Preflight Interview: Clayton C. Anderson, Mission Specialist
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STS-131 Commander Alan Poindexter (left), Mission Specialists Clayton Anderson (facing camera) and Rick Mastracchio participate in an ingress/egress timeline training session in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo Credit: NASA

This is the STS-131 interview with Mission Specialist Clay Anderson. Clay, tell us about your hometown and where you consider to be your hometown and what it was like growing up there.

I am from a small town in Nebraska called Ashland. It’s located mid way between Lincoln and Omaha, the two largest cities and I guess it’s a town of a population of about 2,200 these days. Still about the same size as when I left.

How would you say that that place has influenced who you’ve become?

I think it’s been a big influence on me. The smallness of the town meant that you knew everyone and everyone knew you. Your parents were friends with almost everyone in the whole city and you could be very active in a town like that. You could be very active in school in the community, in your church and we were, as a family, very active. I think that’s a big part of where I am today and who I am today is the fact that the ability to do many things and to be involved in many different things has shaped me such that I was a good space station and space shuttle candidate eventually.

You’ve been to space before. Did you get a chance on any occasion to actually see that region from space and, if so, what was that like?

I did and it was quite amazing. As a matter of fact when you first get to the space station, you’re looking out the window at the Earth, you think that, “Oh, yeah, I know where I live. I can find my hometown. I can find my state.” But it’s a little more difficult than you would think because you’ve taken away all the lines from the maps that you grew up with as a kid so the very first time that we sailed across the Midwest, I was struggling to figure out where my hometown was exactly. Then the next pass that we came by, we’re going from the northwest to the southeast, I was able to follow the Missouri River from its beginnings near Montana and followed all the way down until I saw the very familiar line of the eastern side of Nebraska and I could follow right down to see Omaha and Lincoln clearly and once I found those two, there was my hometown and it was very emotional for me. As a matter of fact, I actually cried when I passed over and was able to see it. I didn’t realize it would be that emotional for me but it was a very cool moment in my time in space.

Why was that such a profound moment for you?

I think that the fact that here I was floating 200 and some miles above the Earth, doing the dream that I’d dreamed of since I was a little kid, and then to fly over where it all began and I spent most of my growing up period in Ashland, Nebraska, and in the Midwest and so to see that from space, I think, was just a very culminating and emotional moment for me.

Tell us about some of the things you liked to do in growing up. What were your interests, sports, what hobbies?

I was very big into sports. If there was a sport to play, I played it. I was also very big in music and drama and the school that I was at, you could do all that sort of thing so I played football and basketball. I ran track, played golf, and played baseball. I was involved in the musical chorus and all the plays. I was on the speech team and the science club. I just did everything and that’s what you did because it was available to you and it was a lot of fun.

I’m assuming that taught you something about time management, all that stuff.

I’m not sure. I don’t think I really understood time management until I got to college and time management was kind of forced upon me by other things. But I think, little by little I kind of understood that the fact that we had to be in certain places at certain times and the other thing that was important was the obligation. You were responsible. You had agreed to participate and do whatever it was and our parents were really big on “You have an obligation. You have a responsibility to be on time, to do the right thing” and I think those are good qualities as well that I got when I was growing up.

Walk us through the educational steps that you took post high school, after graduation.

I went to Hastings College, a small Presbyterian school, in Hastings, Nebraska. Then following, the culmination there was a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics and then I went to graduate school at Iowa State University in Ames and I was able to get my Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Between those two opportunities at Hastings and at Iowa State, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to the NASA summer intern program here at JSC. I was able to get two summers where I could work down here in Houston between the time of my senior year at Hastings and my first year at Iowa State I was in Houston at Johnson Space Center. Following my first year at Iowa State I came back for a second tour of duty and then following my graduation from Iowa State, fortunately for me, NASA was able to hire and I was able to get a job at the Johnson Space Center starting in 1983.

Tell us about what that job was and how that progressed then.

My first summer internship I worked in a group called the Data System and Analysis Division. It’s kind of interesting because what they were working on at the time was brand new shuttle launches. The shuttle launched first in April of ’81. Well I was in the summer of ’81 following the very first launch of the space shuttle and I remember sitting in Building 2, the Teague Auditorium, listening to a post-landing seminar on the first shuttle launch. Well, we worked in the shuttle mission simulator and the group that I was with basically built all the models, the environmental models, how the winds blow the systems of the shuttle, the engines, the thrust how to make it move. We had this simulator that was basically brand new in 1981 and I was inside at times actually getting to fly it around, point it to the sun so they could check that their sun model was correct. It was quite a neat experience for me to be within that environment, not knowing or understanding anything about what was going on but it was really cool.

