Feature

Preflight Interview: Michael Good, Mission Specialist
04.23.10
JSC2010-E-052005 -- Michael Good

NASA astronaut Michael Good, STS-132 mission specialist, attired in a training version of his shuttle launch and entry suit, is pictured during an ingress/egress training session in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo Credit: NASA

This is the STS-132 interview with Mission Specialist Mike Good.  Mike, tell us about the place that you consider to be your hometown and what it was like growing up there.

I grew up in a place called Broadview Heights, Ohio.  It’s a suburb of Cleveland, about ten miles south of Cleveland similar to here with Houston.  We were close enough to the big city where we could go downtown and catch ball games and get the culture of the bigger city but we’re out in the suburbs and so enjoyed that part of it.  I grew up there the whole time.  I lived there from all the way through high school until I went to college.

Tell us about some of the things that you liked doing.  What were your interests?

When I was a little kid I liked to just go outside and play.  We had an acre and I had four brothers and a sister so we’d just go out and play in the backyard with all the neighborhood kids.  My mom had a bell on the back porch there and she’d ring the bell in the summertime when it was time to come home for dinner and you could hear it all over the neighborhood.  She was kind of a kool-aid mom.  A lot of the kids would end up at our house.  It was a nice place to grow up because it was nice in the summertime, cold in the winter, a lot of snow, but you got all four seasons so a little bit different than living here in Houston.

Okay.  How would you say that that place influenced who you’ve become basically?

For some reason there are a lot of astronauts that come from Ohio and from Cleveland specifically.  I heard Neil Armstrong talk this summer at the fortieth reunion for Apollo and he talked a little bit about that and I thought it was interesting what he said that a lot of folks came from Ohio.  It was a rural area and a lot work with their hands and just did tasks where they were using their hands and mechanical things and I don’t know if that had anything to do with it, but a lot of people are from that area and a lot of astronauts came from the Ohio area and I’m proud of that.  That’s interesting and John Glenn and Neil Armstrong are two of the most notable from the Ohio area.

I’m going to share this.  I’ll throw this out there and you can talk about it if you want to.  I remember the story you were telling once that I overheard about some of the jobs that you had that probably worked directly to the work ethic that you’ve developed.  Can you tell us about any of those?

One of my summer jobs through high school; I think I did it for three or four summers was, a garbage man on the garbage trucks right in my hometown, in Broadview Heights, so I picked up my garbage.  I picked up my friends’ garbage and I had various folks around the city that would leave me cookies or drinks and things in their mailbox and so it was fun.  I actually, instead of riding on the back of the truck, a lot of times we’d run the whole route.  I ran cross country and track in high school and I think that helped me get in shape and get in good running shape.  I remember working with one guy in particular.  He was a linebacker for Purdue.  He went on from our high school to play football at Purdue and he was a big boy and I was a skinny little guy and so I’d pick up some of the bags and if there was a big washing machine or something there, I’d go over to try to help him pick it up.  He’d just push me out of the way and say, “Get out of the way.”  He’d pick it up and throw it in the back of the truck. I worked with a lot of my buddies from high school, we worked on the back of the trucks and we had a lot of fun during the summer working jobs like that.  When we weren’t picking up garbage we helped on asphalt roads and stuff so I think it does go to the work ethic in that area, a lot of just hard working folks.

Tell us about your educational background.  Let’s start from after high school graduation.  Tell us the steps that you took.

After I graduated from high school I went on to Notre Dame.  I did my undergrad and my graduate work at Notre Dame.  I got an undergrad in aerospace engineering and then I stayed and got my Master’s also in aerospace engineering so that was a really good deal.  I had the opportunity to stay and get that done before going on active duty because when I graduated from Notre Dame, undergrad, I also was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the Air Force and instead of going right into active duty, the Air Force gave me an educational delay.  They gave me the time to go ahead and get my Master’s Degree before I came on active duty.

Do you recall when it was that you first got the notion of becoming an astronaut?  What put that thought in your mind and why?

