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STS-98: Home | The Crew | Cargo | Timeline | EVA

Preflight Interview: Kenneth Cockrell

The STS-98 Crew Interviews with Kenneth Cockrell, Commander.

Q: Ken, why did you want to become an astronaut in the first place?

A. Oh, that goes back a few years. I was not one of these guys that wanted to be an astronaut when I was a little kid. I wanted to be a pilot from as long as I can remember. I think, around age 5, my parents tell me, is when I started focusing my eyes and attention on everything that flew. And so, I pursued that goal from childhood, really, and became a Navy pilot through a circuitous route - I won't go into all the details - but eventually ended up joining up with the Navy and learning to fly with the Navy, and being a single-seat airplane jet pilot on aircraft carriers, which was what I did most of my time in the Navy. I think my official record says something like six years at sea flying jets off of carriers. My attention turned to NASA and to the astronaut program when the space shuttle started being generated. I had watched with a lot of interest all of the missions that happened before that: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab. But, I think I had the mistaken impression that because there were no wings on those spacecraft that they weren't being flown. I was wrong. Especially starting with Gemini, we flew amazing feats, did some amazing piloting feats, which I didn't learn about until later. But when, when the visual effect of having a rocket with wings on it struck me, that's when I thought, "Well, there's something else in the piloting world that would be great." So, I started trying. That was back in 1978.

You weren't selected your first time you applied, -


- I take it.

In fact, I think I'm tied for the record for the number of times applying and to get the job. I first applied in 1979 and was interviewed in '79 for the '80 class. Didn't make it. Didn't get an interview for '84. Was interviewed in '85. Was interviewed in '87. And was interviewed in '90, and that's when I was selected.

Do you consider perseverance to be one of your strongest character traits?

Well, I think it worked this time.

As you look back over all of that time - as an astronaut, in the Navy, before that - are there certain people who you think are or were the most significant influences in your life? Can you tell us why?

Sure. Well, there are a couple of people that have resurfaced here at NASA actually. A man that I worked for in my first Navy squadron is Dave Finney, and he is now the Deputy Director of Aircraft Ops out at Ellington. And, he had a great work, work ethic and just a great sense of humor -- a way of working and getting the job done very professionally but enjoying himself while he did it. And I took note of that. And then, there was another guy who later became an astronaut, and essentially, I sort of followed in his footsteps. And, his name is Steve Oswald. And he and I both got out of the Navy about the same time. He came to work at Aircraft Ops a couple of years before me. After he worked there for six months or a year, he was hired into the Astronaut Office. And then he was instrumental in helping me get the job at Aircraft Ops from which I was hired into the Astronaut Office. So, I appreciate him because he looked back at this guy that was sort of following him and took care of me and remained a very good friend throughout all of this and sort of smoothed the way for me to make the transition from Navy life to civilian/NASA life and then on into the Astronaut Office. And then, as it turned out, we flew together on my first flight.

You're not the only member of your crew who worked at other jobs in NASA before becoming an astronaut.

True. As a matter of fact, we're calling this "the AOD flight." Aircraft Ops Division was the employer of Marsha, starting way before I got here until she was hired an astronaut in '84. And they employed me from '87 to '90 when I was hired. And they employed Mark Polansky; both of us as research pilots and instructor pilots. And he was hired in 1996 and, I think, employed at Aircraft Ops from about '92 or '93 until '96. So, a lot of our pre-astronaut days' heritage is, indeed, here at NASA. So, the front three seaters - the commander, pilot and the MS-2 - are all from Aircraft Ops.

The three of you and your other crewmates have had quite a long time, much longer than most shuttle crews have had in the past, to train together for this mission. What's it been like to have that much time to prepare? And, has it been difficult for you all as your goal, the launch date, has moved away from you a few times?

