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Crew Interviews
IMAGE: John Glenn
Click on the image to hear Payload Specialist John Glenn's greeting (851 Kb wav).

Preflight Interview: John Glenn

The STS-95 Crew Interview with John Glenn, payload specialist.

Senator, thanks for being with us.

Glad to be here, thank you; very glad to be here.

Before we look ahead to the mission itself, let's look back for a minute. 1958, when you and your colleagues, the Mercury 7, were selected, how did you feel? Was it an honor, were you nervous, or overwhelmed by it all?

Well, not nervous, but I was glad to be selected, it was a very competitive selection process. NASA had set the selection criteria for the type of people they wanted: they wanted military test pilots, they wanted people who had done as much high-speed flying as possible, uh, supersonic speed if possible, combat time, all of these things. In other words, they wanted people who had worked through emergencies and had come through OK. And they started out with, I think it was a hundred and thirty-some people that fit those basic qualifications out of all the test pilot schools in the country. Then out of that group selected down through a long process: physical qualifications, you had to have a college degree, you had to be under 5'11" or you wouldn't fit in the capsule -- I made it by about that much on the 5'11". And so they had all their criteria, worked it down to where the seven of us were selected. And I was elated at the time because I thought it was a continuation of the type of test pilot work that I had come out of a short time before. But it was a brand new project, and we didn't know that much about it; we were all just sort of feeling our way along, including all the engineers that we were working with too. So it was a time of a lot of attention on us but, uh, it was a time when we were just starting out with the building blocks that have gone on through the years, flight by flight, to the tremendous capability we have right now.

Sputnik had been launched; we already were behind the Soviet Union, at that time, in space, and here comes a new generation of pioneers, the Mercury 7; did you feel a sense of urgency to get up into space, to prove something?

Yes we did, and you know, people today tend to forget what it was like back in those days; they don't remember the national psyche back then. It was communism versus our form of government, and the Soviets at that time were saying that they were now superior to us in technology and research; and they were using that to attract a lot of students to Moscow. Some countries who were nonaligned in either direction were wavering toward going with the Soviets at that time, and becoming more communistically-oriented, so it was a time of a lot of pressure. Americans had just assumed that we were tops in research and technology and then all at once, what happens? Well, we were trying to put up a satellite, and we failed; and they tried, and they got one up. And there was Sputnik going around and they were crowing internationally about the fact that America was going to sleep each night beneath a Soviet moon, as they put it. This was a great blow to our country, and so we were just trying to catch up. So we didn't even put anything up there in orbit until after they did, and then we were trying to get a manned space program going. And there was Al Shepard waiting to go up on the first Mercury flight, the Redstone flight, a suborbital flight, up and down, and lo and behold a few weeks before Al was to go, they orbited. Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth, and this was a real blow. And so it took on the context of not just a space race, just for the race aspects itself; but they were using what they claimed as their superiority to sell their brand of government, sell communism, and this was a real, live, thing to be considered back in those days. And so when we came in, that was the basis at that time; and so did we feel a lot of pressure? Yes, but we didn't want to cut any corners, we wanted to be safe and all the engineers did too, but NASA starting out back then in the manned program was a tiny little group. I think we had maybe, oh, thirty or thirty-five engineers, maybe forty, at Langley, at the NASA center there, and then the seven of us, and secretarial help and things like that. But most of the effort in the program was being directed from there, and being contracted out to different manufacturers, so that's really where we started when we were being selected in '58. And then they announced the selection of the seven of us in April of '59.

When it was announced, you and your colleagues experienced hero worship like nothing this country had ever seen outside of its most revered political figures and sports heroes probably. Did you feel like a hero before anybody had ever flown? Did you feel as if a great burden had been placed on you?

