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Space Shuttle docked at Space Station Title Graphic
Personal Space
Robert Curbeam preparing for STS-98Click for video

Try this at home!
Think you have the right stuff? Great! But remember, astronauts make spacewalks look easy. To "simulate" what it's really like for them to perform tasks in space, try this next time you change a spark plug: tether yourself to the car, put on roller skates, two pairs of ski gloves, secure all your tools to your body so they don't drop and don't even think of scratching your nose for the eight hours it will you've got the right idea.

Astronaut on EVA

Astro Stats
Like most astronauts, Curbeam's resume and experience are impressive. He's the recipient of many special honors and holds several degrees. Some Top Gun action, too.

Robert L. Curbeam, Jr.
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10 Day Mission
"10 day Mission." Our mission is to activate this new part of the space station and make it a working, living part of what'll eventually be a half million pounds of metal orbiting the earth every 90 minutes." The focus of Mission of Mission STS-98 is the delivery of the U.S. Laboratory Module "Destiny" (what Curbeam calls the 'big, silver tin can.') "With both medical and scientific technology moving ahead at light speed, any new research has endless possibilities. Beamer on his Space Shuttle mission You never know where the next great idea's going to come from. And I'm just hoping that something that we do, some kind of research that we perform, helps open one of those new doors," said Curbeam.

Linked to Space
"It's really important to keep things attached to the station, including myself," said Curbeam. These spacewalks, or extravehicular activities (EVAs), will be his first. He'll help install the lab by connecting plumbing, electrical power and data umbilicals. To combat microgravity, tethers and foot restraints hold astronauts in place while they work with special tools (cordless tools were invented to go into space), Astronaut Tethered to Space Craftsometimes in frigid darkness or scorching sunlight. Backpacks regulate spacesuit temperature and feature a built-in propulsion system in case of emergency. Challenging, yes--but the view is spectacular.

The Big Blue Pool
To train for spacewalks in outer space, astronauts go underwater. At the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas, the Natural Buoyancy Lab (NBL) is impressive. Measuring 100 feet by 200 feet by 40 feet deep, it's large enough to hold full-sized space station mock-ups.Beamer training in the poolThe average spacewalk takes over six hours so astronauts practice the actual tasks they'll be doing the same amount of time wearing full spacesuits. On Earth, these weigh 300 pounds.

Even Astronauts go to School
"Every day is different," said Curbeam, who has been training for 1 1/2 years in Houston. Besides pool time, one day he could be flying T 38s all day, just to get some hours. Or he could be in the simulator practicing a critical phase of an upcoming flight. Maybe it's a full day of classes or a mix of all of these. "The great thing about it," according to Curbeam, "is you know every day is just kind of narrowing your focus into that one day when you're going to get to ride the rocket. You've been well trained by the people here on the ground, everybody knows the plan, we know we can execute this plan, and now we want to get on with it." He'll be more than ready. "I'm going to be probably one of the most excited people in the world on that day--except for probably the other four people on my crew."

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