Well, we kind of got used to that. It moved so frequently at the beginning, and I wish I could say that it helped us to be assigned that long. And it did help in several ways. One, we got to be a crew together for a long period of time, which is a good thing. And we all like each other, and we're having a great time. And so, that was good. Unfortunately, the shuttle and the station programs aren't really ready to deal with the next flight until it's time to deal with the next flight. So, we had a lot of things we could do that were sort of on the personal level that, developing our own skills. Marsha worked hard on the Remote Manipulator System. And I was her backup; worked hard on that, too, got my basic training at it. The EVA guys got the basic skills done for the tasks that they thought would be there, but some of the details of those tasks just weren't forthcoming until the last year before we actually flew. And then, finally, the real crunch has come about four months prior to launch. A couple of months ago, when the final loads of our software - almost final loads - the final releases of the Flight Data File - the paperwork, the checklist for the flight; we hope they're the final releases - they've all starting descending upon us. And then, also, the final preparation in the simulator doesn't really get going until somewhere around five months. So, you can have five years of assignment, if you want to. It's not going to help in the end. It's going to help a little bit in terms of personal preparation, but in the end, it's still going to be a crunch, and you'll still end up working the long weeks, as we have been.

Let's turn our attention to what you have been training for. But if I could get you to start by summarizing the goals of STS-98, what is this mission going to do? And what's the significance of the hardware that you are bringing to the International Space Station?

The simple answer is: We're going to attach the U.S. Laboratory to the space station. But it turns out there're a lot more details that go with it to accomplish that simple answer. Let me answer the last part of your question first in that the Lab, of course, is a laboratory. When we bring it up, it won't have any science going on in it because the shuttle is just barely able to lift it with five of the systems racks that are used to provide the good environment for people to be inside it. Subsequent flights will bring up the rest of the racks. So, the Lab not only will provide science, although it doesn't yet - we provide everything that's needed to put the science experiment racks in it later - it also provides the environment control for the Laboratory as well as Node 1. It will purify the air, circulate the air, and keep the equipment cool and the people cool. And it has fans that circulate the purified Lab air through Node 1, and it essentially acts as a surrogate or a separate piece of the Lab that is run off the Lab systems. So far I've mentioned the science application and the housekeeping application of providing an environment that people can live in. And then finally, the Lab contains the computers - called the MDMs, Multiplexer-Demultiplexers. We should just call them computers; that's what they are - that provide for the control and operation of the entire space station. They provide the control of the Control Moment Gyros -- the spinning gyros that are up on the Z1 Truss that will eventually be attitude control for the station. And we also have computers that assess the orientation of the station through Global Positioning System - GPS -- and provide that information to the attitude control system. So, the Lab becomes much more than a lab. It becomes the nerve center for the space station; much like the base block was for Mir. It was a place of science, but it was also the control center of the Mir space station. That's what the Lab is for this station.

Can you explain to us what the importance is of being able to operate these Control Moment Gyroscopes? What additional capacity does that give the station?

Well, they're the smart way to control attitude on orbit because they don't take any fuel. They just take a little electrical power, and that we get from the Sun. They also are very smooth and provide very gentle inputs to attitude control. So, we can control attitude to such a degree that there's no disturbance from thruster firings or any bumps to the cabin because of the firing of thrusters that would upset the science that demands a very smooth micro-gravity environment. So, the Control Moment Gyros give you the ability to basically keep everything straight, but without kicking it.

And in what I guess is a related aspect to it: There are computers inside this Laboratory that are going to be able to talk to computers in the Zvezda module for overall control of the station. Is that a very complex setup? Most people see computers talk to other computers at work. Is that the same kind of thing we're dealing with?

I think it's even a simpler setup -- designed to be simple so it's a little more robust or harder to break because there's not so many things to break. But basically, they talk to each other in order to provide the ability to hand over to the Russians in case we have difficulties with the Control Moment Gyros. And there are cases that will be routine where the Control Moment Gyros have to maneuver themselves in order to keep the station straight. And eventually, they maneuver themselves into a corner, and that corner is called "being saturated." So, at some point, you have to say, "Okay, science equipment, hang on. Put a stopper in whatever you got going, and we're going to fire the Russian thrusters in order to hold attitude while you just physically spin the Control Moment Gyros back to a neutral position." So, as you spin them back, they would try to move the station, and you hold the station from moving with the thrusters. That's called "desaturating the CMGs," the Control Moment Gyros. And that will have to be done periodically. But, those periods are meant to be long; I think, a period of many, many days; maybe 60 or 90 days. I can't remember what the spec says, but there's a specification that says, "The CMGs must be able to hold attitude without having to use thrusters for a long period of time so that science has the ability to progress."

I think that many people understand, but to make sure that we haven't passed over it, some of that commanding that you just referred to that will be possible as a result of the addition of Destiny is commanding that's coming from Mission Control in Houston. The addition of this hardware offers that new capability to the station as well.

