this structure needs to be maintained. Also,
every time one of the construction team, as I kind of like to call
ourselves, gets on the work site, we'll find details that have to
be fixed, have to be corrected, or have to be modified. But we also
will do our task and then come back and brief the other people.
Then people will find that we better fix this problem at this time.
It will change completely our way of operating. We can no longer
plan exactly to the detail one year ahead, because it depends on
what happened on the mission before, and it also depends on the
elapsed time between missions. There is a live vehicle up in space
that is orbiting around the Earth constantly, and this is a modifying
environment. It's surely not a complete vacuum up there. And because
of that, it has impact on the equipment and hardware. And when we
go up, then things will change that way. That is the part of the
challenge of building the International Space Station that makes
it too incredible.
The day after the space
walk is when you and your six crewmates are scheduled to first enter
the station. Any sense of how you're going to feel when you get
to float into the space that the STS-88 astronauts have told you
It's hard to tell what
one's going to feel when it'll be the first time that we'll float
inside the International Space Station. I kind of have the same
feeling about how I'm going to feel when the Space Shuttle takes
off from Cape Kennedy the end of May. It's hard for me to tell.
This is something I've worked for all my life. It's something I
take seriously. I have a lot of responsibility on this flight, but
I know that it will be extremely special; it's a great privilege.
I'm looking forward to see these modules that I've seen on the ground,
which I've had the pleasure to see on the ground before they were
sent up into space, and how they've evolved. I'm looking forward
also to be able, with my crewmembers, to participate in making this
progress and advance, because I think it is so fundamental for us
to have our laboratory in space.
You all are scheduled
to spend several days with the Shuttle docked to the Station, transferring
materials from Discovery over to the Station. Talk a bit about the
plans for the supplies transfers and the kinds of materials that
you'll be delivering to the ISS.
After we ingress the International
Space Station, we'll do a number of checks. We'll go around, photo
survey, look around, and make sure that we understand well the environment
in which we're going to work because, again, it'll be the first
time that we're inside ever. And once that is done, my first task
will be to perform this important maintenance and repair activity
which is to change out the battery charger in the Russian module.
That is something that was decided very late in the training flow,
for which we had to train in Russia.
Then after that is done,
we can't do any transfer of equipment into the Russian module at
the time when we're doing the charging, the change-out of the chargers.
The reason is because those battery chargers are underneath the
floor of the Russian module. So we have to open panels and dig inside,
do the change-out, then close up the panels. So at that time we
might try some transfer operations from the Space Shuttle SPACEHAB
into the node, or Unity, part of the International Space Station.
I'll be inside the Russian module with my colleague, the Russian
Cosmonaut, Valery Tokarev, doing the battery change-out.
Once that is done, we'll
close out the panels and then we'll be able to start transferring
material and equipment from the SPACEHAB to the Russian module.
We'll first put some of the equipment inside the panels. Again,
the Zarya module is kind of a corridor which is laid out with a
ceiling, floor and both sides with panels that open up, so we can
put equipment inside and there are specific locations. We're going
to start putting equipment inside the panels. Once we're through
with that part of the plan, then we'll continue putting in equipment,
but we'll install it on the panels outside in the corridors and
on top of the panel door, and then tie it down with some Velcro
The real trick here about
outfitting the International Space Station with, you know, almost
7,000 pounds of equipment new equipment is that we have to be
really careful about where we place it and how we cinch it down
to the floor. And the reason is, after we are done with our transfer
operation, we going to document and photograph all this, and then
we're going to close all the hatches; we're going to undock from
the Space Station and come back home.
But the next step in the
assembly of the International Space Station is the automatic docking
of a third module, the service module that will come in and automatically
dock to the other part of the Zarya Russian module. This docking
will be done and flown from the ground automatically and will be
So before we can dock the
station with the new module, the Service Module, we have to understand
exactly where every piece of equipment that we've brought in is
positioned, how much it weighs, how much room it takes, and how
strongly it has been installed. This is so that they can calculate
the mass properties of the International Space Station to the decimal
figure. So that they'll know exactly when the docking occurs, what
those masses will do when they're in there together. And how the
center of mass of the International Space Station with respect to
the space module will affect the vehicle once it's all docked together.
And I would say one of the most critical things that we're doing
on STS-96 inside the International Space Station is the layout of
the equipment inside the node, Unity, and Zarya.
Another of the things
that you and Valery are scheduled to do inside Zarya is install
a muffler. Can you explain for us what that piece of equipment is
and how difficult a task it is for the two of you to do that?
If people who have had
someday a chance of visiting a submarine or of working in a confined
environment where air doesn't circulate normally, they know that
one of the big contributors to the noise level inside such places
is the ventilation system. You've got to make air circulate if you
want to breathe, and also for equipment to cool and for condensation
not to occur. And that is the case inside the International Space
Station. We have a very complex environmental control/life support
system, which involves a number of fans and air circulating. This
produces a lot of noise, and at the outlet of these fans there is
a fair amount of noise. But now we have people who will live permanently
on the Space Station for several months at a time. It will be hazardous
if the noise level would be too high. So, one of the tasks that
we have on STS-96 is to bring up some noise covers, mufflers, that
we'll install on the fan outlets, such that the noise level will
be reduced. That is mostly for the permanent crews, the people who
will spend long periods of time inside the station.
