Interview: Frank Culbertson
International Space Station Expedition Three Crew Interviews with
Commander Frank Culbertson.
talking with Frank Culbertson, the Commander of Expedition Three.
Tell me, Frank, why did you want to be an astronaut?
Well, I wanted
to be an astronaut since the time I was around 12 or 13. That
was just around the time they were beginning the space program,
the human space flight program, both here and in Russia. I was
well aware of the Sputnik and well aware of the things that were
happening in space, just because we talked about it around my
home. And it was a very exciting thing to watch. And so, even
when I was in high school, I began watching the early astronauts
and reading about how they had gotten to where they were and started
trying to go down the same path. And I remember when I was about,
oh, 11, 12, somewhere in there, a very good friend of mine who
I used to work for on Saturdays gave me a copy of Scott Crossfield's
book about the X-15. And that inspired me to want to explore the
aerodynamics and the edge of space and the technical side of things
and to become a test pilot. And I decided that's really what I
wanted to do. And shortly around the same time is when we began
flying with the original seven. And I decided, well, that would
be the logical place to go beyond that. And I never really thought
it would happen; but, you know, when people asked me what I wanted
to do, I told them that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to be
a Navy pilot, a test pilot, and an astronaut. And most people
laughed. But, you know, sometimes you get a lot of good help along
the way and some good guidance and some lucky breaks, and you
end up in the place you want to be in. I've been very fortunate
and very happy doing this. And it's been obviously a lifelong
dream. And it's better than I ever thought it would be. And also
harder than I ever thought it would be. But I'm very glad that
I'm in this business.
me more about the steps of that career path that got you where
you are right now, that you were emulating the guys who went up
first. Tell me about what you did.
I knew that I wanted to be a pilot, you know, obviously I had
a lot of interest in airplanes and aviation. But I had decided
I wanted to do it through the Navy. My dad had been a Navy pilot
in World War II, and it just seemed like an exciting thing to
do-fly off of ships and land on ships. And so I applied to the
Naval Academy and was selected. A number of the early astronauts
had been Academy graduates of either West Point or the Naval Academy.
And I figured that would be a good way to at least prepare myself.
And I majored in aerospace engineering, became a fighter pilot
and eventually a test pilot after four attempts at getting into
the school. I did learn perseverance along the way. It took a
couple of applications to NASA to get an interview also. But I
just kept at it and considered [other] things, you know, as I
went through my career. But this was always the goal that I really
wanted. And if there was any way to stay on track for that, I
tried to do it.
is perseverance one of your stronger traits?
is the way my family would describe it. But I think it's important
for anybody who wants to achieve a goal or to arrive at a certain
destination or start a certain journey even, you have to have
perseverance to get ready to do that.
mentioned your friend who gave you the book about the X-15. Any
other people along the way that helped guide you to where you
parents were obviously a very strong influence. My dad grew up
in…both of them grew up in a rural area in South Carolina. And
both of them were college graduates, which was unusual for their
families. I think my dad was the first in his family to graduate
from college. While he was at college, he left for a while to
join the Navy and became a pilot. And then when he came back,
he switched from engineering to pre-med and went to medical school.
My mom was a teacher. And they believed very strongly in education
and that you learn yourself what you need to do to be successful
in life. And they tried to help me learn how to do that also.
And to lead a good life and to be good to the people around you,
and to be a team player basically. And that has, I think, become
an important part of what I do and how I got to where I am. They
had a large influence on that. And of course, I had other people:
teachers, ministers, others who were a strong influence. And then
along the way in the Navy, there were a number of people who were,
Test Pilot School graduates or other pilots or good officers who
taught me things along the way that I tried very hard to listen
to. And I think it's important, as you're, maturing, as you're
beginning your career, to take time to listen to the people who've
been there a while, even if you think you have better ideas. And
of course, when we're young, we all think we have better ideas.
But, eventually you learn that you've got to listen to the voice
of experience if you're going to survive in this kind of business.
obviously learned a lot, because look where you are here today.
served as the Program Manager for the Shuttle-Mir Program.
me your assessment of how the partner nations are working together
today. You've seen it evolve over the last several years. Tell
me about that.
partnership has had its ups and downs. All partners, I believe,
are struggling with a lot of issues, not the least of which, of
course, is financing and budget. There are technical issues. There
are interface issues; what I would call integration between the
various partners, both in a hardware and an operations standpoint.
And so those issues will continue to be worked. It's like trying
to bring several blended families together and try to work out
all your issues very quickly in a very dynamic and risky environment.
You have to do it very carefully. But there will always be issues.
