Interview: Yury Onufrienko
International Space Station Expedition Four Crew Interviews with
Commander Yury Onufrienko.
interview with the commander of the fourth Expedition to the International
Space Station, Yury Onufrienko. Yury, as you prepare to embark on
a five-month-long spaceflight, tell me how you see the mission:
what is it that you and your crewmates are being sent to orbit to
true, and our current plan is to have our expedition about 140 days.
We begin our expedition from UF-1 and finish it during flight UF-2.
The major idea [of] our flight is, as you know, to continue work
which was begin in Expedition Three and maybe, this is my, not only
my dream but this is part, big part of work, to continue this work
after our mission, I mean Expedition Five. They [told] us before
about this and of course to remind us, really our major goal of
you see yourself on this mission as an explorer or a scientist,
or something else altogether?
You see, during
flight we will have several parts, several steps, maybe in one of
them I will feel myself as maybe a scientist, during [scientific]
experiment which I am going to do, and maybe a second part I will
feel myself as…as something else, as you said before. It depends
on phase of flight. But in general I will feel myself as a cosmonaut,
me how you came to be a cosmonaut-what is your background that led
you to become part of the Russian space program?
That was really
a short way for me. In the beginning I finished at school; at least,
afterward, I [finished] at military school and continued working
as a pilot. And after that I was selected as a cosmonaut.
you selected because of an interest of yours-had you been interested
in being a cosmonaut for a long time, or was it something that happened
after you were in the Air Force?
I was selected after that, I was a pilot. But, speaking seriously,
that was maybe dream since I was a child, maybe. I saw several dreams
about space, I read several books about future flights, about future
life here and other [planets]…and that was, at that part of
my life, but in the future that was…I think I am lucky, when
I was selected as a cosmonaut.
there certain people that you see as having been the most influential
in your life, either as a child or as a cosmonaut?
Yes, of course
I have these people. I can, not just myself, but firstly it is my
parents; of course after that teachers in school; after that some
people who [were] writing [books] which I read, maybe a little bit
later when I was working as a pilot; some of my good friends who
also helped me to be a cosmonaut.
mission is going to be your second spaceflight-your first was as
the Commander of the Mir-21 mission. Are there significant differences
in the way you train for a flight to the International Space Station
as compared to the Russian training for a trip to the Mir?
This is really
true; this is my second flight, it should be my second flight. [The]
first I had before together with Yury Usachev and Shannon Lucid,
it was in 1996. I can compare prep for [these] flights. Second one
is, takes a little bit longer time; in general it is about four
years. But this is not our fault, this is just a history of building
of ISS station. You know, it takes about three years instead of
one maybe. That's why prep was so long. For comparing I can add
that…maybe most of [the systems] on station [have] the same
structure and the same functionality, but the difference is, during
working together, in international crew-this is maybe the most big
differences. In the first flight, we have two people in from Russian
side and one from American; that was Phase 1 program. Now is a little
bit differences because this is ISS station. We can [meet] on this
station, especially in the future, the people from other country.
I hope this is a most big difference.
talk about the mission that you and Carl Walz and Dan Bursch are
preparing to fly. As the Commander of the Expedition, what are your
is to have a crew safety during whole flight, and to give them possibility
realized yourself during this flight as most as possible, and maybe
in case [of] emergency using crew return vehicle as the pilot of
mentioned before that you and Carl and Dan have been training for
this mission for about four years now; is having had that long period
of time together to get ready going to, in your opinion, going to
make things easier for the three of you once you get to space?
yes, of course, this should help us. As much as we know about each
other, it will help us to working together easier, maybe. The, for
instance, now I really know Carl and Dan, how they, I know also
their family; they also know my family. We spend each other a lot
of time talking about our future flight, what we need to do, what
we can bring with us, how we can spend free time if it will be possible
on orbit. And in general, big prep is very helpful for us.
mission, your mission in flight, will begin on the shuttle Endeavour
when the STS-108 crew delivers you to the ISS. The first time crews
were exchanged on the station that handover, or that exchange, happened
one at a time, but when the changeover from Expedition Two to Expedition
Three happened all on the same day. How will the exchange of crewmembers
be handled on your mission?