I think a lot of people growing up when I did, in the sixties, watching the Apollo program and watching the astronauts land on the moon for the first time, we’re obviously inspired and motivated by that.  I don’t think I thought about being an astronaut when I was seven years old and was watching that for the first time, but it definitely got my interest.  I think the first time I really thought about even aerospace engineering was my freshman year at college, at Notre Dame.  The year was 1981 and we had flown the space shuttle for the first time in April and that was right about the time that I was picking classes for my sophomore year.  So my freshman year was just kind of a generic.  Everybody in engineering was in one group.  You didn’t have to pick your major until your sophomore year when you started getting more specialized in your courses.  So it was about that time that I was picking classes and watching this shuttle go up for the first time and that’s when I decided that this is a really interesting thing going on right now and I want to be a part of it.  I want to be a part of building not just airplanes but rockets and helping to design those things.  Again, I don’t think I was thinking about being an astronaut at that time, but I wanted to be a part of it.  I wanted to be a part of the space program and so I got into aerospace engineering and as I said, got my graduate degree in aero and then went on into the Air Force and started flying and I can get into that, because the Air Force career kind of progresses along.  I flew in the Air Force.  I flew fighters for about four years over in England and then I came back to the Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California and again my interest is just growing in flying and engineering and at Test Pilot School I got to put these two things together.  The things that I like to do the most, engineering and flying; got to test new airplanes, new weapon systems and this is something that NASA seems to like in their applicants is to have that Test Pilot School background.  The test engineers or test pilots.  I’m actually a test navigator.  I was a navigator, Weapon Systems Officer in the Air Force so I sat in the right seat of the F-111 operationally and then after Test Pilot School, I stayed at Edwards and did flight tests on the B-2 stealth bomber and I also sat in the right seat there and we did testing on the radar and terrain-following radar and the weapons systems navigation systems for that.  All of that put me in a position where I was able to apply to NASA to be an astronaut and I had the qualities that they were looking for and after three applications I finally got an interview and then was able to come down here to Johnson Space Center and go through that week-long interview process, all the medical and all the interviews and it worked out.  This time it worked out.

What was it like when you got the nod to come on down, that somebody said, “Hey, how would you like to be an astronaut?  We want you to come down.”

I interviewed in October of ’99 which is a nice time to be in Houston.  It wasn’t so hot.  It was really nice weather but it was actually a long time before they actually made the call for our class to come down.  It was in July.  It was actually July twentieth.  I remember the date because this is a historic date in the space program.  July twentieth was the day that they landed on the moon back in 1969 so it was neat to get called by the Chief of the Astronaut Office on that day.  I was at Eglin Air Force Base in my office by myself.  The phone rang and actually I wasn’t there.  I had a message.  I was out getting water survival training that morning.  I got back to the office and there was a note that said, “Charlie Precourt from the Astronaut Office called.”  Of course, my heart starts pounding and I got on the phone and called him back and that’s when he asked me ….they make it sound like, “Hey, so do you still want to be an astronaut?”  It’s like, “Well, sure” ….  I think I actually had to put the phone on mute for a second ……I was kind of excited there in my office.  I don’t know if I yelled or what I did but I got back on the phone with him and I felt like my heart was pounding out of my chest.  I said I’d love to come down and work for NASA and be a part of the program.

Your most recent flight was to the Hubble Space Telescope.  Tell us about that experience.  It had to be, in more ways than one, an out of this world experience.

Well, first of all, it’s just great to be able to say, “Yeah, I’ve had a flight experience”. For all this time leading up to the Hubble flight, I was always an unflown rookie and so there were some of the unknowns that go with that.  So now it’s great to be able to say, “Yeah, I went up on STS-125.  We went to the Hubble Space Telescope, did a great servicing mission on it.  It was very successful and now I’m really looking forward to this flight having had that experience.”

What was your first glimpse of Hubble like?  I mean, you’ve seen it in simulations before you got up there.  How did it compare?

It was big.  It just seemed so big when you see it in the simulator and you see the 2-D projection of the Hubble image.  Just seeing it for the first time and as we rendezvoused with Hubble, it starts out as just a tiny little star, just a pinpoint of light and then we just kept getting closer to it and closer to it and it got bigger and bigger until finally we were, flying right up next to it and we reached out with the robotic arm and grabbed a hold of it and brought it down into our payload bay so that we could work on it.  But it was beautiful.  It looked great.  It was nineteen years old but it looked pristine, brand new, shiny and big.