That's correct. Up until the time the Lab is activated and all the computers are working and the Control Moment Gyros are working, The Russians have full responsibility for maintaining attitude and maintaining an overall view of the health of the space station. So, right now, control of the space station is out of Moscow. When the Lab goes up there, primary control will shift to Houston. And of course, Moscow is there, as we are now, to back us up if we have equipment or communication failures. And they're there to deal with any problems that are specific to one of their modules or to one of their systems. But with the addition of the Lab, the beginning of the way things will be for the life of the station will occur. Mission Control Houston will be in charge, and Mission Control Moscow will be supporting, primarily, and ready to take charge as required.

Of course, by virtue -- no matter of all the other aspects of this piece of hardware that we've discussed -- it is a laboratory, and a large portion of it is devoted to the science work. Can you talk a little bit about the philosophy of the science that they planned to conduct on board the space station inside this module? What kind of things can be learned?

Well, I'll give you the flip answer in that I have no idea what is manifested because we're concentrating so hard on our portion of getting the Lab up to station and activated, which is the operational side of the Lab; Getting it ready to take over control of the station. I think, primarily inside the Laboratory, there are sort of two categories experiments that can go on. One is the kind of experiment that performs best or you learn the most when you remove gravity from the equation. And those, typically in the past have been things like protein crystal growth or other kinds of crystal growth. A lot of medical research where you can watch what happens to an enzyme or to a drug or to a chemical composition without the constraint of gravity so that maybe you can come to understand what the core reason that things work the way they work are and maybe make some breakthroughs. We also have an optical quality window in the Lab, and there are a few experiments that are designed to bolt to the window frame and make observations of the atmosphere and the Earth. The window points downward. So, I guess the Lab is not suited, in itself, for astronomical-type observations since everything that can look out is looking downward, and that will come later with the cupola.

There's a big step in the success of this flight that will be the successful joining of Atlantis to ISS. And you will be at the commands of the space shuttle in order to accomplish that.


If you could, talk us through that event. What happens on rendezvous day? And describe some of the big mileposts for you as you stand at the aft flight deck and try to bring these two together.

We generally plan to have rendezvous day on the third day -- the second time we wake up on orbit. We do that so that everybody's sort of adjusted to zero-g and feels good. We also have such a mess in our middeck with all the things that we'll be transferring over to Shep and his crew that we need a day to get the middeck straightened out so that we will be ready to transfer those things; get everything organized, lined up at the hatch, ready to pass over to him once we get docked. But when we launch, if we launch on January 18th at the opening of our window, we'll be about, I believe, it's 306 degrees behind the station, which means almost a full revolution of the Earth behind it, which means we're a little bit in front of it. We'll launch and we'll end up in front of the station. We'll have to go almost a complete lap to catch up with it. So, we'll be flying in a lower orbit, which goes around the Earth faster, and catching up at a pretty rapid rate. Because of the amount of phase angle, the degrees that we have to catch up, we'll be catching up very quickly. So, the first thing, there'll be several burns that happen in the day before rendezvous that will gradually tweak our orbit so that the catch-up rate is just right for our wakeup on the third day. When we wake up, we'll do a fairly large OMS burn -- Orbital Maneuvering System engine burn -- that will slow that catch-up rate to something controllable and will target us to reach a point 48,000 feet behind the station, a point where we make the one last major burn that drives us in to rendezvous with the station. So, as soon as we wake up on rendezvous day, we'll be busy setting up the orbit correction burn, this first OMS burn. And then, our Targeted Insertion Burn -- the TI burn -- which is the one that happens about 6 or 8 miles behind station, 48,000 feet, that's another OMS burn. It's smaller than the other one, so we'll use a single engine. And that happens after working through a checklist of activities that takes about three hours to get to that point. We make that burn, and then we're on one more. This final burn changes our orbit from an elliptical orbit to one that's more circular and more closely matches what the station is in. And it all matches up just as we approach a point about 600 feet below the station, directly below it on the radius between the station and the center of the Earth. And we'll stay on that radius -- the R-bar -- for the rest of the time, and that's when the manual flying takes over, a little bit before that. But that's when it becomes more interesting because we have the Lab back in the back of our payload bay and the station is flying Node 1 first and we're flying nose first. At some point - we're going around the world this way - we have to turn around so that there's room for the Lab to come out of the payload bay and be attached to the station. It's called the tail forward maneuver. And when I was first presented with this, looking at this flight I thought, "Okay, tail forward maneuver. Put in some control inputs and the orbiter swings around." It turns out, it's a little more of a art than it is of a science, and it's taken a lot of practice for us to begin the tail forward maneuver so that we come out of it at the appropriate place and don't require a lot of thruster firings that waste fuel. And so, if there's a point you want to key into the rendezvous and note our response to something we've done, that would be one of them. Because it can either go well or it can go bad. It won't ruin the rendezvous. But, if it goes badly, we may not have as much fuel as we'd like to do the fly-around after we finish docking.