A lot of things are behind us, and we'll never really have to
worry about or deal with [those] again. We've overcome a lot of
cultural hurdles, a lot of technical issues have been resolved
in how we certify hardware, how we communicate with each other,
what forums we use to solve problems. Those were difficult things
in the early days of both the ISS partnership and the Phase 1
program. We overcame them, basically through trial-and-error;
and through difficult times, we learned how to operate within
the framework that we had and with the backgrounds of the people
that were involved. We're still learning, however; and I think
we always will be. The most important thing we have to do is to
continue to communicate with each other; to tell each other our
plans; to tell each other what [our] goals are, which is just
as important as your plans; and to make sure that we're supporting
each other in those goals and plans and not working at odds with
each other. And…we've got very good leadership in all the countries
involved. And it's important for [them] and their staffs to keep
communicating about what's coming down the road, what we're doing
currently, and then the lessons we've learned from what we've
done in the past.
me about some of those lessons. Can you give me an example of
something that you've learned somehow, how the partnerships have
gotten closer together?
of the issues that a lot of people like to bring up is safety
certification of hardware. You know, when we originally started,
I mean, we've had this trouble in the Shuttle Program where a
module in the back of the shuttle payload bay may not have the
same safety certification requirements that the shuttle cockpit
itself has. And you know, getting the engineers to talk to each
other and getting the safety communities to arrive at a common
standard of how we clear things for flight and prepare them for
flight is a challenge. And it's not [that] people are doing it
maliciously or through some type of shortfall on their part, shortcoming
on their part. It's just that people come up with different systems,
and you have to figure out how to mesh those together. In the
international arena, the same thing is true in an even broader
scale and even to more depth. And so bringing those standards
together was a challenge during Phase 1. But we now have it to
the point where most things that we fly, we can take through a
common certification process. And if it's certified on one side,
it's certified on the other side.
you're going to be flying to orbit on STS-105, the shuttle mission.
What are the goals of that flight? Is the primary goal just getting
you to orbit?
what the Commander, Doc Horowitz, tells me…that's their number
one goal…to get the crew rotated, get us transferred over, and
the other crew back. Obviously, they have a lot of other things
they have to do in order to make that be a success. There's a
lot of equipment that has to be transferred, both from the mid-deck
and from the pressurized Logistics Module - the MPLM. The MPLM
needs to be transferred on board the station; that means it needs
to be mated to the station Node, physically, so that we can open
the hatch and remove everything from it. Otherwise it's sitting
in the payload bay, not really connected, through any pressure
vessel to the station or the shuttle. So it has to be mated; and
that's a significant task, and a major goal of the mission. So
transferring all of that equipment is a big deal. And we've got
to do that in order to continue with our mission. Of course, the
crew coming back has a number of scientific and personal things
that they need to get transferred back the other way. So we're…things
are going to be moving past each other through the hatches in
both the shuttle and the MPLM. And that's going to be a big job.
In addition, two of the shuttle crewmembers are doing EVAs to
install various equipment on the outside of the station. Transfer
things from the payload bay to the exterior of the station in
preparation for use later, if necessary. And they've got a pretty
big task in that EVA, and with possibly some robotic operations
involved. And so that's a big deal, too. And then we have powered
payloads that need to be transferred from the shuttle to the station
and payloads that need to be returned that have been conducting
scientific research and the new ones that will start a new scientific
program when we arrive. So that's right. The main objective is
to transfer the crew and everything that goes with it. And we
have a lot of baggage. But there are other things that they're
trying to do in addition.
you be assisting with those transfers or even with the space walks
or will you be busy talking with the Expedition Two crew?
All of the
above. We won't be conducting the space walks; and we'll probably
be most heavily involved in the transfers and the handover operations
with the Expedition Two crew. But we will be aware of the EVAs.
And I'm going to watch them as closely as [I] can, time permitting,
because I want to make sure I understand what's on the outside
of the station, what's left where, and how their whole operation
are you expecting to see when you arrive at the space station?
I know you've had a chance to talk to your fellow space travelers
about their experiences up there. What are you expecting?
to them, and I've seen videos that they've sent down. And I think
I have a pretty good feel for how they have the station organized
right now and how they're operating. It looks like a very clean,
well-organized station; very shipshape. And I'm expecting it to
remain the same when we arrive. So I'm looking forward to a very
well-organized laboratory and a nice place to live and stay and
a good workplace for continuing the repair and maintenance that
we have to do. And it looks like it's well set up for that. And
so, and the other thing everybody says about it is: It's very
roomy. Particularly in the Lab itself. And a lot of space to roam
from one end to the other. And so I'm looking forward to a totally
different experience than what I've had on shuttles in the past.
got people living up on board the space station for a while now.
What have we learned from the first two Expeditions, and how have
those lessons been applied to your flight?
learned an awful lot. One of our major concerns, of course, is
the computer networks and the computers themselves. We've scheduled
additional classes on how to make sure that network is operating
properly and how to keep the various laptops and station computers
operating properly in the network and talking to each other and
working as designed. That is basically the backbone of the station.