Do you recall when you first had the notion of becoming an astronaut? How long ago was that and what brought that about?

Well, my mother and I will argue. I thought, my earliest recollection, I was eight. So I remember being awakened nearer the middle of the night, my mom and dad, and my brother and sister and I were placed in front of the TV on Christmas Eve in 1968 to watch the Apollo 8 astronauts go around the back side of the moon and that’s what I remember. I remember the fact that they lost communication when they went behind the moon. Several minutes went by and then here they came on the other side and you heard that ‘Beep’, the quindar tone from the Control Center and then people started to talk again and it was just a riveting moment for me and I thought, “Wow! That is really cool. I would love to do that some day.” Well, my mother will argue that it was even earlier, that it was when I was four or five that the Gemini and Mercury astronauts were big at the time and that I told her that I was going to be an astronaut some day and she said we would have discussions about that. She dressed me up as a Mercury astronaut for one of our summer parades in my hometown and it’s called the Kiddie Parade. The way she dressed me up was, you couldn’t go to Target or Wal-Mart and buy a costume then so she wrapped me in aluminum foil. She got a hat box out, cut a hole in it and a little visor for me and she covered that in aluminum foil and put a couple little dotingly things on the top for my antenna and then I walked in the parade as a Mercury astronaut and got second place. So she was really bummed about that. She said I got robbed.

Okay, so you’re here at NASA working when you got your job, foot in the door, so to speak. Tell us how you then went about becoming an astronaut. What did you do?

When I was first here in the summer of 1981 I met with a guy named Harold ‘Bud’ Ream and he was in charge of the astronaut selection at the time and I still wanted to be one. I didn’t have any idea how you became one, so I sat down with him and he was very gracious and he talked to me for about an hour and he explained to me what they look for and how they select. So then basically I still really didn’t know what to do except what I was raised to do and that was to perform my job in the best manner that I could and so basically I continued to do the job that was assigned to me. I did it as well as I could and fortunately for me I was able to move up a little bit into the supervisory ranks and the management ranks and I think that through that time period of fifteen years that it took to get an interview as an astronaut I was able to kind of build my reputation as a person who did things and did things well and got things done. There’s no formula that I know of that helps you become an astronaut. So I just did my job and I did it as well as I could.

And how long of a timeframe from when you first started applying to when you were selected?

Fifteen years.


I applied fifteen times to be an astronaut, starting in 1983 which was the first time I was truly eligible. I had a Master’s Degree. I had enough work years of experience so I could officially put in my application and then fifteen years later, in 1996, well, actually thirteen years in ’96 I got interviewed for the first time but I still had to wait two more years until 1998 to be selected.

You were Science Officer and Flight Engineer on board the ISS for Expedition 15. What experiences, I’m sure there’s tons of experiences that you’ll remember, but tell us what that experience was like, just that whole time.

It was getting there with the training and everything was extremely difficult. It was very taxing on me. It was taxing on my family, but it was good for all of us in that it made us stronger. The actual flight time in space was really fun. That was the easy part. Being there and doing the things that we got to do, doing spacewalks, doing experiments, just floating every day was just an awesome experience that I’ll never forget. I had great crew mates, Oleg Kotov and Fyodor Yurchikhin. Fyodor was the commander. Oleg was the Soyuz commander. I’m very fortunate to be able to go up again on STS-131 and spend time in space with Oleg which is very exciting for me and we just had a blast. It seemed like we meshed very well as a crew. We had a great time together. We were actually the Three Mousquetaires, the Three Musketeers in Space, so we just had a great time.

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STS-131 Mission Specialists Clayton Anderson, Naoko Yamazaki (center) and Stephanie Wilson participate in a Full Fuselage Trainer mock-up training session in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo Credit: NASA

What things surprised you about being up there, just first impressions, smells, sounds, anything like that?

I think the thing that sticks the most is the difficulty with which you performed an easy task you did on the ground. For example, the first time I had to take a note the ground would call and I had to write something down. It was really weird that you have to hold yourself. You have to find something to hold on to push the pencil or the pen against the paper because as soon as you do that you start to float away. There are lots of tricks and techniques you have to learn to be able to be successful up there in doing just the simplest task. When I first started the mess with tools and ratchet wrenches and find that I would spin all the way around. It was kind of fun but you quickly learn to adapt and figure out what you need to do to lock your feet or to grab something with your hands. So I think that was the most interesting thing. The other part that the kids all love to hear about it going to the bathroom in space. It’s easy on the ground. It’s easy in space but you have to have a learning curve that you have to go through.