Well, the concept of "hero" is in the eyes of the beholder, wherever they may be, I guess; I don't wake up every morning thinking, I gotta be a hero today or something like that, nor did any of us then or since. But, we did have an awful lot of attention, that's for sure. I think people saw a lot of this competition with the Soviets at that time as sort of carrying the torch, as it were, for us getting back into this thing. And we felt it very much; we wanted to be first because we didn't want out nation to get behind, and so it was competitive all right. And then of course, President Kennedy announced the Apollo project, announced the lunar project, at that time. That really sort of laid down the gauntlet as to who was gonna go, and the Russians had a program to get to the moon, as we did; and we won that one. I've always thought that sort of the turning point in our national psyche was Al Shepard's flight; and then Gus and then mine; those three flights together. We went into space, then I did the first orbit, and I think there was an outpouring of feeling that people had back in those days, just sort of inundated you almost. It was a tremendous outpouring of national feeling, that we had accomplished something, and it wasn't just me, it was whoever would've been on that flight, in that capsule. He would have done the same thing, we had a competition there. I think one of the best things that ever happened was that President Eisenhower had decided when NASA was formed out of the old NACA, which was the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, and it was dissolved into NASA; he decided it would be open for the whole world, to watch and to see, and we'd share our information with the whole world. The Soviets had been completely locked in, everything was secret, nobody knew what was going on over there; even the intelligence community didn't know much about what was going on, and so it was a real contrast between the two programs. So when we had success, it was a success for all the world to share right along in, and I think many nations of the world really, not only appreciated that, they went along with it -- they were swayed by that. It was so dramatic because it was almost like Hollywood designed the set: you have a booster there, and you have night shots of it with klieg lights crossing in the sky, and vapor coming off of the cold tank in the moist air down there in Florida it was just so dramatic it was like something Hollywood dreamed up. And then along with that we had so many delays because of equipment, one thing and another; everybody wanted to be safe. I finally flew my flight on the eleventh scheduled date: that doesn't mean I suited up for all those, but I actually did suited up four times. Once it was canceled when I was on the way to the pad because of weather, but the other three times I up in the capsule; four-and-a-half hours one time, and almost six hours another time. And then during the flight it had some problems, and we worked through that, with the whole world watching, which they did. The whole thing was just so naturally dramatic; it wasn't designed that way, but it just was naturally that way. We finally went and made it and it was a successful flight, and the whole world went right along with us on that and I think that was sort of a change in our national psyche in this country.

Let me go back to February 20, 1962 for a moment. What was running through your mind in the final seconds of the countdown and you hear Scott Carpenter say, radio in your ear, "Godspeed, John Glenn"?

Well, there are two answers to that; one is the flippant, more humorous answer, and the other is more serious, but the flippant answer is, how do you think you'd feel if you were on top of two million parts built by the lowest bidder on a government contract? But it was more serious than that, obviously, and we just wanted to get the thing going, and I was looking forward to it. People think somehow that you're under such great tension, that you almost look at this as a suicide mission or something, and it wasn't that way at all. We had trained hard, we'd worked with the engineers, we had a lot of confidence in the equipment; even though the equipment wasn't as reliable then as it might have been, but, uh, it's a time when you really want to get going. You've trained a long time for it, you feel it's important, and you're just looking forward to getting the thing going and getting it off the pad.

When you finally had the capsule lifted onto the deck of the USS Noa, you get out and the world is changed suddenly, as well as the U.S. space program. Anytime that day or that evening, did you think to yourself, "Whoa, we finally did it; we caught them, we made the impact we wanted"?