So, we've got to be able to have that operate well. In addition,
there are other various areas that each crewmember tends to emphasize
when they debrief us. Communications is a big one. Making sure
we understand the integration of the Russian and U.S. communication
systems and being able to talk to both Mission Control Centers,
either separately or simultaneously be able to send the video
down, set the panels up correctly, throw the switches. That's
a…somewhat of a complicated…actually, it's a very complicated
system. We try to keep the procedures as simple as possible and
coming up with a simple way of switching from one mode to another
is one of the major goals. And they keep reminding us to review
that thoroughly before we get on orbit. Managing our inventory
of items, whether it's tools or supplies or it's consumables or
whatever, is also another item that's emphasized a lot. And we
have an inventory management system that includes bar codes and
bar codes readers and data files that are transferred up and down
between us [and] the ground. And we're getting information from
both the first and the second Expeditions on how that went with
them, how they operated it, and what we need to do to continue
to improve on that process. We get advice on, you know, the management
of things like food and menus and living conditions on board,
as you would expect from anybody who's getting ready to move into
a place that somebody's moving out of. And everybody has their
own pet peeves and pet objectives. And it's interesting to hear
the different viewpoints.
the time of your flight, one year will have passed since the launch
of the Zvezda Service Module to the station. Tell me your thoughts
about how much that station has grown in the past year, the pace
of the work that's taken place up there.
is another period of time in NASA and the world's history that
I think is difficult for people to digest. We go through these
sprints that are interrupted by lulls, what appear to be lulls,
where there's not a lot of dynamic activity occurring. And that's
happened over and over in the space program around the world.
And we went through somewhat of a lull after the FGB Zvezda was
launched. Or Zarya, rather. And people were frustrated, but working
very hard to try to get things ready. But we didn't have a very
high flight rate. And now for the last year, we have been just
racing, to and from orbit. With lots of people, lots of equipment,
new computer programs, crew change-outs, you name it. I mean,
it's a lot of activity. And the station has changed and grown
dramatically during that time. it's amazing, to tell you the truth,
that people have accomplished an incredible amount of good work
and things have worked remarkably well considering the complexity
of what has been happening on orbit and on the ground. And I think
people should be very proud of that in all the space agencies
involved. And I think they are. Rightfully so. But that said,
we need to keep it in perspective. And we need to continue to
look at each mission of the shuttle or the Soyuz or the Progress
and the ongoing mission of the Expeditions, with a very critical
and professional and objective eye to make sure that we are seeing
what's going wrong, what's going right, and continue to learn
lessons from it. And not let the pace of the activity cloud the
details of what's happening on board. I'm hoping that the public
and our various governments are able to follow this pace. I know
it's difficult for them in some respects to keep up with the magnitude
of what's happening. But I think it's important for people who
are involved in this to keep talking about it, keep explaining,
you know, why this was hard but why it was important, or why we
took an apparent risk here in order to achieve this goal that
may not be, may not seem significant on the surface but, when
you look at it over the entire life of the station, it's very
critical. Such as installing the arm from Canada or installing
the solar arrays and the Docking Compartment that's coming up
from Russia. All of these things are critical components that
need to be done, need to be done correctly, but sometimes get
lost in the magnitude and number of events that are occurring.
big moment will be when you open the hatches and go in and see
Yury and Jim and Susan.
do you expect that moment's going to be like for you?
it'll be very exciting. It's like, you know, opening the door
to a new home that you're moving into, but it's already furnished
and already operating. The lights are already on. And I think
it'll be a great day. And a little scary in some ways because
we'll be beginning a very long and very busy Expedition of our
own. And we also, we're going to be faced with a very short, 5
or 6 days, of handover in which it's going to be important that
we transfer a lot of information in addition to the hardware that
we have to transfer. So it's going to feel a little daunting at
first, more than likely. It's going to take a while to get used
to the new place of sleeping and eating and living. And it's like
any transition: there's going to be transition-unique elements
to it. But I think it's going to be also very exciting. And I'm
sure it'll be exciting for them, too. And hopefully they'll be
glad to see us. And right now they would not be glad to see us.
They're not ready to come home. They have a lot they want to do
yet. And every time I talk to them, they say, "Okay, you know,
we're working on this and all that. But don't be in a big hurry
to get up here. Just be ready to deal with these things." And
I think they're enjoying themselves. I think they're having a
good time. And all the feedback I get is very, very upbeat, very
positive. But it'll be a great day. And I think it'll be something
I'll remember my entire life, is opening that hatch. Probably
similar to what I'll feel when they open the hatch to come pick
intense will your handover time be with the Expedition Two crew?
to know exactly what it'll be like at this point. But I'm guessing
it's going to be pretty intense, because I'm sure we'll have questions
that'll arise on top of the questions that we'll already have
prepared as we get more information. I'm sure they'll have tons
of information that they'll want to give us plus make sure that
they will move off the station in an orderly fashion. So it's
going to be a lot of multitasking as well as somewhat of a distracting
time with the robotics and the EVAs going on. The need to move
the MPLM over cleanly, activate it, then move it back safely.
A lot of activity that could tend to detract from the other task
of doing the handover. So I expect that when we get together,
specifically for handover, it's going to be a very intense time.
the process of formally exchanging you…to being a station crewmember
from being a shuttle crewmember? Does that all take place in one
day with all three of you?
will all be transferred, in terms of crew rescue on one day, is
the current plan. And I believe that'll work out okay. The actual
handover of command of the station will occur more than likely
on the last docked day. And we'll make it a formal ceremony so
the ground and everybody else in the world knows that we have
actually…done a change of command. And similar to what we do with
ships and squadrons in the Navy and Air Force and military organizations
all over the world. And what they tend to do in government organizations
anywhere, or in civilian organizations in some cases, too, I believe.
