Interview: Marsha Ivins
STS-98 Crew Interviews with Marsha Ivins, Mission Specialist.
Marsha, before we talk about the details of the mission, let me ask you
a couple of questions about you. Why is it that you wanted to
become an astronaut?
A. It's a
most often asked question, and here's the most often received
answer, which is true for me. When I was 10 years old was when
Alan Shepard made the first flight in the American space program.
And we got to stop school, and we got to stay up late at night,
and we got to watch all of that stuff. And it captured my imagination.
And, since then, I wanted to do it. Now, wanting to do it and
getting to do it are, of course, different things. But that's
what I wanted to do since I was 10 years old.
did you get to where you could do it? What were the steps in your
academic career and your work career that got you qualified to
steps I took. I looked at what astronauts were at the time, and
they were men. And I decided I was not going to let that be a
problem at the time. The next thing they were was military test
pilots. And that was, at my ripe old age, not an option. And so,
I went on to the next thing. And they were engineers. Well, that
was an option. So, I went to college and got an engineering degree
for no other reason than that seems to be what the path at the
time was. And, after I graduated from college, I applied to NASA,
saying, "I'm ready. Here I am." And that was back in
1973, 1974, and no one was getting jobs doing anything, even at
NASA. Ultimately I was hired at NASA as an engineer and worked
for 10 years as an engineer at NASA, applying three times to the
space shuttle astronaut program before I was selected.
let's talk about the details of what it is that you're going to
do on this mission. If I could get you to start by summarizing
for us the goals of STS-98 - what is this mission going to do?
What's the significance of what you are bringing to ISS?
goal on this mission is to bring up the U.S. Laboratory module
and successfully attach it to the space station. That's the big
in the payload is rather unusual. It must be awfully important.
What's the significance of this new component of the station?
of the U.S. Lab to the space station allows control of the station
to be given to the U.S. and through the Lab and through its commanding
system, and that is significant. It also adds a huge amount of
volume to the total station and provides the platform for the
near-term science that will be done on the station. We bring up,
for the most part, an empty Lab. We bring 5 of the 24 racks that
it can hold, and then 5A.1 and 6A, the two flights that follow
ours, fill out the Lab with the additional racks that allows it
to come full up to its science capability.
as you say, at the time you deliver it, it will have the hardware
and some systems that are necessary to allow control of the entire
Yes. It allows
control. What we are bringing are basic systems modules in there.
We are not bringing any scientific modules. We bring the things
that allow it to do cooling and allow it power and allow thermal
condition and things like that. And so, we don't provide any of
the science, and we don't start any of the science. We bring the
basic structure, and we plug it in, and we leave it for the crew.
of completing that is, I know, more-
it's certainly more detailed than a plug and play. And you have
got a big part to play in that. I'd like to take you through it
in chronological order and talk about what's going to happen.
And the first big step is to bring the space shuttle and the space
station together on orbit. Tell us about what's involved in the
rendezvous and docking day, and about what your part is as part
of the team on the shuttle will be.
Well, I have
a small part in this. I don't get to drive like the pilots do.
But, unlike what you see in movies and what you see on television,
you don't launch and immediately dock to the space station. We
spend 2 days catching up by changing our orbits a little bit at
a time until we're in a position where we can maneuver relative
to the space station and join the shuttle and the space station
together. And it's done the same way that we've done it with all
the Mir flights. My job during that time is, basically to stay
out of the way in some parts. I operate the handheld laser. There
is one crewmember on each flight who operates a laser. And it's
the same device that the policemen use to see how fast you're
exceeding the speed limit. And so we use this and point outside
the window at the station. And I can tell the range and the range
rate. Now, we have a system in the cargo bay that's a laser-operated
system that feeds directly into our displays on board that's doing
this automatically. But, if that system fails, the pilots need
to know the range and the range rate. How close, how fast you're
approaching, or slowly you're [approaching], or whether you're
approaching. And so, I'm the backup to that. So, we take laser
marks from about 1,000 feet on in, and I'm the one that does that.
In between taking laser marks, I'll be taking pictures. So, all
those cool pictures that you see - hopefully, cool pictures -
will be ones that I am helping to take. And then, in the last
few seconds of the docking, I focus the camera for Taco so that
he can see that his docking target is in focus, and then I call
the distance down to inches as we finally dock. And then I get
out of the way.
As you said
that, it's the same type of mechanism the police use to find out
how fast you're going. You're really going to be finding out [how]
slow you're going, right?
