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Astronaut Candidates 2004
IMAGE:  2004 astronaut class at a preflight briefing
Prior to boarding a KC-135 reduced gravity aircraft the 2004 astronaut class receives a pre-flight briefing.
*Astronaut Candidates 2004 Imagery
*Stennis Space Center
*Marshall Space Flight Center

Astronaut Candidates 2004 - Training Journals

Journal #10
March 2005

As you may have noticed, we have not had a journal update in quite some time. We have been extremely busy. When we were accepted for the Astronaut Program, we all had expectations of what it would be like. However, it was hard to imagine how much time and energy would be required to go through the training process.

The past few months have been spent primarily in the classroom studying Space Shuttle systems. The training schedule has been broken up into tiers, much like quarters or grading periods. The majority of the first tier focused on overviews of the major Space Shuttle systems:

1) Main Propulsion System (what gets us off the ground)

2) Data Processing System (computers on board and connections to equipment)

3) Orbital Maneuvering System (engines used to get us into a specific orbit and to get us home from that orbit)

4) Reaction Control System (small jets that keep us pointed in the right direction)

5) Electrical Power System (we make power through the use of hydrogen and oxygen)

6) Auxiliary Power Unit/Hydraulic System (used to move the parts of the Space Shuttle that operate like a plane)

7) Communication System (radios, intercoms, closed-circuit TV, etc...)

8) Caution and Warning System (fire alarms, "equipment-not-working" alarms)

The goal is for us to have enough base knowledge in each system to become good operators, whether it is as a commander, pilot, or mission specialist. Classes are between one to four hours long. Our instructors are engineers that are members of the Training Division. Apart from teaching our classes, they also keep busy training crew members of upcoming Space Shuttle missions. They are great at their jobs and are always willing to go the extra step to be sure that we are well trained.

In preparation for each class, there is a list of required readings or computer-based trainings. We received a stack of workbooks about four feet high. Just like in any other school, we also have to take tests. Our first test was in December. It had approximately 200 questions and we had two hours to complete it. It was broken up into fourteen sections, representing the various systems. For any section in which you scored less than 80-percent, some type of remediation is required. They want to make sure that we have the knowledge necessary to continue. Future lessons require a good understanding of earlier lessons, just like knowing the basics in math before you can move on.

This past week, we took our Tier 2 test which again focused on the above mentioned systems. However, now we were looking at how to operate these systems. This required us to have many classes in what is called the Single Systems Trainer (SST). It is a mockup of the Space Shuttle flight deck (with all the switches and computer screens) and, like the name implies, you are able to work on one system at a time. The Tier 2 test had approximately 220 questions and it took most of us about 2 ½ hours to complete. In addition to the tier tests, we have performance-based testing that takes place in the SST. These are used to make sure we are able to apply our "book knowledge" to the real world of space flight. They normally last about two hours.

In order to prepare for these tests, we do a lot of studying. Study techniques vary. Some of us study in small groups, some alone, some make flashcards while others review the presentation material or any combination of these. As hard as it can be at times, we enjoy what we are doing. It is fun to learn new things while working together as a team. At first it was a little intimidating to hear what was ahead of us. As we look back, it is amazing all that we have learned. All of the hours of preparation and studying are really starting to pay off.

We don't want to forget to mention that while we are studying we are also required to maintain our T-38 flight hours. For our first two years we need to get 100 hours of flight time a year, which is broken down to approximately 25 hours every 3 months. While this may not seem like many hours, it is quite a challenge to stay current. The pilot and back-seater (mission specialist) meet about one hour prior to take-off time in order to plan the flight and review safety procedures. So, with getting to the airport and preparing for the flight it takes about 3 hours of actual time for a one-hour flight. Again, it is great to see how much we have improved in a relatively short period of time.

Finally, we want to stress that with hard work and help from classmates and instructors you can accomplish great things.

- The Astronaut Candidate Class of 2004

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 03/25/2005
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