Well, the fact that we finally were successful in orbital flight, I didn't have to wait 'til the end of the day; I was happy when we got up, just when I got into orbit. I had great confidence that this was going to be a success, and so I thought about that many times during the day, of course; but it was also a very busy day. I wasn't sitting up there just contemplating psychological things or philosophical ideas; there were a lot of things to be done and right from lift off. If you listen to the old transcript, I had a regular sequence of things on the oxygen, the different pressures, and so on. Also a sequence on the instrument panel I was to read off, so they could compare the telemetry signals, with the blockhouse. And so I was very, very busy during the flight and there wasn't a whole lot of free time. The early Mercury spacecraft did not even have a window so you could see out, and we had talked about that; it was quite a change in the spacecraft, but we finally convinced everybody and the engineers finally agreed -- Kim Gilruth, who directed the program then, agreed -- to put a window in right up over the head. So we could look up and out the window I think it was about fifteen inches long and eleven inches across, something like that. You had chances to look out and see what was out there, of course, and get a few pictures as I went along, but there wasn't a whole lot of time for that sort of thing because you were concentrating mainly on things inside. Making sure that the whole thing was going well, and there were some emergencies; the automatic control system went out at the end of the first orbit so I controlled manually from there on -- some things like that that kept me very busy.

After you're back home, one would have thought that you would have been reassigned again, but that didn't happen. Give us a flavor of what transpired that prevented you from flying again, setting the stage for your distinguished career in the Senate.

Well, I didn't know what the situation was at the time, but I went in to see Kim Gilruth, I wanted to be back on flight rotation again, and he said, well, Headquarters didn't want me to do that. And that's when Jim Webb was the Administrator of NASA at that time, and Hugh Dryden was the deputy up there, and Headquarters didn't want me to fly again, not right away. And so OK, I'd go back in a month or so later and I'd ask Kim again about getting back on flight rotation and I'd get the same answer again -- well, Headquarters didn't want that quite yet. And he wanted me to go into some areas of management of training, which I didn't really want to do at that time. So this went of for about a year-and-a-half, and he couldn't give me any indication as to when this might be reversed, and so I finally decided to go do some other things. I didn't know until, I think it was in one of the President Kennedy biographies, some years later, that it said he had actually indicated to NASA and to Jim Webb that he'd just as soon I was not used again, at least not for a while. And I don't know whether it was because of the political fallout if something would happen to me or what, but I didn't know that at the time. So I went on to other things.

All those years did you carry the same burning desire to get back up one more time? Discuss for a moment, if you would, the trigger, finally, that enabled you to enter into serious discussions with NASA about flying again.

I always wanted to go back up again, but as the years went by I thought that those hopes had gone glimmering a long time ago. But I always thought it would be good to go up again. Well, how this present assignment came about started back about almost four years ago. And every year the Senate debates the NASA budget, and I'm always very much involved with that and take part in it and prepare for it. And I noted in some of my preparation that there had been fifty-some changes in the astronauts' bodies in space, and some were important, some were minor, but there were fifty-some changes. This was published in one of the books on physiology and medicine that some of the NASA doctors had put together; Dr. Nicogossian, Pool, and Huntoon. In looking through that, it occurred to me that some of the same changes occur as part of the natural process of aging right here on Earth: osteoporosis, the body's immune system, muscle mass and strength, balance, orthostatic tolerance, and the ability of the body to keep blood in the proper part of the body to keep the brain operating properly. There are about ten different changes like that that I thought were very, very similar. So I looked in the Merck Geri, you know every doctor's office has it, one of these Merck Manuals, and about a dozen years ago they started putting out one that's called the Merck Manual on Geriatrics. Somebody had sent me a copy, and so one weekend I looked through the index and found a chart with all these things; special effects of aging on certain things, and compared those with the NASA list and came up with about a dozen areas that I thought should be looked into. I talked to some of the NASA doctors, Dr. Nicogossian and Vernikos, Joan Vernikos, and some of those people, and they had already noted some of these things also. I also talked to the people out in the National Institute of Aging and they were very interested in this. They had noted some of the same things, and they had thought there might be some correlation there we could look at, between aging and what happens to the younger astronauts. They had a couple of conferences and meetings then over a year in which they called in some of their scientists there in Washington, which the NASA doctors attended also, to discuss whether it might be worthwhile to send somebody older up, someone in their mid-seventies. They were the ones that suggested the general idea -- studying someone who had had some of these changes in their body occur as a natural part of the aging process, send someone up and see. Say if I went up, would I be immune then, basically, from those changes that the younger astronauts experience? If, that would occur, why? Would it affect me more? If so, why? When you come back to Earth, what's the rate of recovery? If there's a different rate of recovery between someone my age and the younger astronauts, why does that occur? In other words, what you're tryin' to find out is what within the human body turns these systems on and off. If we can learn some things like that, we not only can do a lot to take away some of the frailties of old age, but also help the astronauts up there now that have these things effect them in space. And as they go on for longer and longer spaceflights, these kinds of things are going to be much more important to the younger astronaut population. So they were interested enough to approach the Administrator, Dan Goldin, in June of '96, and I said "Somebody oughta be looking into these things, and whether it's me or not, somebody should, and I'd like to be the one, obviously." His response was well, number one, it had to make sense from a science standpoint, we didn't have the luxury of having seats just for people to go joy-riding in space yet it may come to pass someday but we don't have that yet. He put this out for peer review, to scientists that they'd contacted all over the country. And that went on for almost a year. Now this was in addition to the conferences that the National Institute of Aging had had. And then, number two, if I was to be considered, I'd have to pass every physical that anybody else passes to go into space. And so this all worked out, and the NASA scientists and the people they consulted thought this would be worthwhile, and selected this in competition with other programs that might occupy the same space on the orbiter. And so in January of this year it was announced. That's a long explanation to how we got here, but that basically is it.

