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Preflight Interview: Sergei Krikalev
10.28.10
 
Sergei Krikalev

Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev. Photo credit: NASA

Before we talk about your mission, I'd like to talk a little bit about you. Tell us why it is you wanted to be a cosmonaut - what steps were there along the way that led you on the career path to where you are now?

It is difficult to say right now what exactly was motivation and event what happened to make me think to be a cosmonaut because it was long time ago and I already, for a long time, on this path so…I couldn't recall any single event which make me think that I'm going to be a cosmonaut.

As a little boy, did you want to be a pilot?

I remember I wanted to be driver, I wanted to be pilot, and cosmonaut, and…many different things but probably being pilot and cosmonaut was major thing I wanted. So when I grew up, I realized that it's achievable so I was trying. Although probability to become a cosmonaut these days was very low, it was just several people who travel to space at that time, so I knew that probability to become a cosmonaut is very low so my choice of a profession was to do something what I would like, not to, and it was not relied only on being cosmonaut.

You went to university to become an engineer, correct?

An engineer, but in the space industry.

So you did that with an eye toward working in the space industry?

Uh-huh.

But…

So then I knew that even if I wouldn't be selected as a cosmonaut because there are very many different requirements to become a cosmonaut and especially health check is very strict in Russia and especially because whole program was turned on long- duration flights, so selection, medical selection for long-duration flight was very strict and I know that approximately one from thousand applicants went through medical check. This was kind of average number. So that's why I decide to be an engineer and work in industry, in space industry, and be close to space flight anyway.

You must have been very pleased once you completed your education and were able to get a job with Energia.

Yes, when I graduate institute I had chance to select where I'm going to work and I asked to assign me to work at Energia. Although it need moving from my hometown, leave my friends and parents back in St. Petersburg and travel to place where I have no relatives, no friends, no one I know. So, still I decide to do it because it was new adventure and…in 1980, I came to Korolev City, now to start to work at Energia.

Were there people in your hometown or certain people in Korolev that you can look back at now and say that they were very important in helping you achieve what you've achieved?

Again, there is no single person who helped me to achieve what happened, but very many people did and most of them, very many at least of them, did it indirectly. I think a lot of, how do you say… I can start from parents. Although parents were not pleased that I will go and leave my hometown and start to work at Energia, still they didn't…they wasn't in my way to do that. So they support me in many cases, they support me when I got education in high school and university, and, again, I can say that very many of my friends also support me one way or another, sometime through different conversations, sometime through just, I don't know…help to exercise me in the physical training. So I would say very many people, one way or another, involved in my decision, in my ability to went through all this selection process later. But I couldn't name one person. I could maybe mention that from my hometown, Georgy Grechko, he was an astronaut, cosmonaut and he flew to space first time in end of '74, begin of '75, and, he probably didn't even knew that but he was also one of the person who influenced me to make this decision. And when I decided where I have to go to learn more about rockets, about space, and I was thinking to go to different places to get this kind of education, and then I realized that person from my hometown who actually got education in St. Petersburg just flew to space so he was also kind of example which I followed.

In the course of your career you've also had the opportunity to spend a lot of time outside of Russia, outside of the Soviet Union, Houston and the United States being just one of those places. Has that been something that you've enjoyed, spending a lot [of] time in different parts of the world?

It's complicated question because I like to travel and probably one of many reasons for me to become a cosmonaut is to have some kind of profession I can visit difference places, work with different people, and see different cultures. So in general I enjoy traveling although when traveling become very frequent and very long, I know that's difficult for me and difficult for my family and for my friends because I didn't see some of my friends more than a year because I am traveling one place then another, then short stay in Moscow, then traveling again. So, I enjoy it, but it's difficult, that's what I would say.

You are at this point some number of months away from being part of the crew that launches to the first space station being put in orbit by a partnership of nations from around the world. Can you give us a sense of what you think it means, symbolically, to finally reach that point where you put a crew on that station?