If you don't make it a somewhat formal situation, you have kind
of a fuzzy time when you're not sure who's who. And I want to
make sure that that's a very clean and well-understood, period
of time in the life of the station, that, you know, one moment
you have one Commander and his or her crew, the next moment you
have another Commander and the crew. And that the ground has no
questions about who that is at any given time.
that exchange be similar to what we saw as Shep handed over to
yes. We're trying to establish traditions here. So we're still
looking for what those traditions are.
several days of docked operations, all these space walks and transfers
with the MPLM going on, it'll be time to close the hatches, send
the Expedition Two crew home. What'll be your thoughts then as
you actually are up there by yourself on board the space station?
you afterwards. I don't know what my thoughts will be then. It'll
be a very serious time. And again, somewhat of a daunting feeling
that, "Here we go." Because the character of our mission is totally
different than the first two. They had a number of, spacecraft
visit them. A lot of assembly activity. A lot of very challenging,
transfer operations of big pieces of hardware, adding modules,
et cetera. We may or may not have much of that. The current plan
is the only module that might arrive during our Expedition would
be the Russian Docking Compartment near the very end of the mission.
But, again, that schedule's a little uncertain, too. So we'll
just have to see how things work out between the shuttle and the
Russian elements. But if it goes as planned and we don't have
any shuttles visit us during that time, and may have a Soyuz do
a vehicle rotation at the end of our mission, we'll be going a
long time with very stable ops, without the interruptions of crews
visiting us. So that'll be a different flavor on things. And I
think a good test of both ourselves and the ground and the way
we plan things and the way we keep the interest level of everybody
involved up. And also we get down to some very serious science
and conducting operations in the Laboratory using it for the purpose
it was designed for as well as the Russian experiments in the
a typical day going to be like for you up there?
suspect it'll be like being on an outpost or a ship anywhere.
We'll get into a fairly predictable routine. We'll be awakened
in the morning at a, hopefully, reasonable hour. And you'll have
2 or 3 hours to get yourself ready for the working day. Basically
make your bed, have breakfast and brush your teeth, you know.
But obviously there's a lot more to it than that in space. But
that's basically what we'll be doing in the morning. And then
checking the station at the same time to make sure that everything
is still operating as it should be. Make sure the ship's still
afloat, as it's supposed to be, and that the computers are working.
And we'll probably reboot them. And then, after we've done all
those morning chores, we'll be ready to go to work for the day.
And every one of us will be assigned tasks, either by the ground
or by ourselves, depending on the time criticality of the task
itself and whether the ground needs to participate in, for example,
the activation of an experiment. They need…might want to be looking
over our shoulder or watching specific data, so we'd have to do
it at a specific time. But if it's just a matter of, for example,
going to clean some filters to make sure that the equipment doesn't
overheat, you can do that anytime during the day, and we'll parcel
those tasks out as necessary. So, it'll be a mixture during the
working day of the scientific experiments, upkeep and maintenance
of the station, cleaning, and then any other tasks that might
come up in the way of testing station capabilities or repairing
things that might've broken or unpacking equipment that, you know,
has been packed for quite a while but now it's time to deploy
it and set it up and put it into operation. So I'm expecting every
day to look the same superficially but probably to be very different
in the details of what we do. Some things we'll work on as a team.
Some things we'll work on individually. It just depends on the
criticality of it and what the particular task is. We'll break
for lunch during the day, and we'll try to keep that as predictable
and routine as possible. I feel very strongly, like the previous
two crews, that it's important for the crew, whenever possible,
to get together for lunch and eat together so that we have a chance
to tag up on what's going on and share our thoughts and feelings
and complaints or, you know, whatever's happening. Gripe about
the ground or, you know, whatever. But just a time to make sure
we're communicating with each other. Because the station's going
to be so large at that time with four good-size modules strung
together and the airlock off to the side, we could go quite a
while without seeing each other. Literally. And maybe hearing
our voices on the loops as we talk to the ground. But not actually
being in the same place with each other. So it's important to
gather periodically to do that. And we'll do the same thing at
the end of the day. We'll have a planning session at the end of
the day to review the next day's plan; and talk about who's going
to be doing what task, review the procedures as necessary. We
have some onboard training available to us through CDs or tapes
that we might want to look at for something complicated that we
want to review. And we'll also look at the long-term plan for
the next few days to make sure that something's not coming that's
going to catch us by surprise. And then relax in the evening for
a while. And people will be free to do whatever they like, watch
a movie, read, or look out the window, which is one of my favorite
things and I suspect will continue to be on the station, assuming
they'll let me open the windows. But, and I don't mean that literally.
But I think it'll be like a shipboard routine or like an outpost
in Antarctica or any exploration where you're doing research in
place, with details that vary from day-to-day but with a routine
that's fairly predictable. That will be interrupted occasionally
by an EVA, after we get the Docking Compartment. Then we may end
up with all those packed together during a very short period of
time. And then in addition we will also occasionally have a Progress
arrive, so we'll have to set up for the docking of that. And then
the Soyuz will arrive in October which will be a big event I'm
sure. But that'll be near the end of our mission.
me an overview of the science work you guys are going to be doing.