It's a relative measure. So, what I'm looking at is what our closure
rate is on the station. So, hopefully it's in the order of tenths
of feet per second. I mean, not what you're doing on the road.
these two vessels are brought together on orbit, the hatches on
both sides of the Pressurized Mating Adapter are supposed to be
opened and the two crews do have some time to work together. What
is it that's scheduled for you all to be doing during those first
Not all of
these flights are the same when we do this task. We're lucky that
we do get to open the hatch the day we dock. That's not true of
all flights. But it is for us. We are carrying about 30 locker
bags-worth of transfer items, many of which are things that we
install once we get the Lab attached. We're bringing some food
and clothing for the crew. We're bringing hardware that they need.
And, it's filling up just about every molecule of space on our
middeck. So, we have arranged that, for this first hatch opening
time, we will transfer over there most of the stuff that we'll
need later the next day, after we've got the Lab attached. So,
besides saying hello and the hugging and the kissing that normally
happens and the presents that we bring them and, you know, things
from home and from their families, we will be clearing off our
middeck, which gives us the space to spread out and work the EVAs
for the next 6 days.
of those space walks comes the next day. Through all three of
these space walks, you're going to be at the control of Atlantis'
robot arm. I want to talk about the space walks one at a time.
And the first one features the big show, the mating of this module
you described earlier to the International Space Station. Talk
us through that, the schedule for that day. And as you do, would
you point out the way you plan to deal with the fact that, from
where you stand on the flight deck, you can't really see where
these two pieces of hardware are coming together.
When we attach
to the station, when you look out the aft window and the overhead
window of the flight deck, all you see is station. I mean, the
station is 6 feet out the window. So, unlike most flights where
there is a robotics operator who's manipulating a large structure
in the payload bay, we have no direct eye contact with the payload.
We can't see it at all. So, it's a blind task. I have to rely
on cameras that are distributed around the payload bay, and on
the end of the arm to do my job. And so, I don't get a great view
of all of this. So, that's the first scary part. Now, the first
thing that we have to do is we have to take the Pressurized Mating
Adapter, the PMA, off of the Node and temporarily stow it on the
truss so that we can put the Lab there. Those PMAs are like little
pop beads in a Tinkertoy kind of thing. They're the things that
the big parts attach to. So, we move them around as we do the
space station assembly. So, I go over with the arm, blind, and
attach on to this PMA that's on the Node. And that's relatively
simple. I have pretty good views, if all my payload bay cameras
are working. If they're not, it'll be a little dicier. Then the
next big thing that has to happen is the CBM controllers in the
CBMs have to work to allow us to unlatch this PMA from the Node.
And that will be a moment that, if we're successful, we'll be
very happy with that. So once I get that off, then I back this
away, back the PMA away from the Node and start moving it up,
straight up, to the truss. Now at that point, Tom and Beamer come
out of the airlock and they start getting their things set up.
And Tom climbs up to the truss, and now I've got the arm and the
PMA positioned, ready to go on this truss. And he literally says,
"Come on back." He's a "mom-back." He tells
me "Come on back, a little left, a little right, pitch a
little, yaw a little." And I have no visual cue of this at
all. There's no camera view that tells me anything. So, we've
practiced this quite a bit in the VR Lab - the Virtual Reality
Lab - so that he can tell if I'm pitched or rolled or yawed. And
when I get the PMA in the right place, he says, "Stop."
And I stop, and then he manually latches that. Then he tells me,
"It's latched." I take the arm off and I go down and
I get the Lab. Okay. So, that's pretty easy. I go down and I grab
the Lab. Then we unlatch the Lab. Now the Lab is about as wide
as the payload bay is. Now, we fly wide, long, heavy structures
before, and this one's got things that stick out on it: handrails
and whiff sockets and things that they need for EVA. So, I have
about an inch clearance between the bits that stick out of the
Lab and the payload bay. I have to set up my cameras so that I
can see as the Lab comes out of the bay because I can't see it
out the back window. So, we get all that set up and I tell the
guys outside, "Here it comes." And I'm going to pull
the Lab out of the bay. And I'm going to pull it out of the bay
at about a tenth of a foot per second. So, it will take 20 minutes
to get this thing out of the bay. Now when they built the Lab,
they put the trunnions on the Lab not at the centerline of it.