Symbolically… I remember my feeling when I was in space for the first time more than ten years ago, and when we had some kind of calm period of flight when you have chance to maybe think little more, look outside little more, and I remember my feeling that we just few people outside of the Earth, basically, and I recall that this feeling was very similar to feeling I had when I leave my home, hometown for the first time when I was small kid and when you used to living in certain place in this city, and when you leave the city and when you find someone from same place you feel kind of relationship, closeness. So I realized that the further you travel, more you feel kind of part of big group of people, and traveling outside of Earth I remember this feeling being part of mankind. So we not represent only our hometown or even our countries in space, it's more like international adventure anyway. I believe it's very similar feeling to what sailors feels when they out in the sea and if they met other ship they probably feel some kind of brotherhood; doesn't matter which flag is on the ship, and especially if people have difficulties on it. It's tradition for many, many years people come to help each other in the sea because the sea is kind of hostile environment and people used to help each other just to fight with nature. In space flight, it's very similar: when we flew to space we knew that we are alone and when I knew that space shuttle launched during our long-duration mission we knew that… few more people in space in this time and we felt, although we didn't have chance to see each other or maybe talk to each other, but we felt some kind of brotherhood anyway. So, bring our efforts together to build International Space Station I would say, just next step. Not something new…it's next step to joint exploration of the universe.

And in the course of time that the nations have been preparing to do this they've been learning how to work with each other as well, especially a number of nations that had not worked together on anything before. Can you tell us, from your point of view, how you see the relationships, working and otherwise, between and among the countries; how have they improved over the course of time?

They [are] changing. People have chance to know each other close, and, I already witnessed that people who didn't know each other, they start to work each other and they became very good friends. And it's not only for cosmonauts and astronauts, it's also for engineers who work on different project and they, again, have common task to solve and they work together and they spend time together so I know very many examples when people working together became personal friends.

And apparently that's happened with people from a variety of different countries.

A variety of different countries, that's true. Actually, I was lucky to be in middle of international space program, actually from very beginning of my career as cosmonaut because my first mission was international mission, and I flew with French cosmonaut, astronaut, Jean-Loup Chrétien, and the space flight, although it was not very short, it was longer than shuttle flights. It was almost a month part of our mission when we flew together but more important we trained together for almost a year. We get knew each other better, we learn some traditions, they learn something from us and we learn something from them. And, we were enjoying actually to know more and to…to be able to communicate. And for my next mission actually, I didn't fly this mission; I was backup for joint flight with Japanese, and it's again, different culture, different traditions, and of course they were trying to…to understand what is going on in our country, and it was interesting for us to see how people changing here and learn something from them. And in my third mission, for my second flight I flew with British astronaut and then Austrian and Kazakh came in middle of my flight and I had chance to work with German cosmonaut at the end of the flight and actually we became very good friends, again, because we trained together with, we spent time in space together, and every day in space, I would say really more than average day on Earth.

For some time now, you and Yuri Gidzenko and Bill Shepherd have been training to become the first crew to go to the International Space Station, and to make that voyage from the launch pad in Baikonur in a Soyuz capsule. It's a two-day trip that we've heard about but without any detail: what happens for the three of you during a two-day trip in a Soyuz capsule to the station; what do you do during that time?

We actually control this spacecraft we getting ready to come to the station. Actually this two-day trip it's involve little more explanation, why we are flying two days. Actually, we can fly faster because we are in space after less than ten minutes, and then it depend on ballistics how we do this approach. But from point of view spending propellant, to be more accurate and precise we change our one-day cycle to fly to the station to two-day plan because it's allow us to be more efficient on fuel. And also, there are some different opinions on advantages to fly a little longer to the station because people get accustomed to space conditions a little more and, because docking with the station is very critical task, it is better to be more or less adjusted to space flight environment. So basically now this two-day period of flight we, after launch to the orbit, we change configuration of vehicle from launch mode to on-orbit mode. We activate all systems to live in this small spacecraft, and actually Soyuz, not capsule itself but Soyuz spacecraft was built as a prototype of the station long, long time ago, and that's why built from two parts. One is relatively small-actually very small-for three people, to fly up and down and it's very well protected. It's designed to sustain high-G and very high temperatures for re-entry. And second part is, like, model of the station, small habitation module which built initially to see if people can live in space for long enough period of time; it was prototype of the station. So we will spend two days in this small station, as I said, activating all systems and then control spacecraft to bring it on trajectory to the station. It's very similar with what we used to do for Mir flights and we have a lot of experience how to do it. All this flight planning also attached to ground sites so some specific operations supposed to be over Russian ground sites to be capable to send and receive information to and from on board computer, and to see that most critical parts would be done over…part of orbit where we can have downlink telemetry. So, and we will change our orbit several time, do some measurement how accurate we did this orbital burn so approximately two days after launch we schedule to dock to the station.