Is it similar to what we saw on the Mir space station and onboard
the shuttle for the last several years?
A lot of
it is similar to what's been done before. But a lot of it is building
on that previous experience. Obviously, we have a lot more power
and space and time available to us to conduct these experiments.
When you do experiments on the shuttle, for example, if it's something
that, let's say, they've allotted 6 hours to do this experiment.
If the first 2 hours go badly, you're going to cancel it and go
on to something else. On the station, if you start an experiment
and it goes badly, then we have time to call the ground, let them
work on it a couple of days, and then go back to it later on in
another planning cycle and try to get it restarted again. So that's
one of the unique features that I think we'll, we will continue
to build on as the station grows and operates more and more efficiently.
The type of science we are doing is similar to what you mentioned
we've done in the past; materials science, crystal growth, some
life sciences experiments where we're evaluating our own bodies
and organisms as to how they change during a long-duration flight.
Try to isolate what effects zero-g and the space environment have
on the human body; and whether there are ways to counter those
effects through exercise or other means. And we have experiments
that are looking specifically at those aspects of space flight.
We have observation experiments to look at various sites on the
ground and see how they change through the course of the seasons
and the course of time. And of course, looking for unique opportunities
such as if there's a volcanic eruption or an earthquake or something
like that or a major storm, we'll try to document that as best
we can. Let's see. But that's a very broad summary of what we're
doing and obviously you have the list of the details of the various
experiments. But a lot of our time will be spent in looking at
the effects of the environment we're in on either materials or
will the Payload Operations Center in Huntsville, the Marshall
Space Flight Center, be contributing? What kind of interaction
will you be having with them?
a major member of our team. Or we are a major member of their
team. However you want to look at it. They've got a lot of very
good people and a lot of investigators there and engineers who
have worked on these payloads and are ready to see them operate
on orbit and to, if necessary, tweak them or fix them or whatever.
But we'll have continuous interaction with them. Well, not continuous;
but every day, we'll have interaction with them, more than likely.
Obviously any problems that we encounter, we will discuss with
them. And we have the capability to do real-time operations, if
necessary. I mean, we can ask them, "Okay. Now, where does that
wire go?" Or, "Which button do you want me to push on the computer?"
And see if we can get something fixed if we're having serious
problems. And in addition, of course, they'll be contributing
to the daily plan; and as we do various operations, we will notify
them, "Okay, I'm beginning this now." And then they'll follow
it from the ground. And they can also send commands from the ground
and receive data, as the experiment is operating and basically
participate with us in the operation of that experiment. Depending
on what the design of it is. So we'll see a mixture of both our
hands-on operation and then just monitoring of what they're doing
from the ground. There's some things [that] operate on automatic.
big part of your work will be with the Human Research Facility.
What is that and what kind of work will you be doing with it?
Research Facility is a rack in the Laboratory that's designed
specifically to interface with the human body basically. It has
its own computers. It has its own connectors and leads. You can,
we do one experiment where we evaluate the cardiopulmonary capacity
of the body during, as it changes in zero-gravity and also the
effects of doing an EVA on that capability. So we can attach sensors
to it that will evaluate our lung capacity, the amount of oxygen
that we absorb during any one breath, CO2 we produce, et cetera.
And that can all be evaluated in the HRF equipment and stored
on board or sent directly to the ground. We have an experiment
where we're evaluating the response of your musculature to various
stimulations. That information will also be transferred through
the HRF. Let's see. We can analyze gases, both the breath and
on orbit. It has the capability to record heart rate and anything
you can think of that has to do with the way the human body operates
in space. And then it, as I said, it has a great deal of computing
power to operate the payloads that are associated with it.
mentioned earlier the arrival of the Russian Docking Compartment.
is the Docking Compartment? What does that do?
Compartment is a specially designed module. Smaller than the other
Russian modules, like the Soyuz module or the FGB. That is, it's
called the Docking Compartment because it will attach, be attached
automatically to the base of the ?xO [pay-ha-oh] one, one of the
round nodes at the end of the Service Module. And we'll replace
an opening docking port with this module that's about 10, maybe
10 meters long, 8 to 10 meters long, and at the other end of that
will be another docking port to which Soyuz and Progress vehicles
can routinely dock. So it can be used for receiving some Russian
spacecraft that will be coming to the station to visit for either
crew exchange or Soyuz rotation or for resupply. But it's also
designed to operate as an airlock. It has two hatches that can
be opened into space, either of which you can use depending on
the task at hand. It has a panel inside for preparing the space
suit and the airlock for operation in open space. And of course
all the necessary connectors for providing oxygen and communications
and power to the space suit itself. And places to store equipment
that you might use during a space walk in the Russian Orlan space
suit, which is the one they've been using for a number of years.
So, it's a, it has two basic purposes. One is to provide an airlock
for the EVAs that would occur from the Russian segment, and also
to provide a port for Soyuz and Progress vehicles to come to the
station and to be, you know, long term, for long-term parking
there at the station. Currently it's scheduled to arrive in August.