What’s it like actually working on it and at some point I guess you’re actually inside this magnificent observatory that’s done so much for humanity?  What was that, how profound was that for you?

It was the thing that I probably looked forward to the most going into the mission; was to go up the airlock on my first spacewalk with my buddy, Mike Massimino.  We call it a spacewalk but you’re translating along with your hands actually getting around the payload bay.  We went to the back part of the payload bay where the Hubble Telescope was and we actually grabbed a hold of it and then opened up the doors and like you said, we crawled inside the Hubble Space Telescope and it was just amazing that we’re actually inside of it working on it.  Before I took off on the mission I used to even stand in my driveway and you could watch Hubble go over like you could see the International Space Station go overhead as a fairly bright star.  You could see the Hubble Telescope going across the sky and I would just stand there in my driveway and imagine hanging on to the telescope and going across the sky with it and it was amazing.  It was really a great feeling to be out there on the telescope and inside the telescope and then to do the work that we did to make it a new telescope again to give it new instruments, new cameras and new spectrographs so that the scientists can continue on with the exploration and discoveries that it’s done in the past and we’ve made it tenfold, at least, a better telescope that’ll last another hopefully five to ten years.

Now you have the opportunity to visit another remarkable engineering feat, the International Space Station.  What are you most looking forward to visiting the space station?

JSC2010-E-026889 -- Michael Good

NASA astronaut Michael Good, STS-132 mission specialist, participates in an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit fit check in the Space Station Airlock Test Article (SSATA) in the Crew Systems Laboratory at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo Credit: NASA

I think, again, it’s going to be going out the airlock, this time on the station side and seeing the view of Earth and out into space, not from inside the payload bay of the shuttle but out there hanging off of the station.  For Hubble, we brought Hubble into our payload bay and we worked on it out there so it was kind of like working in your garage.  This is going to be more like going out into the neighborhood.  It will be more of an adventure crawling around the space station. One of our spacewalking tasks, actually both the spacewalks that I’ll be on; I’ll be all the way out at the end of the P6 truss working to replace six batteries on this mission and so that’s…other than going out the hatch initially, it’s going to be going all the way out there to the very end of the P6 truss.   I can’t wait to see the view from out there of Earth and just being so far away from our ship, the space shuttle, that we came up in and just hanging out there on the very tip of the space station.  I can’t wait.

What’s it been like training for this mission with this particular group of crewmates?

It’s been great.  Six guys on this mission, we’re all similar in a lot of ways although it’s a diverse group, too.  But just the six of us, we seem to get along really well.  It’s a pretty casual, laid back, enjoyable atmosphere to work in.  It’s just great working with everybody and I’m looking forward to having a lot of fun with them up there on orbit.

Give us your thoughts, if you would, about the work that the thousands of people behind the scenes do every mission to make it a success and keep the crew safe.  How would you characterize their contribution to the space program?

As you know, flying in space is a team sport and it’s not just the six of us that form a team as the crew going up in the space shuttle.  There’s a huge team here on the ground that enables us to go do what we get to go do.  We’re very lucky to be able to go up there on the rocket and to ride the rocket, but there’s a lot of people down in Florida that have to get that rocket ready to go. There’s a lot of people here, engineering and Mission Control and the trainers that get us ready for this mission and then help us to execute the mission.  So it’s really an incredible group of people that all across NASA, not just at those centers that I mentioned, but at headquarters and at Glenn up in Cleveland and just all across the country, we’re going out to Ames on the west coast to do simulator runs for our approach and landing and so it’s just a great team effort from everybody at NASA to put one of these missions together.  It’s just a consecutive; a lot of consecutive miracles have to happen for us to get up there in space.

Give us an overview of what the key objectives are for STS-132.

It’s a ULF mission so it’s a Utilization Logistics Flight which means we’re getting down to the end of the space shuttle program and we’re going to try and take up as much stuff as we can with us, so it’s a logistics flight.  We’re taking stuff up there to support the space station.  That’s the big picture for the mission.