So, when I've cleared the guides that these trunnions sit in,
the fat part of the Lab is still in the bay. So, I keep coming
slowly and slowly. So, it'll be quite a while before I have actually
cleared the structure and then I can pick the rate up on this
thing and get it the 20 or so feet above the bay that it is. Then
I have to flip it 180 degrees. Now, as it turns out, there is
a keel pin on the bottom of the Lab that holds it into the payload
bay when we launch. I have to flip it over because a few flights
from ours they will attach something to that keel pin. So, we're
sort of utilizing structure in multiple ways. So, I have to flip
this thing over 180 degrees. In order to get the arm to do that,
there is a certain path it has to fly to do it, and it's taken
us about a year-and-a-half to figure out what that path is. So,
I got the path down. I can do that. So, we flip this thing over
and bring it down to the position of the Node. Now I have, hopefully,
working an additional camera that allows me a centerline view
of this. This is a camera that we've mounted in the Node and it's
looking at basically its reflection in the window on the end of
the hatch of the Lab. And then they've positioned a target around
that has reflective, retroreflective tape on that and I have an
overlay on my camera. And after 4A attaches an EVA cable that
allows us to go through the copper path, when the shuttle and
the station are attached, I should get a view of the camera in
the Node on my flight deck so that I can look right down the barrel
of the Lab and attach it. And I really hope that works. So, if
that works, I very slowly bring this Lab in to the Node at about
a tenth of a foot per second, and I still have no other direct
view of it. There are some debris shielding around both ends of
the, around the end of the Lab and the Node, that we've called
a stove pipe. And what that does is, it blocks my view of the
mating parts of the petals as they overlap, so I don't see this
at all. So, if that miracle happens and I get this all aligned,
we will get a display inside the flight deck that tells us we
have made four ready-to-latches. And this is the way all of the
assembly parts are done. We get the system that tells us, "You
have hit the right part in assembling these things." And
we will throw the latches, and we will drive the bolts, and I
will start to breathe again.
of points. The camera view you described coming from Unity, that
gives you a view of the Lab coming, in essence, toward your own
a camera that looks at its own reflection, like looking at your
reflection in a mirror. So, the camera has a ring of LED lights
around it. And what it's looking at, since hopefully the lights
aren't on in the Lab and it's dark in there, it's a piece of glass
that acts as a mirror. So, it reflects back the view of this camera
looking at it. And so, now I can tell very precisely, you know,
where I am relative to where I want to be.
Is the Space
Vision System not used?
Vision System is used. The Space Vision System uses cameras that
do not have a direct view, looking at the sets of dots, those
black-and-white, white-and-black targets that are on the PMA and
on the Lab. And so, you aim at the targets on the fixed structure,
which is the Node, and then you put the Lab in a certain position
and then you focus on the targets, that is the moving one, and
then it knows the fixed targets, the moving targets. It creates
for you a solution that tells you when these two are mated; this
is what the number should be. So, basically, what I get from the
Vision System is a set of digital numbers that tell me my goodness
in mating this, so how far off I am in roll, pitch, and yaw, X,
Y, and Z. And we use that, we plan to use that as a backup to
this direct view camera, which is truth. It's a visual truth.
For all the
science and all the things that you've described, it sounds as
though there's an awful lot of art involved in running that arm.
it's less art than real science and technique. And a lot of it
is dependent on all of the systems being up and working within
their specified tolerances. So, the thing that's very scary about
this is that, if the arm is working but it's slightly miscalibrated
or it's off a little bit, and if the cameras are off a little
bit, and if the rings are off a little bit, the stack up of these
tolerances could potentially get us into a position where it doesn't
work right. So, we hope they're all good.
good. The Lab's installed on the end of Unity. And it's then that
members of both crews are going to go to work to begin the activation
of the Destiny Laboratory. What are the steps in that process?
I believe it's that day and the next day when you actually get
to go inside the Lab.
have driven the latches and tightened the bolts and done all the
rest of that stuff, the guys are still outside making some connections.
And then, Taco and I start the process of preliminary Lab activation.
Now, this is before the hatches are even open. But, the connections
that the guys have made EVA will allow us to start powering up
the systems of the Lab, so we get the fluid flowing in the Lab.