So, you've now swung around at about a distance…

We start at 600 feet, the tail forward maneuver. It's supposed to be finished by 360 feet to avoid impinging thruster firings on the space station itself. And then from that point on, we drive in to 170 feet. If there's any timing we need to do to make the docking occur at a specific point over the Earth, then we wait at 170 feet to make that timing come true. From there, we drive in to 30 feet. And at 30 feet, we zoom the camera that's looking at the station right up through our docking adapter; zoom it all the way in, look at the target, do what's called "read the target" and determine whether there's any error in pitch, yaw or roll of the station. And if there is, we just by visually using a little scale and ruler measure how much error there is, apply it to a formula, put it into the autopilot in the shuttle that will adjust the way we're pointed so that we can then manually fly it on up to the station. That happens at 30 feet. Once the pointing is done and then when the timer counts down to the right amount if we're trying to hit a specific spot over the Earth at docking time, we push on in. And just from then on, it's just trying to keep your 200,000-pound vehicle lined up with that 2 or 300,000-pound vehicle to an accuracy of about 3 inches. We need to be no less, no more than 3 inches off in our position. And then that will engage, allow the petals that are on the station and the petals on us to lock together and slide smoothly together and then capture each other.

Brent Jett, who's flying the same kind of rendezvous profile as you are, described the fact that the centers of gravity of the two vehicles are not really in line; that there's like an overlap. How does that make this particularly different for you and to make the approach?

Well, I think realistically we have to be ready for a failed capture. Because with the station c.g. off the nose of the shuttle and the shuttle c.g. -- center of gravity -- at the other side; here's the station c.g. over here and here's the shuttle c.g. here, and the point of contact's sort of toward the nose of each one of them. When we hit like this and we will drive ourselves into a fairly firm contact, then the station will have a natural tendency to bend this way, and we'll have a natural tendency to bend this way. And they'll put a little bit of a torque on the docking system. The engineering analysis that's been done says it should work. And so, I'm expecting it to; but I'm expecting also to see quite a bit of dynamic interplay between the two vehicles for a couple of minutes after we make the contact. It'll be almost the same for Brent. In fact, the station c.g. will be a little bit further aft for him because once he adds P6 to it, that'll move the weight a little bit towards the shuttle, and it'll help us. So, we'll be watching the docking of 4A really closely.

A short time after the docking occurs is when it is scheduled for the hatches on both sides of the PMA to open and for the two crews to go to work together. Talk a little bit about what it is that's scheduled for those first couple of hours that your two vessels are together on orbit.

We only spend a couple of hours with the hatch open, then we close it right away. And what will happen is we'll, of course, have a nice greeting with Shep and I'm sure they'll be happy to see us because we'll have some fresh food and some gifts and maybe some chocolate, or whatever they'd like, we'll be bringing to them. And then, we'll get straight to work transferring things. Recently our flight has had added to it a lot of food that will be transferred, because one of the Progress flights has been shifted and won't be going at the time that we thought. So, we'll have a bunch of containers of their pantry that we'll be delivering. Marsha has organized in a very organized way; the tools and the equipment and the pieces that will be needed to do the physical outfitting of the Lab all packed into individual bags so that each bag is sufficient for an entire task. And she'll be handing all those bags over with instructions for Shep to line them up in the Node, ready to go into the Lab two days later when we start doing Lab outfitting -- the physical outfitting of it inside. But then, we'll close the hatch after we do this initial bit of transfer, clean up our middeck a little bit, we'll close the hatch. Because it'll be time for us to depressurize to 10.2 p.s.i., and that's to prepare the EVA guys for the first EVA the next day.