And when it was finally announced, when you got the phone call that said you're gonna fly in space again, what was your reaction to it all?

Well, I was quite elated because I'd hoped this would come through, and who would ever have thought age becomes an advantage in this particular investigation instead of a disadvantage? So I'm very glad to be here and have been working very hard on the training. We in the Senate normally go for about three to five weeks, then we have a week or ten days or two weeks where people are back in their states or wherever, and I've used those periods, mainly this year, to be here in Houston or over at the Cape training with the crew that I've been assigned to. And all this month of August, of course, the Senate is out of session, so I'll be here. I'm here all during this month and then we will go out of session in very early October, and I'll be here training continually from that time on.

And, of course, you and your crewmates are training for a very complex mission with a tough timeline. Give us a sense of how complex, how crowded this flight is going to be.

You mentioned the crew: this is about as a good a bunch of people as you could ever get together; these are just very brilliant people, they really are, and I'm just honored to be a part of them. Let me digress just a moment here, because things have changed so much since the early days. Back when I went up, Al Shepard, Gus, and the rest of the seven, the doctors predicted some dire things back then. Would your eyeballs change shape, for instance. In the spacecraft, Friendship 7, that's in the Smithsonian, if you look up at the upper part of the instrument panel, the little eye chart is still up there with the little lines on it. I was to read that thing every twenty minutes during flight: some doctors predicted your eyes might change shape enough that you wouldn't have enough vision to read the instrument panel properly. Some doctors predicted that when fluid in the inner ear no longer was held in place as solidly by gravity it might move more randomly about and you'd get uncontrollable nausea and vertigo. And could you swallow, they didn't know whether you could swallow properly or not, so we took food along. Those were the levels of things that we were trying to put to rest at that time, so we would know how to design future spacecraft. Well through the years this has come up to now, where as you say, we have literally a mass of scientific experiments on this one flight. I don't know whether this will be the most science-rich flight that's ever gone up or not, but it's got to be one of the top ones. I think at last count we had eighty-three different projects on this one flight, and I'll be involved directly with some of those, of course, and I'll be backing-up other people, doing some of the things they're assigned to, also. But we've gone from back in those days where we were just tryin' to find out if we can do it, to now where these flights are literally out on the cutting edge of science, doing things that benefit directly, or have the potential of being of enormous benefit, to everybody right here on Earth. And that's what the space program's all about. Money isn't spent out there in space, it's spent right here on the ground and benefits of what we learn in space in this new laboratory come back to right here on Earth. We have protein crystal growth where you can grow these protein crystals up there of a larger size and purity than you can do here on Earth. The drug companies are doing research on this right now along with NASA, to design new designer medicines and drugs to hit specific diseases and treat certain human difficulties. There are a whole host of things like this, some are on every flight as continuing research, and every flight has some new things on it too that will be of benefit to people right here.