Now the Lab is conditioned by being plugged in to the space shuttle
with a connector. So, it allows the lines to not freeze, because
it allows the cooling to keep them cool and keep everything nice
and warm. Well, once we unplug that so that we can pick it up
on the arm and flip it over, it's getting ready to freeze or it's
getting ready to be a bad temperature. So, the clock ticks from
the moment we start this to where we get it plugged in and we
can reinitiate their own cooling systems in there. So, that's
the first thing basically that we do. We don't open the door that
first day. Shep now has some jobs to do in the vestibule for some
outfitting to allow the pass-throughs from the Node, to allow
power to come down from the solar array, you know, through the
truss through Node and into the Lab. So that when we get ready
to turn things on, there's power there.
the day after the first EVA, when you all will go inside. What
jobs are involved for the, I guess, all eight of you inside the
Lab that day?
Lab has been launched with five racks in it, and they are all
systems racks. When we launch things, in order to protect them
against the launch loads, they have the launch bolts in them.
So, each rack has got between 20 and 30 launch bolts that we have
to remove. And that allows you to open the doors if you have to
access any of the hardware that's in the inside. So, one of the
tasks is to remove the launch bolts. For c.g. reasons, we have
launched the Air Revitalization system rack in one location. We've
got to move it 180 degrees over to the other side. So, we have
to un-attach it from where it is, pick up this huge rack, rotate
it over, and put it in another location. So, that's one thing.
We carry eight soft stowage racks with us. And, these things all
launch folded up, and one of our jobs will be to unfold them,
which provides Shep an enormous amount of closet space, which
up until this point he has not had. So, that's another thing we
do. There are some jumpers and cables and connections that we
have to make, things that have been tied down for launch that
we now have to cut the tie wraps on and take out the structure
that held the connectors in place and remove that and connect
the various racks. So, we're basically continuing to put it together
from the inside once we get it attached.
set up as if you just moved into a new place.
we deliver and install. You know, we don't operate.
day, you go back to operating the arm. It's the second space walk,
the day after that ingress, to do more work on the outside, starting
with that Pressurized Mating Adapter that you had linked-
-up on the
pop bead that we've left on the Z1 now has to go down to the end
of the Lab, because that is where the next number of flights will
dock. So, it's very important that we leave it down there. So,
again, I go over and grab it with the arm. And then Tom and Beamer
come out of the airlock, and Tom climbs back up to the truss again
and he manually unlatches it. And then he reverse "mom-backs"
me out of there. Basically, I back straight away. Again, I have
no direct view. I have almost no camera view of this. And he tells
me when I'm clear. When I'm clear of the truss structure, then
I drive that PMA straight down the back of the Lab and I have
to roll it around. I get to the end of the Lab, I drop it down.
Now, that camera that we used in the Node to give us a direct
view, this day that we've had in between these two EVAs, we've
taken it down to the end of the Lab and we've mounted it in the
hatch window of the Lab. And it's still connected to the same
cables that run it to my flight deck. The crew that just left
- the 3A crew - in this PMA that we took off, put in a target
on a big crossbeam in the fat part of it. And it's got a mirrored
surface on it with some retroreflectors on it. And now, because
the PMA has no hatch and it has no window, as I bring this PMA
down, the camera looking through the window of the Lab picks up
its own image in this reflective mirror on this beam on the PMA.
And, again, I have an overlay. And I look at my own reflection
in the mirror, and I look at the piece coming towards me, and
I centerline berth it because that's truth. SVS - the Space Vision
System - is again a player in this, and they are looking at the
fixed targets on the end of the bottom of the Lab and the moving
targets on the bottom of the PMA, and they are generating for
me a mathematical digital solution. But I'm looking at truth through
the window for that.
a number of other items to be done during that second space walk.
What else is on the agenda?
Well, I get
the PMA attached, and again we go through this, the CBM controllers
and the latching and once we've started the bolting, I can take
the arm off of that. Now, there are a couple other parts that
we carry in the payload bay, attached to the wall that Tom and
Beamer have to stick on the Lab now that we've got the Lab attached.
And one of them is a grapple fixture that allows the station robotic
arm to attach to the Lab, and then it can, you know, sort of leapfrog,
slinky itself from place to place. We don't do any of that. We
attach the fixture. So, I have to get Tom on the arm, Beamer on
the arm, depending on which task we're doing, and then drive them
over to where the part is on the payload bay. And they take it
off, and then I drive them under the Lab. Now, this is an interesting
task. This maneuvering a body on the end of the arm where I can't
see them through the aft window at all. So, I'm counting on my
payload bay cameras to give me clearance views of how I do this.