And if you would, give us just an overview of some of the key hardware, just your best understanding of what it is and what it does and what’s going to be in Atlantis’ payload bay.

In our payload bay starting in the back in the aft section of the payload bay will be a Russian module.  It’s called MRM1.  It’s a Mini-Research Module.  It’s similar to MRM2 that went up to station already.  It’s basically going to be a docking extender to go on the Russian segment so it’ll be a place for them to bring Soyuz up.  Because we just put Node 3 up there on the station, we need to put this docking extender so that they still have access to that docking port on the bottom or the nadir side of the FGB, one of the Russian modules.  It’ll also serve as kind of a logistics place to put things, a big closet up there on the space station until they get the MLM up there, the Multi Logistics Module, in place, too.  It’s a way to take things up.  So inside the payload bay not only will we have this Russian module but it’s packed full of U.S. supplies, so it’s a way to get things up.  Once it’s up there it’s a docking port extender for the Soyuz and it’s also a place to put things on the station.  As you know, it’s getting crowded up there with a lot of stuff and so it’s another place to put things for those folks up there.  As we work forward in the bay then, we have another pallet that’s full of supplies.  On one side of the pallet are six batteries and we’re going to replace six of the batteries that are out there on the very end of the truss and they go with the big solar arrays that are up there.  The solar arrays power the station during the daylight parts of the pass but, as you know, we’re going around the Earth once every ninety minutes so we get to see a sunrise and sunset every ninety minutes.  That means part of the time we’re in daylight and part of the time we’re at night, so the solar arrays can power the station during the day and at night these batteries power the station.  During the daylight passes, the solar arrays are not only powering the station but they’re charging up these batteries so that they can be used in the darkness to power station.  So we’re going to replace six of these batteries.  There are actually twenty-four batteries up on station so we’re going to replace six of the twenty-four.  On the other side of that pallet in our payload bay is a replacement or a redundant space to ground KU band antenna that we’re going to put up on the top of space station.  We have one antenna up there now and we’re going to have another one up there.  Again, we’re just finishing up the station construction and this gives us redundancy on communication back to the ground.  And then the final thing that we’re taking up, the last big piece is called the EOTP.  It’s an enhanced ORU…

Temporary…

Is it a temporary platform?

…platform…

Basically a place to put things again on the outside of space station so future space walkers can use this platform as a place to put things or use black boxes that they’re replacing.  It’s a temporary storage place for these things.

And you are Mission Specialist 2…

That’s right.

…on this mission?  Tell us about what some of your key responsibilities are in that capacity?

I moved over from Mission Specialist 1 to Mission Specialist 2 from my last flight to this flight.  I’ll do it in phases of the mission.  We start out.  For launch, I’ll be sitting up on the Flight Deck kind of between the Commander and the Pilot and helping them as a Flight Engineer in that role, just working the checklists, working the operations that we need to do on the way uphill.  I’ll be sitting in that same seat coming back down, too, so for launch and for entry I’m on the Flight Deck as a Flight Engineer.  The rest of the time, my biggest role is as a spacewalker.  We’re going to do three spacewalks on this mission and there’s three spacewalkers so between the three of us we do little round robin tournaments.  We each get to do a spacewalk with the other two guys and we’ll each do two spacewalks on this mission and that’s a big focus of my training going into the mission and it’ll be a big part of the mission once we’re up there is going out and doing those two spacewalks.  I’ll also be helping out on the rendezvous and then once we’re up there I’ll also be responsible for some of the transfer of goods from the space shuttle over to the space station.

Each mission has its own complexities.  How would you characterize how complex this mission is and what the most challenging parts of it will be?

You’re right.  Each of these missions going up to the space station are complex and a lot of ways it seems like each one is more complex than the one before it.  Our mission, I think what’s going to make it complex is that we’re flying up in Atlantis and it does not have that power extension cable that can go over to the space station and use some of their power.  So we’re always on our own power, the fuel cells.  We’re limited to eleven or twelve days total and only seven docked days.  So when we’re up there on station, we’re going to be busy.  We have the three EVAs to do.  We have to get the MRM1 out of the payload bay with the robotic arm and get it installed.  We have a lot of transfer to do so it’s just going to be a busy time and I think that’ll add to the complexity of each of the tasks that we don’t have as much time when we’re up there on station.