Do you feel, not only because of your presence on board, that STS-95 is the link that ties together the origins of human spaceflight with the stepping-off point to the future, and specifically the International Space Station?

Well, I think it is a stepping-off point, and everyone's proud that their flight is a building block up to the next one, but this really is the final step. This is the final flight here before we really start building the space station, the next flight up. We're going to have sixteen different countries involved with this thing, and see how much better we are cooperating with people and trying to work together internationally than in our past, with our usual international animosities that we've lived with for too long. It's going to be a great scientific end; not only an endeavor but an adventure. And from that time on most of the orbiter flights will be devoted to taking up equipment and the people to work and assemble the station. It'll be building for some time, and then after it becomes occupied the orbiter will be used to take people and equipment back and forth and keep it supplied; so it doesn't get put in the barn anytime soon, it becomes even more busy.

And so here you are about to board a spacecraft on a flight that bridges the time capsule, if you will, from the time that you flew first, when beating the Soviet Union was a political imperative, to now, being the curtain call for all of the missions in which the Russians will be an integral partner. How do you feel about that, the irony of it all?

It is ironic and I've thought a lot about that. The fact that we were in such competition at that time and now here we have the Russians training with us right here in Houston, and going up on some of our flights; and our people going up on the Mir, and training over in Russia. It's much better that we're working together now than just conducting international competition. The things that come out of this, that are being developed in this new laboratory in space, let's us move ahead, sharing the technology and knowledge. Things like the protein crystal growth, or a super light-weight aerogel insulator, plant growth differences that may apply to rice or wheat culture, or the biological research that some day may help with spinal column injuries. So we're really doing some far out type research here that's a horrible pun, I guess, but things like this are very, very exciting.

Give us a glimpse into the geriatrics studies in particular, how you will play a role and what are you going to look like up on orbit with all this stuff hanging off of you?

Well first let me talk about Protein Turnover, and that is where muscles degrade somewhat. They're not quite sure exactly why in some of these areas; it may have to do with a stress hormone, maybe other reasons. What happens with the elderly to anyone over about 65, muscle strength, even if you keep exercising, that muscle strength and mass seems to go downhill. So the muscle studies that are being done on this flight involve an injection into my arm of some isotopes, and then we'll take multiple blood and urine samples over the next twenty-four to thirty-six hour period, and these will be analyzed in the hopes of telling what caused the muscle breakdown. This research becomes potentially very valuable to not only the elderly, but to the astronauts who will experience longer-term flight which'll be possible on the International Space Station. Another important one is the Sleep experiment. We have some thirty-four-million Americans over the age of 65 right now, and that's due to triple over the next fifty years. By the year 2050 we're supposed to have right at a hundred-million people over 65, the fastest-growing segment in our population are those 85 and up, and this same trend is going on all over the world. Now, the reason I bring those figures out is because about half the people over 65 have some sleep problems, and they estimate that about a third of those people over 65 have very major sleep problems, to the point that it interferes with their day activity sometimes their lives are actually shortened because of this. So, they've had sleep experiments on some of the previous flights and that'll be continued on this flight; two of us on this flight will be going through sleep experiments. Now this sounds very simple but it's not. It's a way of measuring all of your brain waves, your EKG, your heart and circulatory system, your respiration, and your body core temperature; all of this will be monitored and registered. When I'm instrumented for this with what they call a head net, I think I'll have twenty-one different leads coming out of my body. In fact, as we're talking this morning, I just came from having spent a night with all this rig on and I still have the actigraph on and the recording of the body core temperature. I'm still going through on a twenty-four-hour cycle even as we're sitting here talking. Now what they'll do in this experiment will not only measure all of these different functions, but they will also be giving us either different levels of melatonin or a placebo -- and I won't know what I'm getting. I just take a pill, and we will study the body's natural production of melatonin, which is what helps put you to sleep at night on a regular, daily cycle. This'll be the first time that this has really been studied on anyone in the age group where this is really a major problem.