In our case,
handover will takes all crew together in the same time. In my point
of view, it will be more helpful when we separate all crew the same
time because you know we have a lot of system on station, and I
need [to] talk separately with every crewmembers, who was responsible
for what, and in case if we stay all three together, I mean all
six people together on board, we can, to be better to change as
also time scheduled while cargo is being moved back and forth during
the docked phase of this mission for the handover, which I want
to get you to tell me about. I understand that this is more than
just having Frank Culbertson show you where things are stored-tell
me about what you do during a period of handover. How can that help
you get a better start on your increment?
You know, now we have IMS system, which is Inventory Management
System, we can, theoretically, we can imagine all parts, all things
which [are located] on station now. But this is the same as your,
as you can imagine, for instance, at home, your neighbor and you
come inside and as you see this is a little bit differences as you
thought before. You see, this, for instance, book, in different
place; is the same on the station because this is real, physical,
this is something real physical which I mention before. That's why
we need handover to see everything, every part, and of course, speaking
about some system, which system has maybe some specific work we
can, better if we write in this specific for myself and after what
is found during real flight, during real life.
your first flight, the handover period when you arrived lasted about
six days; the handover when you were coming home lasted about two
weeks. Is there one that's better than the other?
As you know,
as more is better, especially for the Expedition who just arrived.
For Expedition who spent several times on, in space, opposite.
would like to see if I can get you to help those of us who have
never been to space for six months at a time, give us a better sense
of what it's like to be a member of a long-duration crew on a space
station. Is there a normal day on board ISS? What would that be
I expect to
see in space really, real life instead of flight, because life in
space begins maybe after handover is over; I think approximately
about two weeks we begin our life in space. Every day we have the
same operations, the same typical operations such as maybe washing,
eating, and talking with ground conversation, and afterwards we
have such as part of work, working with some systems from that time
to that time, make a picture, something else, and the same operation
maybe every day, every day. And after several periods of time, we
can do it very well, I hope.
if I understand, you're saying that you would think that, that you
would hope it becomes more like a regular sort of a job that just
happens to be a couple of hundred miles up?
We need to
do this work, as I said before, we need to do this work as our life.
Because real work during long period of time is just not so easy.
If we will follow all this, procedures which [we're] trying to do
on the ground, this is not possible in real life in space. We really
need do short period of time, maybe for rest, such as after, maybe
after eating; we don't read about it in our schedule, but this is
typical for every people…maybe five minute, maybe four for
me, maybe one minute for you, maybe two minutes, depends for the
people, [yes]? We need have this…hopeful…I don't know…habit,
we need this habit in space also.
is as I said, quite a bit of time penciled in to the schedule for
you to be doing science work. Can you give us a sense of what it
is that you actually do to help conduct these experiments?
with us as scientists, you know, on the ground we have a lot of
people who made this experiment, who do it, who do all this parts
for this experiments, and in their understanding of what the crewmembers
need to do on board, this is minimum, what we need to do: just to
turn some switchers-power, power on, for instance-after that wait
some period of time; after waiting correct, exactly correct time,
switch off this experiment; maybe collect data, and transfer this
data to the ground. This is in general. But this is the easiest
way. We don't need to combine this experiment on board that was
made on the ground, especially for us, in my point of view, this
is exactly true. We need just to switch on and that's all. But,
in general, we need understand what is inside this experiment, what
is inside this box, for instance; what is the temperature after
which period of time, this it should be, finish it, and that's all.
are plans for spacewalks during your increment. Now, you conducted
six spacewalks from the Mir station, and you're training for at
least two spacewalks from the Docking Compartment module at the
time that we're talking about this. Are there certain challenges
in transferring your Mir EVA experience to getting prepared for
This is not
so hard because every EVA look, such as previous, maybe, in general.