You have to plan for that.


Tell us what it’s been like working with this crew for this mission.

It’s been a great experience for me. One of the neatest parts of this, being on a shuttle crew is I actually went through the process I kind of thought I would go through when I was assigned as a station crew member and that is you get a call from the boss and he calls you down to the office and he surprises you with, “Hey, Clay, you’re going to fly as a mission specialist on STS-131.” Well, that really didn’t happen to me during the station flow, for whatever reason. It was after Columbia. There was lots of stuff going on and it was basically, “Hey, Clay, do you want to fly on the station? Yes or no?” And when I said, “Well, which’ll get me into space quicker?” And they said, “Probably the station”. I said, “Yes” and I was in. But this time it was more of the traditional, they brought me down to the boss’s office and they told me I was assigned and I got to find out who the commander was and all my crewmates and we had a crew meeting right off the bat and it’s just been a really great experience and they’re wonderful people. Dex, Alan Poindexter, the commander, is excellent. He knows his stuff and he’s got a great manner and understanding of how he works with the crew. Jim Dutton, he’ll be a first-time flyer but he’s extremely sharp as the pilot. Rick Mastracchio is the ultimate mission specialist in my opinion. He knows his stuff better than anyone and he’s got two flights under his belt as does Stephanie Wilson who I flew with on STS-120. So that just leaves me and Naoko Yamazaki from JAXA and Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, they’re both first-time flyers so I’m very excited. Hopefully I can pass on to them some knowledge that will help them out and help them have a better experience in space. They’ve already given me more knowledge that will help me and I’m looking forward to being in space with them and watching them grow as new fliers. I think it’ll be great.

Tell us about your thoughts about the work that’s done by the thousands of people behind the scenes to make every mission a success and to keep the crew safe.

Well, there are obviously thousands of people all across the United States and, now with the station program around the world that make sure that we are kept safe all the time that we’re doing anything. Whether it be a ground training event, something in space, in the NBL underwater, we have a myriad of people whose jobs have our life sometimes hanging in the balance and we’re very grateful to them. They are very professional. I think that one of the great things about working at Johnson and within the NASA realm, is that we work with some of the finest people in the world, some of the most dedicated, some of the most professional and some of the truly best in their professions throughout the world.

Give us a synopsis if you would of what the key objectives are of the mission.

For STS-131, the biggest objective is to bring the Multi Purpose Logistics Module, the MPLM, and attach it to the station so that we can empty it. The MPLM has all sorts of cargo and supplies, experiments, racks, food, clothing. We need to get all that stuff onto the station so that that makes it easier for them to sustain themselves over time. Then the second really big tasks that we have are the EVAs, the spacewalks that Rick Mastracchio and I will do. The main point of those is to replace a couple key pieces of hardware, the ammonia servicer or the ammonia tank assembly on the outside of the station and then a Rate Gyro Assembly that helps the station understand what its attitude is. So between the EVAs that we have planned to do work outside and then all the transfer that we have to do inside, those are probably the two big ticket items on STS-131.

And you mentioned the MPLM, this one’s named Leonardo. For people who may not be familiar with it, kind of give us your best description of what it looks like, how big it might be, basically.

Well, it’s a huge silver cylinder. It’s about fifteen feet in diameter and about sixty feet long and the reason for that is that it has to fit inside the shuttle’s payload bay and those are basically the dimensions of the shuttle’s cargo area. What we’ll do is we’ll pluck it out with the shuttle arm and hand it off to the station arm and plug it into the International Space Station. Once it’s plugged in we hook it up, make sure it’s airtight, open the door and go inside and start to transfer all that cargo. So it’s basically, if people can use the analogy that we’re moving stuff from one house to another, if you will, and it’s our U-Haul, it’s our cargo carrier and instead of driving it into the driveway and opening the back and carrying all the stuff out, we do it a little differently and we bring it up in the space shuttle and hook it up to the bottom of the station.

You mentioned that you and Rick Mastracchio will make up the spacewalking team. It’s a reunion of sorts for the both of you. You’ve done an EVA before. Tell us about what that experience was like.