Could you give us a brief word picture of how that's designed to happen? In a normal course of activity, as a Soyuz comes to dock to the International Space Station, what happens for you folks on board, and for you, as the Flight Engineer, what are your responsibilities during this activity?

In general, it's kind of, general statement, what is the task assignment, who is doing what. Flight Engineer is responsible for all systems on board station, and we usually make jokes saying that they responsible for all systems including crew, because it's one of the systems which control spacecraft. But actually in flight going through all activation process, going to work with computer and life support systems on board the spacecraft, if something goes wrong it's my responsibility to take care of it. Of course, all crew will work on it, but it's kind of my final responsibility to tell what to do and how. When…when we fly close to the station and we actually wear kind of launch and entry, similar to launch and entry suit for the shuttle, we have the similar suit in Soyuz, and several hours before docking we wear the suit, sit in the capsule, and docking is supposed to be in automated mode, so it's my responsibility to work with computer to load all information. I need to see that all process are going as it's scheduled, and we usually work with a pilot together to bring Soyuz to the station. And Mir experience show us that majority of docking made in automated mode but if something happened it's my responsibility to recognize that something goes wrong and pilot need to take control, so switch from automated mode to manual mode. So then in case it happened, and probability of it, of this is not very high but still we need to be able to do this, and again it depend on situation, when and what will malfunction. We may split and be in different modules of the Soyuz for the docking, we may stay together in descent launch and entry capsule. So we work together with pilot to bring spacecraft to the station.

Assuming it all goes fine, you're docked to the station after a two-day ride "uphill," as they say, what would be the first thing that you would have to do once you leave the Soyuz spacecraft and go on board the International Space Station?

Open the hatch first. So this is one of the first procedure we need to do after docking, we need to see that Soyuz is sealed well to the station, to be able to open tunnel between Soyuz and station. Then open hatches and go inside and activate space station, because we did part of activation on 2A flight 2A.1, and 2A.2; maybe 3A will continue add some deliverable on the station. They may install some equipment which need to be used on the station, but still for us we need to activate communication system, we need to activate life support, probably everything will start from light, we need to switch lights on and for this purpose power, electrical power system have to be activated. We need to install communication link with the ground, so we need to activate comm and we may need to do some assembly before we use…communication system. Actually we do a lot of work now on ground to see what need to be done first, what is priority of things to do because initial plan was to have some boxes for communication system is stowed somewhere, so we come to the station and station is silent. We are not able to talk to ground, ground not able to talk to us, ground not able to send messages. So only way to communicate would be to go to Soyuz, activate Soyuz systems again and talk to ground through Soyuz radio link. But then we found working together with engineers that pre-installation of several boxes on the ground, and maybe taking other boxes out to be on same weight balance will help us to set communication faster in flight. So, it's one of many things I just described. We need to activate, as I said, life support systems, we need to get water available for us, and food, and oxygen supply, CO2 scrubbers, so everything need to be done and…we are working with flight planners very closely. And they have big difficulties to fit everything we need to do in first couple weeks because usually normal flight takes much more time, and for us especially…when we come to the station where no one lived before, we need to find everything. We need to install, we need to set up our environment to work in the station. So, it's going to be challenging tasks to continue assembly of the station and all this activation.

You will also have the distinction of being the first person to make a return visit to the International Space Station, after having been part of the first assembly crew when there were only two modules present…when you get back, there will be, it will be a larger station than the one that you left.