It's the day that the Destiny Lab is to be attached to the station, with work both outside and the inside.

A big coordinated effort.

What are the steps? Tell us what you'll be seeing, and what you'll be doing, during that day while Bob Curbeam and Tom Jones are outside and the Lab is being mated to the Node.

Right. It is a very coordinated operation. And, there are a lot of things that have to happen before the next thing can happen, and it starts right at the beginning. One of the details that I just glossed over when I said we'll attach the Lab is that we have to remove PMA 2, which has been resting on the front of Node 1 since it was built -- since before it was launched on STS-88, which has been a couple of years now. We hope it comes off; it's been there a long time. So we have to remove PMA 2, and we don't even want the EVA guys to come out of the airlock until we've successfully unbolted PMA 2, using computer commands from the shuttle and pulled it away from the Node. And then, we're going to allow the guys to open the hatch and start their work. Tom will immediately, as soon as he gets his tools together, head up to the interface of the Z1 Truss and where the PMA is going to be stored temporarily. We have this temporary storage location for PMA 2 that just puts it up out of the way for a couple of days. And, it's sort of a poor man's version of the Common Berthing Mechanism. It's one that's driven by the power tool that the EVA guy carries. So, Marsha will take PMA 2 off from Node 1, move it up higher to the Z1 Truss, move it to within range of where some latches can capture it, and then Tom will put his Pistol-Grip Tool -- the power tool; basically, a motorized wrench -- and squeeze the trigger, and that will spin a mechanism inside the latch and cause it to latch on to the PMA and trap it to Z1. Once it's latched down, then Marsha can let go of the arm; and then her job really begins. She drives the arm over to grapple the Lab in the payload bay. At this point, I'm backing her up doing the R2 functions. She's R1, for RMS operator number 1. I'm R2. And that means I make inputs to computer displays to condition the arm and to put the right parameters assigned to it so that it works properly. She goes over and grapples the Lab. I release the retention latches that have held the Lab into the payload bay. And then she'll pull it up out of the payload bay and flip it over, and then line it up with the Node and berth it. And what I just said there will take probably about an hour and a half. The Lab weighs almost 31,000 pounds, and the arm is not very strong. In fact, it can't even hold its own weight in 1-G; so, we have to move very slowly to overcome the inertia of the Lab. It takes a long time.

As you said, if one were to look at the dock configuration on this mission, it is almost as if the Lab could simply be lifted up and attached. It's right below where it needs to go, but it's not in the right orientation.

Correct. And we puzzled over that question for a while in the first few months of our assignment and actually asked the question. And I guess, we didn't ask the right people, because no one knew why the Lab flew uphill, upside down in the payload bay. They said, "Well, we think it's because of center of gravity concerns for the shuttle." And maybe that's true. But there's a much more clever answer, and somebody was very smart when they figured this out. But, when the Lab is finally attached, it has to have some strong structure and a mounting pole at the top to which will be attached the entire truss that holds the space station solar arrays in the final configuration. That truss won't be there when we get there because the Lab's not there yet. And that piece of structure would be… Well, let me back up. That piece of structure's needed to hold the truss. When the Lab launches, another piece of structure is needed to hold it rigidly mounted to the keel, to the bottom of the payload bay of the shuttle. Somebody, some engineer must have had the bright idea that if we use the same structure for both, it will save weight, and it'll be a very efficient, elegant solution to the two pieces of structure. So, that's exactly what we did. The keel pin on the shuttle - which is a big, about a 4-inch diameter piece of stainless steel that mounts down into a fitting in the bottom of the payload bay and holds the Lab from rotating or swinging or moving fore and aft during launch loads - is the same piece of structure that is used to attach the large truss that holds the solar arrays. Before the truss comes, it's also used in flight 6A, when the space station robot arm is brought up. It's brought up on a pallet, and that pallet is mounted to that same keel pin; and then the arm walks itself off and grabs the grapple fixture that it uses later. So, it actually has two functions; three, counting the one for launch. So, that's the reason for the flip.

But we get ahead of our story. Let's tail back to the space walk. You have told us that Marsha Ivins has grappled the Lab, has turned it around and now is bringing it in to where it's to be mated. Pick up the story there.