Also, during the docked
operations, you're scheduled to do some work relating to the Canadian
Space Vision System and its use on future assembly flights, including
using some of the cameras on the Canadian Remote Manipulator System
to survey some SVS targets. Talk about what that work is going to
consist of, as well as your feelings as a Canadian astronaut and
getting the chance to actually use this magnificent machine.
When I think about this
upcoming space flight, there are so many things I am looking forward
to that it's difficult to make a list, a complete list. I would
say the top of it is probably the chance of being able to see the
Earth from above. But I must say that a close second to this is
having the privilege to fly the robotic arm, the Canadian-built
arm manipulator system. This is something I've grown up with as
a Canadian; it's part of our heritage and we're also proud of this
technology that has performed so well since the beginning of the
Space Shuttle program. So to have the chance of flying is quite
amazing as a Canadian, but also as a pilot.
This arm flies like an
airplane, it's a six-dimension arm where you can rotate the tip
of the arm, so you can translate that tip along the cargo bay of
the shuttle and up the stack of the International Space Station.
It is an absolute joy to fly. Right after the space walk is complete
is when I am timelined in the flight to go on the controls of the
Canadarm, as we call it in Canada, or the remote manipulator system.
I will use the camera, which is mounted at the end of the tip of
the arm, to survey all the targets that are placed on the Space
Station, the space vision target. I survey them to see if they're
in good shape, any problems with them, if they've been scratched,
and if there are bubbles in the material.
The reason why the people
from the space vision system program require that very thorough
survey of every single target on the Space Station is that each
target will be used on the next flight to manipulate and dock pieces
of equipment together. When the operator of the arm will be blind
with respect to the work site, he won't be able to see the interface,
so the space vision system becomes critical. And because the targets
are critical to the operation of the space vision system, we want
to make sure they are in good shape before we use them operationally
and actually have several tons of equipment coming in contact with
the Space Station.
You started your career
with the Canadian Space Agency working in robotics and as a technical
advisor for the mobile servicing system, which is a part of Canada's
contribution to the International Space Station. If we can step
off Discovery for a moment, can you give us a quick overview of
what the MSS is and how that robot arm system on the station is
going to work?
The Canadian contribution
to the International Space Station, the hardware contribution, is
a small piece with respect to the big structure, but an essential
one. Actually, the assembly and maintenance of the International
Space Station does depend on a new robotic system that we call the
Mobile Servicing System. It is a very advanced space robotic system
that Canada has designed, and it comes in several pieces. It is
a robotic arm, the main pieces, that we call the SSRMS for the space
station for the remote manipulator system. And this big arm will
sit on a platform that will provide the power and the necessary
data and command path for an operator inside the station to control
On that platform is a mobile
MSS Space System, which will then sit on a carrier. It's basically
a moving carrier that will be mounted on rails and be able to move
across the length of the Space Station. This is so that the operator
inside the space station can position the robot arm at the proper
work site from one end of the solar batteries to the other end.
That's called mobile transport and it's also part of the mobile
servicing system. And this will be used with the remote manipulator
system, the robotic arm, to move crewmembers around when they have
to perform a space walk. It will be used to put big pieces together
during the assembly phases, but also to do all kinds of maintenance
work: carrying equipment, carrying the orbital removal unit and
things that we can change out and then move across the Space Station.
It will also be used with its camera to do some inspection and survey.
So it's an essential part of the construction and assembly of the
International Space Station.
We've mentioned a couple
of times how in the era of assembling the International Space Station
things change and it's hard to plan far ahead, especially when missions
fly in quick succession. With that in mind, then, as you folks prepare
to wrap up your mission, what do you see as the minimum that would
have to be required for this mission to be considered a success?
That's a hard question
to answer. Obviously in our minds, the crewmembers', a hundred percent
is mission success. And that's what we're targeting and that's our
goal. We are carrying several thousand pounds of equipment, both
inside the SPACEHAB and outside on our Integrated Cargo Carrier.
That is our main task to dock to the International Space Station.
And since this is the first docking, it'll be challenging and it'll
be the first time that we actually have people do it, so we'll learn
a lot through that. That's something we'll carry back with us on
the ground and then give to the other crews as they go along.
But really our main task
while we're docked is to transfer all this equipment, install it,
and activate it outside and inside the Space Station. So our mission
will not be complete until we transfer most of this equipment. We
are going to do an important repair and maintenance activity inside
the Russian module and that has also now becomes part of our success.
