Chapter 20: "And They Said it Couldn't be Done…!"
At last…it's official! NASA has declared that I am formally assigned to a mission! I am now a proud member of not one, not two, but three different crews! Here's how it works. The STS-118 crew comprised of Commander Scott Kelly, Pilot Charlie Hobaugh, Mission Specialists Richard Mastracchio, Dave Williams (Canadian Space Agency), Tracy Caldwell and Educator Mission Specialist Barbara Morgan, will be my ride to orbit on the Space Shuttle Endeavour! They will "deliver" me to the International Space Station (ISS) where I will join my Russian crewmates Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin (Fee-yodor Yer-chee-kin) and Soyuz Commander Oleg Kotov (Al-leg Co-taf) as part of Expedition 15. My journey will conclude some 3 months later when Commander Pam Melroy and her crew of STS-120 carry my replacement, Dan Tani, onboard with the Space Shuttle Discovery. We (STS-118) are scheduled to blast off no earlier than June 28, 2007. Man, that's next summer!!!
Image above: Astronaut Clayton Anderson gets ready to train for a spacewalk at the Neutral Bouyancy Laboratory. Credit: NASA
All of this means that my life is changing rapidly. Sunita Williams, the astronaut that I have been backing up for the past couple of years, is on her way to the ISS which means that I am "prime" for Station. More work and longer hours, but the rewards will be grand!
As part of the STS-118 crew I will share responsibilities as directed by my commander Scott Kelly. So far, we are planning that I will be performing 2 spacewalks or EVAs (extra-vehicular activity), one with Rick Mastracchio and one with Dave Williams. During these EVAs we will be talking directly to our IV (inter-vehicular) crewmate Tracy Caldwell. In addition, I will provide support to ISS and Shuttle arm operators Charlie Hobaugh and Barbara Morgan. We will be delivering one of the Station's truss segments, called S (starboard) 5, a new control moment gyro (CMG) and an extended stowage platform (ESP-3). The small S5 "spacer" fits between S4 and S6, two segments that house some of the Station's solar arrays. The new CMG will replace one that has failed in orbit and needs to be returned to Earth to allow engineers to figure out why it broke. This happens on a later Shuttle flight so we need to place it on the stowage platform to "live" until it's time for it to come home.
Image at left: Astronaut Clayton Anderson prepares for a training session at Johnson Space Center. Credit: NASA
During Expedition 15, Fyodor, Oleg and I will remove a Station element called a pressurized mating adapter or PMA. While Fyodor unbolts the PMA and releases its attachment points using computer commands, I grab the element with the Station's robotic arm and, with Oleg's help, pull it away from its docked location on the Station's port (left) side of the Node module and move it to the nadir (bottom) port of the Node. We fly it in to where Fyodor can then use the computer's commanding capability to reattach it and ensure it's able to be pressurized. The port side docking port (now vacant) is where my STS-120 friends will eventually place the newest module to be delivered to Station, Node 2. Our expedition also plans for me to once again venture outside the Station to perform a spacewalk, this time with Fyodor. One of our key tasks will be to release and jettison (throw away) a piece of hardware that is no longer useful. Sounds easy right? Well, this particular piece of hardware is the size of a refrigerator! No worries…it burns up before reaching the Earth.
STS-120 will arrive sometime in the early fall to return me to Earth. But before they do, I will help them to install Node 2 and remove the set of solar arrays currently living on top of the Station to their permanent resting place way out on the Station's left side. We'll leave a Space Station the size of two football fields!
It appears that I am in for one "…endless summer!"