A larger station that's what I said when I flew to the station, "We need more modules," and it's going to be another module attached to the station, Service Module, which actually provide all life support and it's kind of core part of Russian segment of the station and for early days of the station it's going to be basically core of the station because it will have our computers which control attitude. This module will have all life support systems and all computer interfaces will be there, so…it's going to a little bigger station, but it's going to be much cluttered with equipment because shuttle flight 2A.1 already delivered a lot of equipment on the station and it's just temporary stowed somewhere. And, depend on when we fly we will see a different configuration of the station and I see as a big challenge to be able to put everything in order and keep everything in order because station is relatively small, still relatively small, and although we have more modules I don't expect to have more space in the station. And this is another challenge for us to stay in small station and start all this big adventure with from very small volume.

ISS01-323-012 -- Sergei Krikalev

Expedition 1 Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev takes still pictures inside the Zvezda service module a few days after the arrival of the International Space Station's first crew. Photo credit: NASA

Is there a good comparison to be made, do you think, between the early International Space Station and the Mir space station that you saw when you first arrived there, before it grew to its eventual size?

It's very similar and that's why we are saying that we already faced very many problems which were similar for Mir station. It's actually going to be very similar to station I flew for my first flight when we had basically two modules and it was Core Module on, of Mir, and another Kvant, Kvant-1 module so in our flight we are going to have basically the same. Core module is very similar, or Service Module, and FGB which is another module and which is going to be filled with deliverables. So, Node for first period of time is going to be not available for us; maybe we would be able to open hatch and bring something out and put something in, but most of the time module is going to be closed. So it's very similar with what I experienced already more than ten years ago on Mir, when station is relatively small, when you have a lot of things to do, and you have to manage to do everything in very small volume.

In late 1998, when you joined Bob Cabana to go on board the International Space Station for the first time, you had a look on your face that seemed to me to say, "I am ecstatic about being here…I really am happy about the fact that I get to do this." Will you get that feeling again when you return? Will it be the same excitement?

I hope so, because it's every time you start to do something new it's very exciting, and although it's going to be my second visit on the station but it's going to be new from different point of view. It's going to be new module, new computer systems, new actually control systems for all station, and it's new approach because when you just open hatch and go in and bring something in and out, maybe do some installation or assembly tasks it's one story. When you come to place you are going to live for several month, it's little different and it's kind of opening door to new house you are going to stay in, so, I think, I hope I will have the same feeling when I come to station for long stay.

A few moments ago, you were talking about activation tasks - set up of the new house when you first arrive. After a time since you are staying for a number of months, one would imagine that you would, of necessity, have to develop a routine, a more regular kind of schedule, since it is the place that you live and work every day and not just for a couple of weeks. Can you give us a sense of what you imagine a daily schedule for the ISS Flight Engineer would be like?

It's very similar for all crew; I don't think we will have different schedule for different crewmembers. It's not like on shuttle flight when you have one shift doing one things, and when one shift is sleeping, another shift is doing something. We probably will stay on same schedule for all of us, and my experience of Mir flights also says that pretty soon you have to develop kind of routine and you wake up in the morning, do certain things in certain order, and kind of general post-sleep activity when you prepare food, when you check if everything went well through the night with the station, the station systems, have some breakfast and usually ground will plan and schedule activity for us to do…again different task, assembly, check out of systems maybe do some experiments, not very many of them planned I mean purely scientific experiments, because sometime people try to differentiate…kind of assembly task and scientific experiments but in our case I would say constructing of all station, activate many systems for the first time, is very big technical experiment. We are trying to build something we never build before. We trying to use new control systems which is under testing right now on the ground, but no one knows and no one's sure how it's going to work in space. And although very many systems have different stages of test, when you test boxes of this system first and then assemble it to the system and check how it's going to work as a system then we will go further. We will use many systems at same time and see how all station as unique technical device will behave. We know that it's going to be some interference from one systems to another. We know that one system will use output of another system, like electrical power system will responsible to power up everything. We know that computer systems rely on communication system and vice versa; and we think we know how it's supposed to work, but this is part of the test. We need to see the station is going to work, and if it not doing something we think it's supposed to do, it's our job to find this problem, to fix it, this problem if possible; if not make some changes or maybe propose for the ground to make some changes to the future to make the station flyable. It's very similar, I would say, to test new airplane, when pilots sit in airplane for the first time, and…airplane went through design and testing process on the ground but still is big challenge for the first time to lift an airplane, to see if it really flies, if it's capable to be controlled, if all systems work as expected. And actually what we are expecting as test cosmonauts, I would say, test astronauts that not everything will work as we expecting right now because very many things uncertain; system is very complex so for sure we will see some interference between systems which people couldn't even think about right now. So we need to be ready for it. We know that some systems, as I said, wouldn't behave the way expect but still we need to be able to handle all of this, and to fix problem in flight, if necessary.