Okay. Well, we have an even tighter tolerance to the berthing operation than we did with the docking operation to station. We're allowed no more than 2 inches of lateral clearance or lateral offset. And the roll angle is even more critical; it can't be any more than about 2 degrees we think. That's what we're shooting for anyway, to give everything the best chance of working. So, to do this accurately -- and this is something we can't see visually because when we're docked; we're staring out the back windows to PMA 2… 3, I'm sorry, the thing we're docked to - and over our overhead windows is the Node. So, all the windows that can look towards anything we're doing on station are blocked. So, everything we do is by cameras. And, if you use a camera to look off to the side and sort of judge when something's perfectly lined up, you'll fail. Especially if the lineup has to be as tight as this one does. So, we have a couple of systems. The one we plan to primarily use is a camera that Shep will have installed in the hatch window of the Node 1 forward hatch. And it'll look straight out towards the orbiter tail. And when we lift the Lab up, flip it around, it'll be looking at a target that we have already installed on the aft hatch of the Lab. We use the hatch window as a reflector. And we have some markings attached around the reflector to keep ourselves centered. And using just that, she could bring the Lab in to position, and it will be accurate enough to get us to a berthing condition. To back that up, in case the centerline camera fails, we'll also use the Canadian Space Vision System, which has been used successfully on flights before this. And using the measles that are all over the Node and the Lab - the SVS targets, the little black dots on a light background - the SVS computers will compute a solution and tell us when we're lined up. And the way that shows up is a series of numbers that Marsha just tries to keep at zero. Pitch, roll, yaw, and Y and Z. And then, she gradually brings the X number down to zero. So, I think we have accuracy coming out of our ears for berthing the Lab and backup to backup. So, I think we've got ourselves covered for the case we'll find ourselves in, which is we can't look directly at the Lab.

Let's move on to the following day. That's the day that your crew and the space station crew both are going to be working inside Destiny to activate it and to outfit it. And I know that one of your jobs on that first day is to monitor operations of the Control Moment Gyroscopes as they get started. Talk us again through the schedule for that very busy day, the first day inside Destiny.

Well, the first day, we may get to the point of spinning the Control Moment Gyros. But, we won't do the test yet. The first day is even more basic. We have to make a couple of cable connections that are inside - and Shep's crew should take care of this the night before - that allows us to communicate with the Lab. And we will have activated it remotely using our laptop station controllers the night before, right after EVA 1. Then, what's remaining the next day is certain things inside the Lab are launched in one configuration and they have to be put into another configuration for use. And there's just a list of those; and we've got it into a little what we're calling a "job jar." And, as I mentioned earlier, Marsha will have a bag that will have all the tools and equipment to do each of those jobs. And Shep will not have seen the Lab very recently. It will be several months since he's had a chance to see the Lab by the time we get there. So, we intend to be the ones that give him sort of the on-the-job training for these tasks and then equip him to do that. There'll be further follow-on tasks when more racks and more systems come up to the Lab on later flights.

A couple of times we've used the word "rack." And I want to get you to expand on that a little bit. This is like a plug-in module that allows the Lab to be used for different things?

Sure. There're 24 rack spaces, places where racks can go. And we're only taking up five on our flight; again, because it would be too heavy to take up more. Six more of them come on 5A.1 and eventually all 24 will be filled, I guess, except for one hole, which is where the window is. And a rack is something that's about the size of a refrigerator -- a small household refrigerator; a stand-up type. It is made of composite carbon fiber; very high-tech construction to make it light and strong and stiff. And, as you mentioned, it's a plug-in-type thing. It mechanically hooks to a fitting on one side of a wall, and then, it rotates to the next fitting, and it's held there mechanically. And then at the bottom of the rack, there are plug-ins to cooling water, either moderate-temperature or a low-temperature loop; there're two cooling water loops inside the Lab. Fresh air, as required for fans in that rack to fit, it needs air circulation. And vacuum lines, both to evacuate effluents from an experiment or just to apply a more pure vacuum to an experiment. And then, electrical power and data connections are all made at the bottom of this rack. So, at these various locations that are set up for science or other kinds of equipment racks, there're plugs. And when you physically mount a rack there, then you go along and make the connections that it needs.

And this is some of what you guys will be doing on that first day in the Lab.

One of the systems racks, the Air Revitalization system rack -- the AR rack -- will launch in a location which is good for the center of gravity of the Lab while it's in the payload bay, but it's in the wrong spot for use. So, we unplug it from that location, go through this complicated twisting, turning motion that we have written down on a piece of paper so we won't do it wrong and stick it in the proper location for the rack and then make those connections and then activate them.