In general we need to use spacesuit, and of course and afterwards
we do this real work in real space. This is in general. But there
also, part of work, what I wanted to say, this is also some boxes;
we carry this box old one and remove to new one. Maybe replace something
else. All working space are typical, also. During our flight we
will have two EVAs, using Orlan suit; first one will be with Carl
Walz and second one with Daniel Bursch. We are going to install
Strela: this is Russian equipment which will help crewmembers in
the future to transfer, to move, maybe, big parts in space. By the
way, now I have information about that - we [were] preparing to
install this Strela on S0 module [Docking Compartment Module], but
now current plan is to install on FGB. It will be a little bit different
place, but for work it will be maybe shortest way to reach this
point of contact, Strela. And second one [we're] to install some
parts of engine and antennas for ham radio. Afterwards, several
systems on board will be habitable after installing this equipment.
Also one EVA is during flight 8A; in general, flight 8A [will] have
four EVA, and two of them…our crew will be involved in two
of these EVAs. What's the task? I don't know exactly now, but this
is activation S0 truss.
a lot of connectors which we need to connect to each other, and
depends about first two EVAs, what were complete and what stay for
mentioned the fact that during this mission, and this series of
spacewalks, you would be installing the S0 truss. Can you tell us
how the addition of that piece of equipment will improve the, or…add
to the functionality of the station?
which is maybe major truss which will be installed on the Lab outside
and after that from both side of S0 astronaut in the future will
install solar arrays, all of them, all four; I hope it will in about,
during next flight. And along this S0 truss we will install, no,
we have to install MT, Mobile Transporter, which will have possibility
to change their position along this S0 truss; if I remember, it
has about fifteen point of…stationary point which powered,
which has data, power and telemetry. And on this MT, we're also
going to install a robotic arm, Canadian robotic arm, to better…reach
us to better access of work, of future work.
understand that there is still some talk of maybe adding another
spacewalk or two after 8A for your crewmembers out of the station
airlock; what jobs would be done on those spacewalks if they occur?
As I mentioned
before, first we are going to do EVAs in Russian Orlan spacesuit,
and afterward last two EVA using EMU suit. Of course the task in
this case are different, a little bit different: task for the Russian
side for FGB and SM, and task for S0 truss and MT.
they would be jobs around the new components…
Yes, of course
it will be jobs around new components which will be installed during
the end of your flight you're likely to be on hand to greet a "taxi"
crew with a new Soyuz spacecraft. Tell me what activities occur
on board during the time that the taxi crew is there. Do they come
and do their own science as well as deliver you a new return vehicle?
return vehicle, I can mention that the major idea is just to change
the vehicle during flight, but it will be also useful to use this
period of time to provide some of experiments; as I know, Russian
side have, has already used this time to provide us with this experiment.
If should happens during this, that expedition, during third change
of crew return vehicle.
the time the shuttle arrives with your replacements, you will, if
I'm adding it up right, you will have been working with the third
different space shuttle crew and the second other different space
station crew. What is it like to work and to train with all those
different people in those different groups, and keep straight in
your own mind what you do when?
I don't know exactly correct answer on this question now; maybe
let's talk about it after, after flight.
your opinion, by the time you come home, by the time that you and
Carl and Dan are ready to leave ISS, what will have had to have
happened for you to consider your increment to have been successful?
it is all crew is safety; every time, every hours, every minutes,
you can verify it, you can check, speaking with all three people
on board. And, always to continue their work, all plans, which was
planned for this flight. We, on all of them we have checks, checksmarks:
that was done, that was done. It may be which is most important.
We also feel lucky after we make checks the work was done…but
the same on the ground, I hope. And in the end expedition, the last
checkmark, will be done after our landing, I hope-it will be the
most, we will be most happy at that time.
we talk today, it has been about one year since the first permanent
residents of the International Space Station arrived on orbit. And
in that time the station has grown and shuttles are, and Soyuzes
and Progresses, are flying routinely, delivering supplies and new
crews, to a station that is almost self-sufficient at this point.
Finally, I'd like you to give me your perspective, your thoughts,
on where you see the International Space Station program taking
us in the short-term future as well as in the long-term future.
You know, this
is really global question about what is the reason to fly in space,
maybe; sounds the same. I think, as soon as, maybe, people would
have the same question, what is the reason to fly in space, we would
say, we would have possibility to fly in space in this case using
different spacecraft. And ISS in this time, this is just a part
of this future plan, I think.