Would you think that it's correct for us to think of Expedition 1 as a shakedown cruise, as the crewmembers are, well, lab rats, the ones who are there to find out how it works?

It's not only Expedition 1; probably we will have biggest impact because we activate majority of the system for the first time, but I would say first several Expeditions will have very similar feeling because Expedition 2 is going to activate robotic system on the station which we are not going to work with because it's going to be delivered later. And we going to work with a Lab, but then next modules comes and other additions to the system will be made so first several missions-actually until Assembly Complete, I would say-people will face the same kind of problem. But again, our task is to be ready for all this problems. We look at it like big experiment and something can go right from very beginning, something need to be, to have additional tune-up to be sure that system is working as expected. Something maybe need to be changed, maybe we need to change some modes of different systems, to be sure that output of the system is actually what we expect from this. So, probably in future reports you may show some problems on the station, but it's not what we, what is going to be big surprise for us. This is common, I believe, for many space flights: when you fly to space you going to face something unknown. And I believe first several missions on the station are going to face more unknown than others. And this is interesting, this is a big challenge, and that's why it's interesting to be in first several crews.

From the look on your face, I imagine you think that it's going to be fun.

It's going be fun and difficult, and…we'll see.

If I can return for a moment to the question of working out or developing a regular schedule, you said that you think that it will probably become similar to what developed for the template of a day-to-day life on board the Mir. Does that mean that you get weekends off? There are holidays? Does that mean that you work according to Houston time of day or what, what's that like?

We will have more or less normal schedule. Humans are humans, and although we are living in space we need some time to sleep, some time to eat. We need to do some physical exercise and actually we need to be more…more scheduled for this exercise. Here on ground, I can not do exercise for several days, many days, but my daily activity is allowing me to do some exercise-I walk from one building to another, I climb ladders, I just go from one place to another. And all this allow me to exercise my muscles, to be in shape good enough to continue my job. In space flight when you weightless very soon you can lose your shape and we need to stay in, maybe not in perfect shape because again to spend a lot of time for physical exercise would be wrong because we are flying to space not to do exercise, and if we are concerned about health status too much, safest thing is to stay on ground. So we know that we will have some impact on our health, but still we need to do exercise every day to be able to save ourself in case of serious malfunction, if we need to return back on Earth in emergency, and we may return not on scheduled landing site-we may land somewhere on Earth…in ocean, in Africa, in South America, Australia, so it depend on seriousness of this situation. So, we must to be in shape to be able to save ourself and to save a mission in general. That's why we will have about two hours of physical exercise every day. We'll have about eight hours of sleep scheduled, at least-I know that, again, my experience on Mir says that we have eight hours of sleep scheduled, usually we use six or less than six, and we catch up with some daily activity or maybe do some photography or some preparation for next day so we usually use this time-or maybe even communicate with each other because on the station sometime, being busy all day you are working alone or with one partner, but you have chance to meet all of your crew close to the end of the day, usually around the table, floating around the table and during dinner time. We have about eight hours scheduled for work period of time and some time scheduled for getting ready for next daily activity, talk to ground, discuss changes in schedule because every day will create some changes for future plans. Saying about holidays, usually days on weekends and holidays are kind of slower, but it's basically meant for us-on Mir at least and I think here on new station it will be the same-we again, catching up with previous week, to clean up everything we did on previous week; if we put some equipment out and it stowed somewhere temporarily, put everything in place, to put everything in order. It's a lot of like housekeeping. We need actually to keep our station clean because with daily activity and, in weightlessness, if you spill couple droplets of tea, it could stick somewhere on the ceiling and you need some time to clean it off and get station nice and clean. So…and also it's probably difference in philosophy of long-duration flight and short-duration flight when for short-duration flights crew is working hard because this is very short and critical part of the activity, and it's like running short distance, you don't need to breathe when you run, I don't know, sixty yards, hundred yards, but for long run, you have to be in kind of cycle. And it's also concern not only us but people on ground: many people will work on, in Mission Control for long hours and experience on Mir showed us that it's efficient to have some kind of ways, some days, middle of the week, weekdays are usually very intense and busy; on holidays many people on ground-because as I said, they will work for many years in this cycle-they need to have holidays and we probably wouldn't have all specialists need for us for specific activity on holidays and it's smart to give them time to rest. So, usually holidays on Mir was housekeeping days; probably the same is going to be on this new station.