You talked about the rendezvous.  You’ll be helping out during the rendezvous.  Tell us about what you will be doing during the rendezvous and docking phases of the flight.

Well, I’ll have to be honest and say I’m not one of the key players during rendezvous.  Of course the Commander Ken Ham, he’s flying the vehicle.  He has a couple of the other Mission Specialists back there in the aft part of the Flight Deck helping him out, Garrett and Steve.  I’ll actually be sitting up front facing forward.  Tony Antonelli, the Pilot, will slide over into the Commander’s seat and I’m going to be sitting in the Pilot’s seat, so between Tony and I, we’re going to be running the rendezvous checklist.  I’m just basically up there to help back up Tony.  He’s doing a lot of the burns as we try to catch up and get synced up with the space station.  Tony’s doing a lot of the burns from the Commander’s seat until he hands it over to Ken who will then finish the rendezvous and fly it from that aft flight deck looking up through the overhead window.

There are three scheduled spacewalks on the mission.  On the first one, Garrett Reisman and Steven Bowen will go outside to do some work.  Tell us about what they’ll do outside and what you’ll be doing on the inside during that spacewalk.

Right.  So first up are Garrett and Steve, going out the door on the first spacewalk.  I will be working with Ken Ham to get them suited up and out the door.  We’ll help them get into their suits, get all their tools on and get them into the airlock and depressurized so that they can go out and do their spacewalk.  While they’re out there on their spacewalk I’ll be up on the shuttle’s flight deck helping out Tony Antonelli who is the IV.  He is the intra-vehicular astronaut that’s assigned to the spacewalk.  He’s got all the answers.  These spacewalks are an open book test, so he’s got the book.  He’s got all the procedures and he’ll be reading them their next steps and working with the guys that are outside.  I’ll help him with some of those tasks up there, with some of the camera views, swapping out videotapes, just giving him a break if he needs a break.  I’ll also be, when I’m not busy with that, I’m going to go off and try to get done as much transfer as I can, too, so I may miss some of the excitement of the spacewalk.  But what Garrett and Steve will be doing while they’re out there on this first spacewalk is to get some of those things off the pallet and get them installed on the station.  They’re going to do the space to ground antenna.  It comes in two pieces.  There’s a boom piece on the pallet so they’ll take that off and they’re going to put it up there on the top of Z1 so they’ll kind of plant that flag there and then they’ll go back to the pallet and get the big dish.  And this is one of those big dish antennas, not the kind that we have for our satellite TVs now that are this size.  They’re like the old big ones that you used to see out in people’s front yards.  So this is a big satellite dish that they’re going to get off that pallet that we brought up and they’ll take it with them and connect it on to the top of the boom and that’ll complete the space to ground antenna.  Then there’s one more thing that they’ll take off the pallet and that’s that EOTP, the ORU Temporary Platform, and they’re going to take that off the pallet and get that installed onto the Mobile Transporter so that’ll be a good spot for it to be.  It can then run up and down the rails and be used as a temporary platform out there.  So, they’ll need to get it off the pallet and get it connected onto the Mobile Transporter.

Then on the second spacewalk, you’re scheduled to be outside with Stephen Bowen.  Give us an overview of what you and Steve will do outside on EVA 2.

JSC2009-E-258473 -- Michael Good

Attired in a training version of his shuttle launch and entry suit, astronaut Mike Good, STS-132 mission specialist, awaits the start of a training session in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo Credit: NASA

Right.  So for EVA 2 it’s my turn to go out the door with Steve.  It’s battery day, okay.  We’re taking up six new batteries.  We’re going replace six batteries that are out there on the end of the P6 truss.  So we have these new batteries.  We got the old batteries out there and we just have to swap them out.   But these aren’t double A’s.  These are big. They are about the size of a big suitcase, maybe two suitcases.  Hopefully we won’t have to pay the luggage fees going up there.  I think that it’s included.  But these are about four hundred pounds each so I think we’re over our weight limit, as well.  But we’ll take those out there and take them off the pallet and put them into the truss out there and then we’ll take the old ones off the truss and put them back onto the pallet.  We have six batteries.  What we’re hoping to get done on that spacewalk is four of them.  It’ll take pretty much the whole time, about six-and-a-half hours to get out there, all the way out there, translate out there to the end of the truss and do four of the six batteries and come back inside.  That’ll be a full day’s work.