There's more equipment to be installed on the Lab during the second space walk of the mission, starting with that Pressurized Mating Adapter that you had left up on Z1.


Let's go through the second EVA as you did the first and point out some of the highlights. And, also note what you will be doing during this time.

Well, basically, I'm a slave to everybody else. As the commander, I've tried not to make myself be in the critical path for any operation that I didn't have to be. And that is true for most everything, although I'm prime for activating the Lab using the laptop PCs. So, that's one place where I wasn't able to do that. But I'm basically watching what Marsha does and watching what Mark Polansky does as he orchestrates the EVA. On the second EVA, the dependencies are reversed. We have to get Tom up there first before we can do anything. He has to come up and be ready to unlatch PMA 2 from the Z1. Marsha grapples PMA 2. Tom unlatches it. And then she takes it down to the end of the Lab and installs it on the leading edge of the front-end cone of the Lab. And PMA 2, on the front of the Lab, will be where the next several flights dock to. So, it's important that it gets installed there; otherwise, there's a break in the assembly process. When PMA 2 is attached to the forward end of the Lab, it's attached using the Common Berthing Mechanism, which is electric latches that pull it close together and then electrically powered bolts, 16 of them, that bolt it down. But because it's been in a different thermal condition up on Z1 than the front of the Lab has been, we will only partially bolt it down. We'll bolt it down tight enough to where she can let go of it with the arm, but then it needs to sit there and wait 12 hours while the temperatures equalize on the two interfaces. And then we'll come back to it later and do the final torquing of those bolts. It depends on how smoothly that goes what else we get done on EVA 2. But I believe the next priority of task is to attach the Power Data Grapple Fixture, which is the standardized grapple fixture that the space station arm will use. And it goes on to a mechanical connection on the side of the Lab. We carry it up on the sidewall of the orbiter. It's too big to be inside. It's on the sidewall of the payload bay of the orbiter and it's bolted into place there. And I believe it's Tom that comes over and grabs the PDGF -- the payload, or the Power Data Grapple Fixture -- and soft docks it to the side of the Lab. And then he and Beamer together run the bolts that completely mechanically attach it to the Lab, and then there's several electrical power and data connections that are made. And all of this has to happen under some shields that they remove to get out of the way for that, and then re-install the shields back around the PDGF. So, that's an important one because on two flights later, when we bring the space station arm up, it'll sort of self-activate and come off of its pallet and go looking for that Power Data Grapple Fixture and attach itself to it. And the station arm is unique in that, once it attaches to a Power Data Grapple Fixture, that's as good as having it rigidly attached as a base, and the other end can now be the free end. And it can go find another Power Data Grapple Fixture, attach to it, let go of this one, and leapfrog itself to any location on the station. So, it's going to be really clever when this all works out. But for any of that to begin, the PDGF that we're carrying up has to be attached to the Lab. That'll happen on EVA 2.

You've got a day with some time off. And then there's a third space walk.

We don't…

And so…

We don't go into the station in between those two because we don't have enough nitrogen onboard to re-pressurize to the station pressure, open the hatch, and go in there and then depressurize to 10.2, which is where we need to do our EVA from. So, we'll just take our time on our side and the station crew will be on their side, and Shep can start enjoying the new space that we've brought him. The third one, we have a preplanned spare part that we're bringing up. It's a spare antenna electronics assembly; it's called SASA. It's the Space-to-Ground Antenna Spare Unit, or Spare Assembly. And we don't install it, we just mount it on to the Z1, ready to be installed if and when the SASA that's in place fails. So, it's considered a spare that's so critical that we need to have one sitting right there ready to go. It has to do with communication, so it's needed. Then, there's a number of outfitting things with a order of priority that we'll do to different fittings on the Lab. We'll put the shutter that goes over the window. There's a shutter that just is a big plate that covers it to protect it when it's not in use. And the shutter is run by a gearbox that passes through the structure of the Lab that's already in place; the pass-through part. And with a turn on the crank, the crew inside can open and close the shutter. So, it's sort of like a hurricane shutter that you'd see in a beach house in Galveston, but just one big plate. And then there's a couple of other vents and small pieces of equipment that need to be installed. They're lower priority. If we don't get them done, we can leave them to another crew. We'd like to not do that. And then there are some other things that will be considered get-ahead tasks for the next crew to come along that we'll, as time remains at the end of EVA 3, we'll do those.