John, you're in phenomenal shape, but you're 77 years old; do you have any concerns about how you'll fare during any aspect of this flight, especially the powered flight to orbit?

No, not at all. In fact, I'm not concerned about that. One of the first things they checked me out on when I came down here for my first trip was to go over to San Antonio and do the centrifuge. The way the shuttle or the way the orbiter is designed, it travels at lower G, lower gravity levels, than we used back when we were just trying to go into space; that's the way it had to be. Don't forget these eighty-three different experiments we have on board, all of the equipment has to be designed to go along and not break. And so you don't want to design equipment that has to withstand eight or nine or ten G's; it's just not necessary. What we do on spaceflights now is you have a longer burning period to get you into orbit. It takes a longer time to get there, over eight minutes, almost eight-and-a-half minutes, where we used to get there in just over five. But obviously, with the longer burn time you can do that and get into orbit at a lower G level along the way. Back in the Mercury days we got up just below eight G's at insertion into orbit, and re-entry was about eight G; eight times gravity. But your G is taken into your chest like this, like you're lying on your back going into orbit; it isn't like sitting up in a fighter airplane, where the blood drains out of your head. The flight now, during insertion into orbit you get up to about three G's maximum, and then returning from orbit you only have about two G's and that's quite tolerable. That won't be any problem at all, I don't think. As far as my condition goes, I've passed every physical, and have remained in pretty good health most of my life my parents have pretty good genes, I guess, from a health standpoint. So I'm not concerned about being able to take the rigors of space, physically; I think that'll be something I'll be able to do quite well.

With the eyes of the world focused in on you and this mission, for obvious reasons, do you feel any personal pressure to perform or is this John Glenn, the old Marine fighter pilot, back in a spacesuit, going back up again?

Well, I suppose there's some pressure but, uh, pressure's never been something that dominated what I do. There is a lot of attention on this, and it's sort of been surprising to me. I would be lying if I didn't say I'm conscious of it, of course I'm conscious of it. I thought when the announcement was originally made back in January, it'd be a flurry of press interest and I thought it would go down, and then as we got closer to flight there might be a little more interest. But I've been surprised at the continuing level of interest in the flight and I won't duck it, because I'm going back up again. I've tried to sort of disembody myself and look at me from outside and say why is this occurring. And I think a lot of it is, we talked a little while ago, about those days back when there was a pressure, and boy this was sort of a change in national psyche, during the Mercury program. And anybody's who's around 50 or over now probably remembers those days. And it's sort of a harkening back to the old days, I guess it was very emotional back then. You know, we'd go places back then, the seven astronauts, we'd be in a parade or be at some sort of a dinner or something and people'd be crying. They just felt so strongly about it, and I think a lot of people remember. I guess this is maybe a wave of nostalgia that we've triggered off this time didn't design it that way but that's the way it seems to be working out. But the important thing is what we're doing up there; it's not just a wave of nostalgia, and if this can encourage older people to be more active and to stay more active, well then so be it, but that wasn't the basic reason why I'm going up again. I think many people are living healthy lives to an older age and can be more active and productive than they've ever been before, than ever in history. In the days of the Caesars the average age was just in the upper 20s. And then, through all those centuries, we got to the first of this century, and when we came into the 1900's the average age was only in the upper 40s. And all at once within this century in which we have lived, all at once the age curve has just taken off and gone straight up in the air. One of these days the average age will be in the 80s, both men and women pretty soon, we're close to it right now. Well, along with that increase has come a lot of problems, too. This is an area of research that can extend life and make it more enjoyable, for people all over the world. Those are some of the kinds of things that we're looking at in space flight today and this laboratory in space; it's exciting, and I'm just glad to be back and be a part of it.