Well, Rick was a crew member with the STS-118 crew in Endeavour. They arrived at the International Space Station in August of 2007 during the time period when I was there. I had been there probably about, a little over two months I think and the plan was I was a station crew member training a little bit with the shuttle crew so, in order to give me EVA, spacewalk, experience I had been training with Rick and Dave Williams from Canada to perform a couple spacewalks with them when they arrived. So I got to go out on Rick’s third EVA of that mission and then I went out again with Dave Williams which was his third EVA of STS-118 and Rick and I had a great time again. We did about a five and a half hour EVA. Rick, unfortunately, had a cut in his glove and the cut in his glove necessitated that he get back in the airlock a little earlier than we would have liked and so our EVA was just slightly shorter than what we had nominally expected, but we had a lot of fun, did some very cool things. He and I worked together to move some CETA carts. They’re basically tool carts that run across the front of the station, and he and I worked to take them from one side with the arm and Charlie Hobaugh to put them on the other side. So we had a very enjoyable time.

Give us a little background on some of the hardware that you’re going to be replacing. You’ve got a couple key items of hardware. What are those?

The big ticket for 131 is Rick and I will replace an ammonia tank assembly. The ammonia tank assemblies basically provide the coolant to the systems so it’s like Freon in your air conditioner at home but we use ammonia on the outside of the station. So we have a huge tank. It’s about eighteen hundred pounds. It’s probably the size of a double refrigerator-freezer component and it lives on the backside toward the center of the station and there are actually two, one on the right and one on the left, and the one on the left has recently been changed out by another shuttle crew. So we’re going to change the one on the right. So what happens is we bring up a brand new one in the shuttle. We have to get that one ready to move and get that one ready for the arm to grab and they take it away and then we undo the old one and the arm will move the old one to the front of the station for a temporary stowage place. We’ll install the new. Then we’ll take the old and put it back in the shuttle to bring it home and it will be refurbished to be used later. So that’s the biggest component. The other important components again are the Rate Gyro Assemblies. They have been failing a little bit so we have to replace one of those and the Rate Gyro Assembly is very important so that the station knows where it is in space and what its attitude is and that’s kind of important when other vehicles, like a Soyuz or a shuttle or a Progress, come and have to dock. We need to know very precisely what position the station is in so that those vehicles can dock effectively. Those are the key things that we’re going to replace on the outside. We’ll also take a couple experiments home, one from the Japanese Module and it’s sort of like a MISSE experiment or a materials experiment that lives on the outside of the station in the environment. It just is exposed to the space environment and then after so much time in space, we grab it and bring it home. And then the final thing we’ll do that’s of a mechanical nature is we remove an experimental platform from Columbus and we bring it home with us and it has nothing on it at the time. It’s just a platform. We’re going to bring it home for refurbishment and perhaps they’ll add some new experiments to take back up.

Each mission has its own complexities. In your opinion, what are the challenges, the biggest challenges of a mission like this?

I think for our mission it’s mostly timing in that we have this MPLM that has to become attached to the station and then all of its contents have to be removed. It has to be removed in a certain amount of time and we have to get it to a place within the station where it’s not in the way and stowage is a big problem inside the station these days. Then we have to take all the stuff the station guys don’t need any more and put it back, pack it securely so that we can bring it home. So the big activity of transferring, of bringing all that stuff on and taking all the stuff off, it may sound very simple but it has to be quite uniquely choreographed because we want to make sure that we don’t forget anything or we don’t…anything incorrectly. So it’s very important that we know what we take, where we put it, what we get from the station and where it goes back in the MPLM. And then the other part is the choreography of the spacewalks because we’re going to be relying heavily on the robotic arms and in order to all that, again it’s a timing exercise because while we’re doing one thing outside, the arm has to be moving to a position to help us out and as we grab the ammonia tank assemblies and move those around it’s a big dance and everybody has to be about it at the right time so that we can continue to accomplish all the tasks in each EVA so it’s the whole mission, I think, is a timing exercise.

At some point, a few days after you launch, you will start making, closing the gap between the shuttle and the space station. You’ll have station in your sights. Tell us what you’re scheduled to be doing for the rendezvous and docking phases of the flight.

I’ll be on the Flight Deck with Dex and Jim Dutton and Stephanie Wilson and part of my responsibility for that day will be maintaining the timeline. I’ll be the guy that has to make sure that we’ve done everything per the plan, that we’ve checked it off, we haven’t missed anything as we prepare to rendezvous and dock with the station. The other job I have is Jim and I will be very critical or key in that we’ll be doing most of the burns when we wake up on rendezvous day so we’ll actually go to the shuttle’s computers and we’ll make sure that the parameters are correct. We’ll execute the burns. We’ll monitor the performance of the engines and make sure that we’re actually closing that gap to the International Space Station. Once we get close enough Dex begins to take over and fly manually and at that point Jim and I become backups to him to help monitor all the systems and to make sure that things are going well as we press into docking.