Then you and Garrett Reisman are scheduled to perform the final scheduled spacewalk of the mission.  Tell us what you’ll be doing on EVA 3.

On EVA 3 it’s kind of a clean-up day.  It’s to get everything done that we had hoped to get done on the whole mission, so whatever’s left.  What we’re planning is to finish the remaining two batteries so assuming that Steve and I got done with the four of the six batteries on the second spacewalk, Garrett and I’ll go out there and finish up the last pair of batteries, the last two batteries we’ll take out of the truss and get them onto the pallet and get the new batteries off the pallet and into the truss.  Then, we’ll clean up all of that work site and make sure that we don’t leave anything out there at the end of the truss.  And then our job is to go all the way back and into the shuttle’s payload bay which is something I’m really looking forward to.  I had a lot of time in the shuttle payload bay on the Hubble mission and it’ll be fun to get back into the payload bay again.  It kind of feels like home to me.  So I’ll go there with Garrett and we’re going to, one of the things that we’re taking up on the side wall of the payload bay is a grapple fixture and so we’re taking it up with us.  It’s something that we’re going to leave on the station so all our job is to go out there and take it, remove four of the bolts, take it off the side wall of the payload bay of the shuttle and carry it back in to the airlock with us.  So when we repressurize and go back into station it won’t be just Garrett and I in that airlock.  We’ll have this great big grapple fixture in there with us so hopefully there’ll be room for everybody in there.  Then we’ll take that grapple fixture inside.  There are some more parts coming up on later missions - Russian Progress vehicles - that will be a frame and bracket that they’ll mount that grapple fixture on.  It’s a grapple fixture that’s used for the robotic arm and on a later stage EVA, someday they’ll, from up on station, they’ll take it back outside and they’ll put it on one of the Russian modules, one of the Russian segments.  So again, we’re just taking some parts up for them and we’ve got to get this part out of the payload bay and actually inside so that’s one of the last things that Garrett and I will do.  If there are any other cleanup items left from the space to ground antenna or the ORU Temporary Platform, we’ll finish up those tasks as well.  There’s actually a couple of, there’s always a job jar of things to do so there’s a couple get ahead tasks that we have trained for that we can go do as well.  There’s a light that we can install on a stanchion out there on the truss and then there’s also an ammonia jumper cable that we can connect up that’ll provide cooling capability out to the very end of the P6 truss.  So these are things that we’re not really planning to do but if we have time they are on our list.  They’re in the job jar and we can get those done if we have time.

Okay.

It’s a very ambitious and fully packed three spacewalks, we’ll be very busy on all three of them.

STS-132 is the last scheduled flight of space shuttle Atlantis.  It’s an orbiter whose legacy includes the first shuttle docking to the MIR space station, the delivery of the Destiny lab to the International Space Station and, as you know, the final scheduled servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.  What are your thoughts and feelings about being part of that legacy and realizing that this may be the last hurrah for Atlantis?

Well, it’s going to be great to be back on Atlantis.  I’m very excited about getting another opportunity to fly on board Atlantis.  I flew it on my only other mission up to the Hubble Servicing Mission, and now to be able to get to another ride on Atlantis but up to the space station.  It’s going to be incredible.  It is bittersweet because this is the end of the shuttle program and this could be the last flight of Atlantis and so we’re going to do our best to pay tribute to Atlantis, not just for this flight but for its whole, all the flights that it’s been on and all the things that it’s done and all the people that have worked on it.  So our patch focuses on the space shuttle Atlantis and it’s kind of flying off into the sunset in one respect but we’re still doing important, good work.  We’re taking up this Russian module that’s name in Russian means ‘dawn’, so in one way we’re flying off into the sunset but we’re still doing important work and its providing more capability to the space station.