What was it that got you interested in wanting to become an astronaut forty years ago?

My dad wasn't a pilot, but one time we were watching a pilot that was taking people up for rides, and it was an old Waco plane with an open cockpit -- he flew in the front and my dad and I sat side by side in the little seat in the back, and I was maybe eight or nine years old I guess. I'd never been up in an airplane at that time, and he went up and circled around Cambridge, Ohio, which is where I was born; we lived right near there. I was fascinated with flying from then on, and I built model airplanes as a kid. Not the ones that kids buy today, plastic and snap together, but the ones where you really built them; where you carved out the little pieces of balsa and you glued them in place and really put the whole structure together. And the rubber band motor you'd wind up and fly it and it'd crash and I'd put it back together again and fly again. Then when I was in college there was a chance to get your pilot's license with a program called the Civilian Pilot Training; CPT, just prior to World War II. You could take that and get your private pilot's license and get physics credits in college as well, and that was too good to miss. You were studying aerodynamics, and engines and everything, and so you got college physics credit for it. So just prior to World War II I had my private pilot's license and had fifty or sixty hours in the little Taylorcraft airplane, and some in a Cub I had gotten also. Then Pearl Harbor occurred, and I left college in the middle of my junior year and went into military flight training, and then was in the Marine Corps as a fighter pilot for twenty-three years. I love flying and stuck with it. When I went through test pilot training and I was doing that duty for about three-and-a-half years, after I was in the Korean War, and just as I was coming out of that flight training, test pilot work, was when the space program was starting. They were looking for volunteers, and that's when I volunteered and was fortunate enough to be selected. That was sort of the progression of how I got into aviation and into the space program.

What do you think is going to be going through your mind during the final seconds before launch? Are you going to look up and say "Al, Gus, Deke -- this one's for you," or what do you think will be running through your mind?

Well, there'll be philosophical thoughts like that, I'm sure, and should be, because it'll be a big event. But most of what you'll be concentrating on will be the business at hand; what happens during launch, the procedures there that we all have to follow. You are alert, keyed up to everything that's going on, you'll be listening to Curt as the flight Commander and Steve Lindsey as the Pilot and what they're doing and what they're saying. Keeping up with each part of the mission as it goes, looking forward to just being up there and planning exactly what happens when you hit zero G, because at that time it gets to be very, very busy. Each person has a timeline in which their activities are charted all through the whole nine days of this flight, and there's not much time off; once you hit zero G, that timeline really starts. And once you get out of the suit and into your more comfortable clothes, which you do the first thing you're up there, you're set to go to work, and everybody has their job assignments. But you won't be so concentrated you don't really think of the historical significance of it too; I'll be aware of that, representing a lot of things for a lot of people -- we all will. If I had my way, every mission would get the same kind of attention that I got on Project Mercury back in those days, because I think every crew deserves that kind of attention. But we're accustomed to the "new" in this country and we get used to it and we don't pay that much attention to subsequent flights, which we should. So if this flight can help rekindle some of that a little bit, some of the feeling about the importance of what we're doing here, then I welcome the attention. You know people have looked up for tens of thousands of years and wondered what was up there; in our lifetime we're going up there, and using this new laboratory of space in our own lifetimes, right now. What a fortunate time we are in, and what a great time in history to be around when we can participate in things like this. So during launch you won't be sitting back contemplating all the affairs of nations and so on, I suppose you'll be concentrating more on exactly what's going on there at the moment, and what your responsibilities are, and what they're going to be in a few minutes once you get up there. But there's going to be time during the mission when our timeline is caught up and where we have a few minutes off to do a lot of looking out of the window. To see things that I experienced on a limited basis back then with my flight that was a little under five hours, three orbits; this'll be about a hundred and forty-four orbits in nine days, and I'm looking forward to it.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 01/21/2003
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