Like everybody, they're struggling with funding and flight preparation
issues, so we don't know exactly when it'll arrive. But we're
prepared to deal with it when it does. We'll have to activate
it, unpack it, and then get ready for a couple of EVAs that are
necessary in order to set up the equipment on the outside of the
Docking Compartment that will support both the EVA and docking
activities and change the configuration of some cables to make
sure that we can transfer data and commands from the station through
the Docking Compartment to the various antennas and spacecraft
that might dock there.
me an overview of some of those space walks that'll be taking
place while you guys are up there. Who's conducting them and what
kind of cross-training have you had and what are you doing out
Docking Compartment arrives, there are two activation EVAs that
are required. One to remove the manipulator or crane that will
be stowed inside there to the outside of the Docking Compartment
and set up. And then cables and antennas that need to be set up
on the outside. And Mikhail and Vladimir will do that one. And
the second EVA will require re-cabling some of the command data
cables as well as testing the crane and some other small activities
on the outside of the Docking Compartment to finish activating
it. And Vladimir and myself will conduct that one. There are one
or two other EVAs that are possible during our increment if we
have time, which are designed to install experiments that the
Russians have contracted with their own research organizations
or other countries' research communities to install on the outside
of the station. And right now Vladimir and Mikhail are trained
as the prime to do that, and I'm their backup to install those.
mentioned the arrival of a Progress resupply vehicle as well.
What do you have to do to the station to get it ready for when
Progress shows up?
course you need to make sure that the equipment at the port where
that Progress will arrive is operating to include the docking
mechanism itself as well as the Kurs…command control system that
is used for the automatic docking of the Progress. So we'll test
that. And of course we'll need to make sure that the path from
the Progress into the station is clear of stowed hardware so that
we can get the hatch open and remove all the equipment. The station
has to be in the right attitude, the right command mode, command
control mode. And it's basically a straightforward checklist that
needs to be followed. Some of the activities will be conducted
by the ground, some by the crew on board. But mainly, as the Progress
approaches, we need to be in a stable attitude, in a predictable
attitude, and we need to have good radio link between the Progress
and the station so that the Progress can be guided by its computer
into the docking port that's chosen. Frequently, it's on the end
of the Service Module; sometimes on the base, on the bottom of
the station. And then we'll just monitor, oh, we also need to
test out and set up the tele-operated robotics remote control
unit which is a unit that's similar to a Soyuz hand-controller
set and display but actually is located inside the station in
the Service Module which can be used in case the Progress has
an automatic docking failure, automatic system failure, to complete
a manual docking. And Vladimir and Mikhail are well-trained on
that. I've had some training on it, but they're fully qualified
to operate that system if necessary to complete a Progress docking
all the way to contact and capture, even if the automatic system
fails. So we'll set that up and test it before the Progress arrival
case of an emergency, the Russian Soyuz vehicle will be used to
help get you guys off the station.
the process of getting out of there, if you had to, in a big hurry
into a Soyuz?
there's basically two major components of that. One is, clearing
the path through the hatches of things like ventilator fans and
drying fans, so that you can close the hatches and get yourself
in there. And of course, you need to work with whatever problem
is driving you to that decision at the same time. But you've got
to clear everything out and make sure that you can undock safely
without anything interfering with the hatches. Then you've got
to get into the Soyuz, close the hatch on the station, close the
hatch on the Soyuz, and then, if it's a pressurization problem,
make sure your Soyuz is not the problem and that it's fully pressurized
and ready to go. And then we have a very well-understood sequence
of events that occur, with commands from the Soyuz to completely
seal the hatches, check the pressure integrity, and then actually
do the undocking and fly away from the station. And then we'd
have a few hours to get into our suits and to land the Soyuz if
5 months or so, shuttle mission STS-108 will show up to pick you
guys up and bring you home.
sort of milestones will you have to [have] hit along the way to
feel like you've had a successful mission up there?
one mission success criteria is safe return of the crew and safe
operations on board. Number two is a successful, or a, yes, successful
operation of the station so that it is fully functional as possible,
when the next crew arrives. And in between, we're going to be
doing a lot of other things. There's a lot of details that go
along with making those things happen. But if we have operated
successfully and safely together as a crew and everybody's healthy,
and we're still speaking to each other, then I'll feel like it's
been a very good mission from that standpoint. And if the station
is in good shape and we've taken good care of it and repaired
things, as necessary, then I'll feel like we've done that part
of it well and it'll be ready to continue the science. Now, along
the way in doing that, we're going to have to work hard on communicating
with each other, communicating with the ground. We're going to
have to accomplish both the small and the large tasks that are
assigned to us to feel good about what we've done and also to
make sure the station continues to operate in a healthy, healthy
fashion. So those are specific steps that have to occur. Such
as the deployment of the various payloads; the successful completion
of them. For example, there are a number of things that have to
be brought out of a refrigerator or a freezer and put into an
experiment drawer where they will crystallize and achieve the
experiment goals. If we do that correctly, then the scientists
will obtain the data they're looking for. So we have to do all
those little steps successfully in order to achieve the big ones.
But if we have complied with the tasks that are given to us and
operated well as a team, and amongst ourselves and with the ground,
then I, and not broken anything, I'll feel like the mission has
been a resounding success.
your work as a Program Manager helped you prepare as you strap
in and become an astronaut again and command the space station?