After that third space walk is over, the hatches between the shuttle and the station are to open again.


What's scheduled then once all of you, the eight of you, get together again?

It's more of the same from Flight Day 5. This will be on Flight Day 9, I guess. We will finish out any outfitting. Having finished with all the station laptops on the shuttle side, we'll transfer those to Shep and anything that he needs brought back down that's not working, or whatever, we'll transfer into the shuttle. And then, we'll pick up the trash. They will take out the trash to the Node, and we'll load it onto the shuttle and, and bring it home on the middeck. Not a very appetizing thought, but one that is going to be necessary for most shuttle flights. Again, because it's not flying when we thought it would be. Normally, most of the trash would be put in the Progress; no people would have to deal with it, and it would just be burned up on entry on the way back in. But, we'll do it this way this time.

We have many talents that you are going to put to use.

Right. I guess.

The day after that is the day that you all are to say your final goodbyes and to leave. Tell us about the undocking and the plans for flying around the station and getting a look at what you've just delivered.

Right. Well, throughout the whole mission, and especially during the EVAs, we will be doing photo documentation of everything that we do, including details of bolts or of latches or of anything that may give trouble in the future. We want to get a closeout photo that shows how we left it. Basically to show that it wasn't our fault, and we'll do that with a couple of methods. Both the EVA guys will carry Nikon cameras that are certified for use outside. And, by the way, they were flown for the first time on 3A and came back with some really stunning photographs, not only of work-site and closeout photos but also panoramic views of the Earth and the shuttle. And they were just really beautiful. So, we're pleased with the way the camera's performing. Our EVA guys will be doing the second flight of the Wireless Video System, which is a helmet cam on each EVA helmet. And so, just like the football games now, we can watch what's going on from one person's helmet's perspective. And we'll have the feed from those two video cameras always into the cockpit. And when there's something we need to record for posterity or for close-out documentation reasons, Mark Polansky, the orchestrator of EVAs, will hit record on a couple of recorders. And then the fly-around is, as you mentioned, for the big picture look of the station. And it's something that we can pass on to the next crew to say, "This is what it's going to look like. This is how big it looks. This is how well the radar tracked it." And the radar is going to start tracking this station worse and worse. The bigger it gets, the noisier it is; the harder it is for a radar to figure out what part of it it wants to track. And it sort of gets confused. So, we'll track it with radar and we'll fly around it, and we'll take photographs. Mark gets to do this part. It gives him a little hands-on experience with the shuttle, and for the time when he's a commander, it will serve him well when he's the one doing the docking. Basically, we tell the docking system to let go. And when it lets go, we do it with a button push and we do it with a timer. When it lets go, there's some gentle springs that push the vehicles apart. And when we're clear, we make a couple of very small thruster firings that push us down on the radius away from the station. When we get about 400 feet away, then we do some more thruster firings just to fly us, and a loop around the station to get a picture of her from every angle. If we have enough fuel, we'll do two loops.

The addition of the Destiny Laboratory really moves the station into a new stage of its life. Can you tell me what are your thoughts about the significance of the now more rapid expansion of this complex and how the components from the various countries are coming together to be one international station?

Well, I try not to dwell too much on the specific significance for our flight because it's going to be overshadowed by the significance of the next flight. And they're all important, and each flight is critical to the next flight. And so, the thing that I think of as we do our task is everything set for Wetherbee? He's the commander of the next flight. Will it be how he needs it to be so that his flight can be successful? And in a way, his flight is crucial, too, in that he brings up the second crew. I mean, it has its own crucial portions, which are no less crucial than what we're doing. I think the one thing that does weigh on me a little bit is that getting the Lab attached and activated successfully is required before we can get it to the configuration that we desire to be in with Mission Control -- with Houston prime and Moscow secondary. So, that has to go right. But then, everything else does, too, or the assembly sequence breaks.

You don't want that to happen.

No. That would make me look pretty bad. So, we don't want that to happen.

Image: Kenneth Cockrell
Click on the image to hear Commander Kenneth Cockrell's greeting (WAV file 344 Kb).
Crew Interviews

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 04/07/2002
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