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IMAGE: Expedition 6 NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit trains in the Virtual Reality Lab.
Expedition 6 NASA ISS Science Officer Don Pettit trains in the Virtual Reality Lab at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Station Systems

Crewmembers learn about the International Space Station's eight main systems:

*Command and Data Handling
*Communications and Tracking
*Operations Local Area Network
*Inventory Management System
*Guidance, Navigation and Control
*Electrical Power System
*Thermal Control System
*Environmental Control and Life Support System
*Structures and Mechanisms

Space Station Systems Training

When a crewmember is assigned to a space flight, a Crew Qualifications and Responsibility Matrix is created. This document contains information about what each crewmember will be doing during his or her mission. The training staff in Russia and the United States uses this document to determine whether a crewmember will be an operator or a specialist for each of the station's systems. An operator only needs to know how to work a piece of equipment -- such as the station's laptop computer -- or how to send a command to a station system: for instance, how to raise the temperature in a module. A specialist needs to know how to fix a problem with the computer or repair the system that controls the station's temperature.

Every system on the space station -- electrical, heating and cooling, communications, etc. -- has a separate training plan for operators and specialists. All crewmembers must know enough about every station system to be at least an operator. Being a specialist takes more training though, so you will only be a specialist on a few systems, while your crewmates will become specialists for the other systems.

Your entire crew will be assigned a training team. These are the people who will teach you everything you need to know to have a successful mission. The Station Training Lead is in charge of the team. This person is a former instructor with many years of experience teaching astronauts and cosmonauts. The team has one instructor for each of the eight main station systems. The team also has instructors for the scientific experiments you will be doing aboard the space station and other instructors to teach you how to do a spacewalk in case you need to go outside during your time at the space station.

You may also go to Canada to learn how to work the space station's robotic arm, the Canadarm2, if you'll need the arm during your mission. You will also learn how to take care of another crewmember if that person gets sick or injured -- completing this training qualifies you to be a crew medical officer.

You will have to work very hard to learn everything you need to know in just 18 months, but you know you can do it -- you learned how to study in high school and practiced those techniques in college and graduate school. The only difference is that everything you're learning about the space station may one day save your life or the life of one of your crewmates.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 08/07/2003
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