If it has, how has it helped you?
it has helped me. Of course, working in various jobs gives you
a broader perspective on things in any organization you're a part
of. I feel very fortunate to have had some of the jobs I did in
the last few years. Working in the Shuttle Program, for Tommy
Holloway and then in the Station Program for Tommy again and for
Randy Brinkley were great experiences for me. And then working
as the Program Manager for Mr. Abbey and Mr. Goldin were also
very good experiences. I learned a lot from all those people.
They have a lot of experience of their own, a lot of wisdom, and
a lot of understanding of space flight. And I feel like that helped
me not only from a management standpoint, but also as a commander
of a mission or even just a member of a mission. I now understand
better what kind of problems the programs and the NASA organizations
are dealing with and also what their goals are and what their
constraints are. And so maybe I'm a little more patient with some
things than others might be. But by the same token, I probably
get a little more frustrated when I know that if somebody really
wanted to do this, they could. And I try not to go around the
chain of command. But I try to give hints on who to go to when
people need to, to keep the ball rolling on important issues.
But I do believe that that experience has helped me in many ways.
And you know, I'd like to do that again someday. But it happened
a little earlier in my career than I had expected it to, and I
really had not planned to stop flying, when I ended up in that
job. And it was a sequence of events that occurred that made that
happen. And I was happy to do that and happy to do my part for
the program. But I really wasn't ready to retire from flying.
So I feel very fortunate that this opportunity arose and that
the management-Jim Wetherbee and Charlie Precourt, Mr. Abbey-
saw fit to assign me to this mission and trust me enough to get
ready in time to execute it. And I'm very happy to be working
with Vladimir and Mikhail. They're terrific guys who have a lot
of experience on their own, both on the ground and in flight and
are great to work with, I'm sure will be even better to work with
in orbit. But space flight, as we mentioned at the beginning,
is what I always wanted to do. And even when I have to stop flying
someday, I will always miss it I'm sure. Because in my mind, the
greatest adventure that I can have, as [an] explorer, as a professional,
as an aviator. And there's a lot of things I'd like to do. You
can't do them all. And if I have to choose one, this is the one
to do. And the perspective it gives you on, on, our world in general
and on technological achievement in specific I think is unlike
anything else you can experience in the world or out of the world.
your position on the front lines, how has the U.S. and Russian
partnership changed in the last few years? Those 8 years you served
between your space flights, you were working right on the front
lines of everything. What have you seen?
has changed for sure. It's like having a family grow up and change
and age. Some things happen gracefully; others don't. People change
their goals and they change their view of things as they get more
information or as their own environment changes. And so it's a
constantly changing and dynamic situation. But the main change
I've seen is that we're comfortable with each other. We can argue
about things. We can solve problems. A lot of the things that
seemed really, really big in the early days have become trivial.
And…but by the same token, some things that we trivialized early
on have become significant because we didn't deal with them adequately.
And that's the kind of lesson you can learn in any relationship
is that you have to pay attention to all the aspects of it and
keep talking, keep communicating, and make sure, as I said earlier,
[that] you're understanding each other's goals and each other's
fears. I believe that we have a very professional relationship.
I believe that the people who are working particularly at the
front lines, at the interfaces, in operations and in hardware
development, et al., have a very good understanding of each other
and how each other does business. And I think they can solve a
lot of very difficult problems. It's an amazing team to watch
when they've got to go out and get something done. The complicating
factor in all of this is that the politics of our countries-and
not just Russia and the U.S., but all the countries involved-is
also an ever-changing scene. And the politics affect what we do
because they affect our budget. They affect the foreign relations
aspect of what we do. And that filters down, certainly into the
management level, where the major agreements are made. And so
that will see changes as we go through the years. And I've seen
changes since the early days of Phase 1 in that regard. And again,
some for the better; some for the worse. But the main thing is
that, at the team level, at the working level, we've got a good,
solid team and people can generally overlook the political differences
and overlook the financial pressures and the cultural aspects
that may still remain and work as a good space team. And we're
all working for the same goals. And that is to maintain a human
presence in space and learn more about operating for long periods
of time in space on a very large vehicle. And start setting other
goals of where we can go as a team, and how we can do things together.
And I'm hoping that that will move not only into changes that
will allow us to operate beyond Earth orbit, but also will affect
how we operate on Earth in that people will use us as an example
of how very, very large problems can be solved, risk can be dealt
with, and cultural and personal interactions can be overcome.
Problems in interactions can be overcome. Because it can be. I
mean, people can work together if that's their goal, which is,
if that's one of their goals, to work together.
had some personal experience training in Russia yourself.
it been like for you?
been interesting also, training in Russia after spending so much
time over there as a manager. Sitting in class is obviously a
lot different than sitting in a meeting. most of the time; I enjoy
it a lot more. But also it has its moments, too, where you're
trying to struggle through a system or understand the details
of a component or whatever. But, again, it's just a totally changed,
different focus. You're trying to gather as much knowledge about
something very specific as quickly as you can, and then determine
how you're going to use it and operate it, in space. So, sometimes
you get really focused and you forget about the big picture around
you. And at other times you step back and you think, "Well, I
know this is the overall program problem or the overall program
goal. How is what I'm doing here going to fit into that?" So again,
I've been fortunate that I've got different perspectives than
other people might have. And so it keeps me on my toes. But also
I think [it] makes it more satisfying to me because I can see
how things tend to fit together. And occasionally I can explain
it to other people, though not always. There're other aspects
of that that I think are important for people to understand too.