This battery change-out is being done at this point in time because
it is essential for the next flight to come. But in my mind, I think
our mission also won't be a success, if we don't have the time or
if there is an anomaly that prevents us from deploying a small experimental
educational satellite that we carry in the cargo bay. There are
several thousand young people, students, on the ground waiting for
this to happen.
That comes after you
undock: it's a satellite called Starshine. Why don't you explain
now what that is and what you and your crewmates have to do to deploy
The small experimental
educational satellite that we are carrying is basically the size
of a basketball, and it is mounted with about 900 small mirrors,
one-inch-diameter mirrors. It looks like a big disco ball. It's
called Starshine, and this experimental satellite is a great idea
from a professor from the University of Utah, who decided to involve
students all across the world, first in the preparation and integration
of a space system. Meaning that each of one of these little mirrors
has been polished, prepared, and processed by different schools
all over the world. And then they all sent their little mirrors
back to an integration center, where these little mirrors were mounted
on the satellite. So not only will they be doing experiments with
the satellite, they also have physically worked on the hardware.
Then the satellite is mounted
into the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle, we go to space, and we
deploy the satellite. This is a very reflective ball made of several
hundred mirrors that will reflect light of the sun very well and
will be observable from the ground, particularly at dusk and at
dawn, with the naked eye, so students can will be able to track
the satellite. When it will be launched, it will be launched in
an orbit and a trajectory such that it will remain in orbit for
several months, about six months. So students on the ground will
be able to track Starshine for about six months and will be conducting
Among these experiments
is being able to predict the orbit of that satellite, which will
change as the satellite orbits the Earth day by day. We'll be able
to calculate the orbital parameters, and then we'll exchange information
on a Web site that has been prepared for that, such that they can
then predict the behavior of the satellite, but also when it will
reenter the atmosphere. And they do that again from several schools
around the world. So it's a collaborative international project
that will bring students together where they've managed to touch
the hardware and then we'll see it go by in the sky until it reenters
the atmosphere. I think it's extraordinary. We'll make new astronauts
and rocket scientists out of those bunches for sure.
experiments that they
didn't have for you and me to do when we were that age.
I don't think so. I don't
think I would've been able to calculate orbital parameters when
I was in high school.
It's a new era as we
assemble a space station and do these other things. Your experience
as an astronaut, in general, and your experience in training for
this flight: you have a much better understanding of the goals of
the International Space Station program than do most people. So
I would ask you finally to help us understand it. In your mind,
what is the role that the ISS will play in the future of space flight,
in the future of space exploration?
The International Space
Station is just a step in our normal progression as human beings.
We have been pushing our frontiers all along. When our frontiers
were one continent, then we explored further and found others. Our
kind of frontier today is space, and when we think about it, we
haven't been that far. We've been on Earth and we've been once or
twice to the moon several decades ago. But we now know that we're
part of a universe in which we are not even a grain of salt compared
to the size and vastness of this universe. We haven't been to another
planet inside our own solar system. Our frontiers have been right
up there just outside the orbit of the Earth. And today we are just
progressing by building our first step to ensure that we have a
permanent observation post and laboratory and where our kind of
So this is part of our
normal evolution as human beings. But why do we do this? We do this
for ourselves and mostly to provide service and to conduct experiments
to benefit us all, not on another planet but right here on this
planet, on Earth. The International Space Station is a laboratory,
but it's also an observation post. We'll be monitoring the Earth;
we'll be preparing experiments that will benefit us all here on
the Earth by providing new techniques, new technology, new ideas,
basic research fundamental to our progress, and fundamental to our
Inside the International
Space Station we'll be trying to tame an environment that we didn't
evolve to live in, called microgravity. We humans have evolved to
live under the normal gravity of the Earth. When we are in space
or traveling a long distance to other places and we sure want
to do that one day we have to be able to function in an environment
which has quite a lot of effect physiologically, biologically on
our body. We have to study that for long periods, if we want to
undertake long-period voyages to other planets like Mars.
Inside the International
Space Station, we'll be able to see our planet on a large scale,
but also over long periods of time, do time series of photo documentation
of our environment and how we conduct business right here on the
Earth. And when we look at the way we've grown in population, certainly
in the last few centuries, we're now over almost six billion people
on this Earth. That's a lot of people who live, produce waste, use
resources. We are changing the face of this planet and we've done
more so in the last 150 years than we have ever done it throughout
our history. Basically, in our minds, we've been conducting an uncontrolled
experiment on our environment. We're not so sure what the impact
will be down the road.
We need to continue observing
and monitoring this very closely. It is our survival; the Earth
is our only spaceship. At the moment, it's the only place we have
to live. We can't live anywhere else. Even onboard the International
Space Station we've got to bring everything with us our water,
our food, our air supply and everything else to protect us against
that hostile environment. And that's another of the aspects we do
inside International Space Station.
Then when it comes down
to why do we need to go further? Why do we need to explore? Well,
this has been part of our past, it's part of our present and it'll
be part of our future. If we don't do it today, we'll do it tomorrow
because it's part of progress; it's part of our future.
Very good. That's all.