Then subsequently the MPLM will be taken out of the payload bay and attached to the station as you mentioned. There’s some work to be done after that to make sure that the MPLM is in a good configuration before you can actually go in and start making transfers. Tell us about that.

One of the jobs that will happen once it’s mated is we have to bolt it down. We have to actually make the physical connections to make the module airtight. That will be done by the station crew, T.J. Creamer, Oleg Kotov and Soichi Noguchi will help to do that. Then once that’s done I’ll go in and I’ll begin to take apart the pieces that cover the hatch and remove some of the hardware that’s no longer necessary and that will allow us to actually float freely between the two vehicles, so I’m very excited. I get to be the first one to actually open the hatch of the MPLM, push it open and fly inside. I’ll have my little space goggles and I’ll probably have a mask over my mouth so I don’t ingest anything but I’m looking forward to that part. It’ll take quite a while to do the physical removal of hatch covers and connecting of electrical and data umbilicals that have to be put in there to make sure that the module can talk to the computers, the lights can be turned on and the ventilation can be turned on. All of that stuff needs to be done before anybody goes in to make it a safe environment.

You’ve touched on some of the work to be done on some of the EVAs already but let me have you give us kind of a blow by blow detail of the work sites that you’re going to visit and what you’re going to do there starting with the EVA 1.

Well, the big item for EVA 1 is the old ammonia tank assembly on the backside of the station. It’s located somewhat near the middle of the station, just a little bit off to the right on the backside and what we have to do first is go up there and prepare that to be removed so we’ll disconnect some cables. We’ll disconnect some connectors. We’ll make sure that the bolts that hold it in. There are four bolts that are on the back. We’ll make sure those are in the proper config and we also have to help the arm with the old ammonia tank by adding a couple of grapple fixtures. We have to be able to grab the tank itself with the arm and you can’t do that unless it has a special fixture on it so we have to make sure that those are attached in the proper places. That will allow Stephanie and Jim to eventually reach in and grab that one. But before we do that, we’re going to move down into the shuttle’s payload bay. We’re going to go to the new ATA and the new ATA has to have one of these grapple fixtures added and then we’ll release it from the carrier in the back of the payload bay so that Stephanie and Jim then, I’ll actually grab it and turn and hand it to them. They’ll fly down with the arm. They’ll grapple to it on this piece that Rick has added. They’ll carry it off and we’ll add a second grapple fixture that will allow them to temporarily stow it on the front side of the truss and it’s being stowed on the remote servicer assembly. That’s the big train that runs across the front of the station. It has the place where we can stow it temporarily. So now that one’s out of the payload bay. It’s living on the station just temporarily stowed. Then we’ll go back on the second EVA to the backside and we’ll actually remove the old ammonia tank assembly on this day. We’ll pull it off and Stephanie and Jim again will fly it over the top of the station to a CETA cart. These are the carts that also ride across the front of the station and what we’re going to do there is Rick and I will meet Stephanie and Jim with the CETA cart in place. We’ll meet them with the ammonia tank assembly and then they’ll fly it up close and we’re going to strap it down again temporarily. So now we have two ammonia tanks, a new one and an old one, and they’re both resting temporarily. Well now the next step then is to go, they get the new one. They fly it over the top. Rick and I meet it in the back and now we’re going to install that new one. They fly it up as close as they can. We actually grab it. We’re going to put it into its soft docking place, tighten down the bolts. Then we’re going to connect all the connectors, all the fluids, all the electricals and then the ground’s going to make sure it works. If that happens, if it works well, that’s really good. Now we can go back to the old one on the front of the station and we can work to take it off, let Stephanie and Jim grab it again and now we’re going to fly it down to the payload bay of the shuttle. Both of these activities take the first two EVAs essentially. We need two EVAs to do this entire dance of ammonia tanks. So then finally, once they bring it down to the shuttle’s payload bay, Rick and I can attach that one, bolt it down for the ride home so it can be refurbished. So that we now have the new one on the back, the old one’s back in the shuttle to be taken home and that essentially completes the first two EVAs.

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STS-131 Mission Specialist Clay Anderson dons a training version of his shuttle launch and entry suit in preparation for a training session in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo Credit: NASA

And then tell us about what will happen on EVA 3.