My job here at Johnson Space Center has always involved a lot of travel and a lot of time spent at work or on the road. And
it is true for almost everybody here. In training in Russia, it
meant not more frequent trips to Russia, because I was going a
lot of times a year already, but longer time away from my family.
And throughout it, all of that, they've been one of my best support
teams, in doing this job. Whether it was in management or in training.
And my wife, Rebecca, and all of my kids have been sensitive to
what I've had to do and how much I've been gone and how important
communication is to me. They're very aware of it and have let
me know that they're still behind me and doing their part of the
job back here in the States, wherever I happen to be. And I just
want to let folks know that that's a very important aspect of
what we all do. And to, not just to have a good family behind
you, but to acknowledge that they're there. And that they are
just as important as we, the team members, are in accomplishing
this mission. And without good family support or support of friends,
depending on whatever your situation is, you can't do a job like
this, whether it's in training or engineering or operations or
whatever. And I just want to encourage everybody to be aware of
that. And also to take good care of the friends and family that
dedicated much of your life to the International Space Station.
What are your thoughts about its importance? Why do we need this
thing flying up there?
a space station because we need a frontier. We need to keep pushing
the human race to expand beyond the current boundaries that we
have. Usually our boundaries are, throughout history, I believe,
our boundaries have been a combination of physical boundaries,
such as oceans or mountains or whatever, and mental boundaries
of "Can I really get past that other boundary?" I mean, the mental
leap to allow people to think of the Americas as a part of the
world and a place where people could emigrate and establish a
new civilization, you know, that was a huge mental leap that people
had to take, centuries ago. And I believe we still have leaps
we need to make over mental boundaries in getting into space.
It will come. I am absolutely, 100 percent confident that we will
arrive on the other side of that boundary and space will become
a more comfortable place to live and work and visit even. We're
not at that point right now because it's still a huge challenge
just to get humans off the planet, much less a lot of hardware.
As routine and frequent as it may seem to the casual observer,
it's still extremely complex and takes a lot of attention to detail
no matter what spacecraft you're talking about, and it takes a
lot of attention to detail to keep something like this space station
flying. That experience in itself will be very valuable as we
develop other spacecraft and other colonies, if you will, or other
places to live. I am hoping that it will inspire, not only generations
behind us to continue to want to do this but also our political
leaders and the public to continue to push into this frontier.
We don't, I mean, I can't tell anybody, if we go and live in space
for this many years and then go back to the moon or go to Mars
that we'll find all these wonderful things and we'll be better
off, be better off as a human race because of it. Because we haven't
been there in that way yet. And any more than anybody who was
going to the Americas or to Australia or even to Siberia centuries
ago, could have told you what they were, life was going to be
like in the future or what they were going to find there. You
just have to have an open mind, an inquiring mind, and I think
a very strong character and ambition, both as an individual and
as a country, to keep pressing on beyond those frontiers and to
cross those boundaries wherever they occur. And space is a major
challenge. To get into space takes a lot of energy. It takes a
lot of near-perfect hardware. It takes overcoming a lot of risk.
We know how to do that now. We know how to manage those things.
But it's still a big boundary we have to leap over. It's similar
to when people first began flying over broad expanses of ocean
in the early aircraft. I mean, they didn't know-a lot of those
flights-how far they would get. And when you look at what people
did in those days, they took a lot of risks to make that happen.
Now people fly back and forth across the Atlantic, almost as easy
as driving across the country. In fact, easier than driving across
the country. And take it for granted in that regard almost. Maybe
centuries from now, space will seem that way to us. But we are
at the beginning of that era. It's important for us to keep it
going and to learn as much as we can, with as few mistakes as
possible, during this period of time so that the ones who follow
us can get over those initial risks and fears and challenges and
go do greater things in space. Go to other places. Establish laboratories
on the moon, observatories, and workplaces. And eventually, living
places. And then go to Mars and other moons. And whatever we can
find, and whatever propulsion we can manage to scrape together
to get us there. But, it's important to continue to have those
goals out there and to keep shooting for them. If we think we've
done everything, then you might as well sit down and rest for
the rest of your days. Because we will never get to the point
where we've done everything or learned everything or seen everything.
And on a personal note: that's what I like about flying. That's
what I like about space flight. That's what I like about traveling,
is that I'm always seeing something new. I'm always expanding
my own knowledge, even if it's only important to me. It's always
a new dawn. And when I fly, the sky I see when I fly has never
been seen before by anybody and never will be seen exactly the
same by anybody again, nor from the same perspective. And space
is a very similar experience. And some people are comfortable
with that; some people aren't. But for those who are, we need
to encourage them to continue to seek those new vistas, because
they'll bring new knowledge. And hopefully, a better life for
all people on the world, in the world.