And I literally have to thread them between things and tuck them
around. Now, I have a good view of what they are doing. What I
don't have a good view of is the fact that the upper part of the
arm comes within inches of the Lab structure. So, it's not just
not knocking their head off on the seal of the station, or the
shuttle as I bring them in and not banging their EMU on to something.
But [I've] got to watch the whole arm as I do this. So, there
are some cases where I have to stop one guy from his task and
ask him to move over and watch the clearance on the arm. And either
the window cover or the PDGF, we know, those tasks, when I'm wrapped
all the way around the bottom of the arm, [I've] got to stop the
other guy and have him make sure I don't hit the Lab at some place
I'm not looking at.
third EVA on this mission, too. What's involved in that? And do
you have the same kinds of-
The arm is
always in a knot. No matter what we do, the arm is always in a
knot. We are delivering an ORU called the SASA, and we are delivering
it to a place where it could be used later. So, we don't install
it unless the one that's there has had a failure, in which case
one of our contingency jobs would be to install this. But, again,
it's on the side wall. Got to put somebody on the arm, get it
off the side wall, and then get it to where it's going up on the
truss. Now, it looks very simple when you do that. You could just,
you know, lift it up like that. But, if you look at doing as maneuvers
with your own arm, you'll find that there are some positions you,
you know, have to get into to do this. So, none of these positions
are straightforward. I give a guy a round-the-world tour in order
to get there in order to keep the joints from tying themselves
in a knot. So, we practiced this one a lot also. And then, after
that time, mostly I'm done with the arm. The arm and I will be
having a big Motrin at that point.
At the conclusion
of the third EVA, hatches between the shuttle and the station
are coming to open again for another day of joint operations,
at least according to the current schedule. What's on the agenda
for that period of time?
the agenda then is whatever we didn't get done the first day the
hatches were open. And that's the way we hope to run it. We have
a list of jobs that need to get done, bolts that need to be moved,
cables and connectors that need to be made, racks that need to
get opened up. If we're way ahead on the task, we could help Shep
sort of move some of the stuff that he's got accumulated on the
floor of the FGB and in the Node from previous flights, because
we brought him stuff but no closet, and put it away. I mean, if
we can help him get some stuff put away, that would be great.
day, you guys have done your job and it'll be time for you to
go. Talk us through the events of the undocking and flying around
and what kind of view are you expecting to be able to get of this
ever-expanding station as you guys back away?
you back away, the view you'll get is the end you backed away
from, you know. And that's the best you get. If we have the fly
around, if we're allowed to do the fly around, and that's based
on whatever consumables we have or have not consumed as far as
propellant and other things, if we have the opportunity to do
a fly around, this is when you get the view of all sides of the
space station. So, doing the fly around is not just Mark Polansky's
time to drive. You know, it's a big deal for him. It's our time
to actually photograph the station in its current form. You know,
some flights don't get the opportunity to do that. And so, they
don't have the opportunity to really take a great picture of the
whole station. So, I'm hoping we do get to do the fly around.
And the back away is pretty simple. You undo the latches, you
back away, you call it when it's clear, then the Pilot drives
out to so many feet, and then he just basically maintains that
distance from the station as he flies around it once or twice
or whatever we're allowed to do. Hopefully, we get good Sun angles
on things and I'll be snapping madly pictures so that we can show
everybody what it looked like when we left. Also, now that we
are not attached, we will finally have a view out the back window
of, you know, the world, which we haven't had for 6 days. So,
it'll be our first, the three of us who've been inside for all
this time, it'll be our first opportunity to really get a good
look at the station as it is.
of the assembly of the International Space Station has been accelerating
rapidly. And you are part of the crew that's bringing the largest
American component of the station to date, but one that's going
to allow the whole thing to begin to operate as one unique and
workable complex. What are your thoughts about getting to be a
part of this space shuttle mission?
I have been
fortunate in my career at NASA to have been given the opportunity
to go to space, period. So, any opportunity, to me, is…this
is why I will never win the lottery, you know. I've gotten to
go to space, hopefully now, five times. To be a part of the Phase
I Program, the Mir Program, to me was a bonus. And to be part
of a crew that does some assembly to the space station, which
for whatever anybody thinks about it, will be the most amazingly
large, massive undertaking we have to date tried in the world
in space, to be a part of that, again, I feel very fortunate to
have been a part of that. To be able to operate the robot arm
and to actually do this kind of a task is not one I have done
before, so I'm looking forward to being successful in doing that.
So I just feel very fortunate that I've been given this opportunity.