And the name of that Russian module is Rassvet, if I’m correct.

Yes, correct.

Any shuttle memories that you have?  You mentioned seeing the first, memories of the first shuttle.  Any others that kind of made an impact on you and, if so, can you tell us why?

I have a great shuttle memory from before I was involved with NASA but I was in the Air Force, fairly young in my career and we, in the first fifteen years in the Air Force before I came to NASA, we moved, as a family.  We moved nine times.  So we got to see quite a bit of the United States, overseas.  It was great.  But we were on the road a lot and moving around.  And I remember one time, it was my wife and I and our young son, Brian, who’s now twenty-three years old, but we were driving from Holliman Air Force Base back up to Mountain Home in Idaho.  No, I’m sorry, to Sacramento, to Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento to out-process so that we could then go on to Mountain Home, Idaho.  That route takes us past Edwards Air Force Base so we’re on a long drive up the California Coast there and I’m reading the paper and I remember my wife was driving at the time and I’m reading in the paper, “The space shuttle lands today at Edwards”.  So I looked over to her and I kind of brought the paper down and right there was a sign that says, “Edwards Air Force Base” and I said, “Honey, this is a sign.  We got to go.  Let’s go do this.”  So we pulled off and pulled into Edwards Air Force Base, got in line, parked the car.  It was a hot day.  I remember we got a Popsicle for Brian and he just held that thing and it just ran down his arm and dripped off his elbow.  But I remember watching the shuttle land that day out at Edwards Air Force Base for the first time and then, as my career came back, I was actually stationed at Edwards Air Force Base at the Test Pilot School and then also at B2 Flight Test Squadron and I got to see the shuttle land several more times when we were out there at Edwards, sometimes from a van right at the end of the runway with my family.   We could just go right out there and see them land and so those are great memories of watching the shuttle land.  I had never seen a shuttle launch until I became an astronaut but I just had such a great interest in it and it was really neat to see, so those were good, good memories.

That’s a cool story. 

How do you think the space shuttle and the shuttle program itself will be remembered in history, just in a future where space travel becomes as commonplace as airplane travel is here today on Earth, as space travel between worlds?

Well, I think the space shuttle will be remembered as an incredible machine.  It has such incredible capability that no one vehicle has ever had or ever will have again.  You have a vehicle that can take people up.  It can take cargo up in the payload bay.  It has a robotic arm to do robotic operations up in space.  It has an airlock so you can go out and do spacewalks on it.  No other vehicle will ever have all these capabilities again.  I think, while it’ll be remembered as a great machine, it was limited to low Earth orbit though, because of its design, those wings.  It’s great that it has these wings and wheels so we can land it on the runway.  It has cross range capability, too, but it’s only good for low Earth orbit.  You could not fly the space shuttle to the moon and back.  Just the extra speed to get out away from the gravity of Earth and out to the moon, coming back in would be too much for the space shuttle to handle structurally.  So, as we go out and explore further into the solar system, back to the moon, Mars, asteroids, where will we end up?  We’re going to have to go back to that more of a capsule design so you can get that blunt body coming back into the atmosphere.  Because all the energy that you put into a launch as we’re sitting on the pad, we weigh four-and-a-half million pounds but when the solids light and the three main engines of the shuttle light we have seven and a half million pounds of thrust. So all of that energy to get the space shuttle up into orbit and reach orbital velocity of seventeen thousand five hundred miles an hour, Mach 25, twenty-five times the speed of sound; all that energy that you put in though, you’ve got to take back out of the system as you come back into Earth’s atmosphere and slow down back to zero, wheel stop on the runway.  So all that energy has to come out and it comes out in the form of heat.  Now the outside of the shuttle gets up to over three thousand degrees as we’re coming back in and we’re ramming into those little molecules up there on the very top part of the atmosphere and we’re actually creating a plasma flow around the space shuttle as we’re coming back in.  So it’s a lot of energy and it’ll just take a different type of vehicle if we want to go out and explore further into our solar system.