EVA 3 is kind of a miscellaneous EVA. We have lots of different tasks we’re going to do. Most notably we’ll do some work with the Special Purpose Dextrous Manipulator that we call, like to call Dextre. I’ll be doing some work on that one. I’ll remove some thermal insulation that’s been there for a while that needs to go away. I’ll take that out and also I will be working on installing a camera that goes onto one of the camera locations and Rick will also be doing some camera but he’ll be doing it in a different place, on the lab module. There’s a camera that needs to be fixed. It needs to be removed and replaced and Rick’s going to do that task so those are the big things that we’ll do on EVA 3.

We’re approaching the scheduled end of the space shuttle era. It evokes different feelings from different people who’ve been involved with the space program and shuttle. What are your thoughts about that happening?

Well it’s disappointing. The shuttle has been an incredible machine. It’s done so many things for the space program that its legacy is well understood by most. But I am privileged to be able to say that I’ve flown both on the shuttle and on the station. I really wish that we could extend the shuttle. I wish it could go longer. I wish we could have the crystal that says, “Hey, we can fly how many more years safely” but all this involves tax dollars. It involves planning and it’s way above my pay grade, but I’m very proud of what I have contributed in my career for the shuttle and I hope that the legacy it leaves in history is fair to its huge contributions. A lot of people argue, “Well, we just went to low Earth orbit over and over again.” But that’s so significant, the things that we’ve accomplished, the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station. None of those things could have been done without the space shuttle and the fact that we survived a Challenger and a Columbia and came back even more safely than we had before, all those things are very positive things. What people need to understand is that the future of our space program is built upon all of those steps. It’s built upon what we did incorrectly, but what we learned and we corrected, everything that comes after it is going to be better because of what we learn by the shuttle program. So it’s very neat for me to be a small town kid from Nebraska who can say that he participated in those programs and was able to support and actually fly on a space shuttle. I’m very proud.

Do you have any space shuttle memories that you could share with us and tell us why those moments made such an impact on you?

The first time I used the space toilet, that’s pretty exciting. I don’t know if I can tell you any more detail than that but somebody has likened it to scoring a touchdown. I think that one of the neatest things for me, for this flight, I’ll actually be on the Flight Deck when I come home. For my first flights I rode up on the mid-deck. I came home on the mid-deck and there’s not a lot to see. You can feel and sense and it’s kind of neat how you’re thinking what’s going on outside as you use your perception to figure out what’s actually going on. You can only feel it. You can’t see it. You can hear it and feel it but you can’t see it and that was kind of neat. But I think the biggest thing for me had to be launch on STS-117, my very first time, the power, the thrust, the noise, the shaking that was associated with all that plus the excitement and the anxiety that I had because my first launch was going to leave me in space for five months or so. That’s a really significant memory for me. I remember that Danny Olivas and Jim Reilly and I were on the mid-deck of Atlantis for the 117 launch and as we started to go, Jim Reilly, the veteran of the crew knew what was going on, he reached over and put his fist out and we all bumped our fists together and that was a very significant moment for me because now it was becoming reality. All the stuff that you did before, it wasn’t real. It was training. It was a simulator. It was, here’s what you should expect. Here’s what it should feel like but now I was actually experiencing the real thing and that was very memorable for me, probably more so than any part of the shuttle, two days that I was on the shuttle going and the two days I was coming home, launch was more significant to me I think than landing. Although landing brought the emotion of coming home after five months and seeing family and friends again. That was pretty exciting.

You mentioned shuttle legacy and your hopes for how it will be portrayed. How do you think shuttle will be remembered in a future where space travel between worlds is as commonplace as airplane travel is on Earth today?

Well, it may be very much analogous to the Wright Brothers and their first flight at Kitty Hawk. Who would have imagined at that time that a flight that flew about 122 feet would lead to 787s flying over the ocean and rockets going into space and people hopping in airplanes as simply as they used to hop in a horse and buggy. So it’s very possible that in the future, depending on where we go, that the shuttle will be looked at as one of the first vehicles that actually made space travel to be routine. It’s hard for me sometimes to think and use the words that space travel is routine because it’s really not. Until we get to the point where we’re launching a couple times a week or with people of all walks of life that aren’t specifically astronauts, it’s a little hard for me to use the word ‘routine’, but eventually I’m very hopeful we’ll get there in the Star Trek of all sorts of people getting to go to space station and visit other worlds. So perhaps it’ll be my grandchildren, I would like to think it would be my kids but I don’t think we’re going to get there that fast.