Not going to be a forty-hour workweek?

Actually, saying about workweek we [are] living and working at same place, so I would say we have twenty-fours of the day working day. It's like we are sleeping in our office, but we still on our service; it's like on a ship-although you may be off shift but you still on your service…as soon as bell rings you have to be ready in few seconds, actually, for the station, to get ready to respond to situation you faced, and again it happened on Mir when something wake you up, some system change mode and goes to unexpect mode, so we even during sleep, we are on service… we still on our duties. So I would say we have twenty-four hours per day workday.

You have experience of long-duration flights on board the Mir. What are the most important things, what was the most important thing to you, to keep you happy and healthy, and working with a good attitude while spending a long time away from home?

Again it's probably flight schedule work load. My experience on Mir, actually all my time on Mir, we were very busy, and busier you are in flight it's kind of better you feel, because you know that you trained for this flight for many months you come to the station to do what you supposed to do, and if something goes wrong and ground uncertain what to do, they need some time to reschedule, or maybe to think about data they got, and we have kind of slow day…this is not happiest day on orbit. Day when you have very busy schedule and when you fulfill this schedule, this is kind of, happy kind of day on the station. So, good communication with ground, understanding what ground wants and what ground do, and for them to understand what we are doing and why we do this things certain way, this is important to stay in good shape and good attitude during flight. So, and again, my experience not only from space flight but from working in Mission Control sooner or later, although we are working in remote mode, in many cases, we don't see faces of people on ground, but we create basically personal relationship with people who support us on ground, who work with us through our daily routines although they are changing on ground, but it's basically means that we have bigger family. And of course very important to have opportunity to talk to your family, to your friends so this, all this is a part of, kind of, well-being on the station.

I understand that as we talk now, the exact flight plan of what you will do during your time is not set. But, do you think you're [going to] get to make some space walks?

We have at least one space walk scheduled right now. It's not as much as I would like to because although it's difficult activities, but again it's probably something what let you go out of daily routine and add some additional flavor to the flight. All this preparation, going outside, work outside, it's, again, usually help you to stay well on the station.

I take it that you are scheduled to make the space walk

I am scheduled to make space walk

What is it that you're supposed to do on this EVA?

We need…actually major task to do is to reconfigure station for docking with new modules, so we need to rearrange docking cone on the station. But because we open hatches and go outside anyway, we will need to take off some samples from station surface. We need to install new samples for future scientific experiments. We may need to reconfigure some antennas on the station. Maybe it's under discussion now in this EVA would be included in other task like installation of ham radio antenna, and this is, this named ham radio antenna but I think we are going to use it not only for ham radio it may be capability to uplink and downlink digital information also. We may need to work with reconfiguring position of some sensors for the station to be able to get more precise data on attitude. So, task is…actually we have more tasks than fit in one EVA, and people are now discussing what is the priority, what need to be done first, what need to be done later, what can be stay in kind of jar, job jar, when, what we do if we have extra time. So, but major task would be reconfigure station and move basically docking cone from one port to another.

Again, understanding that the precise order and schedule of things is not set on the day that you and I are talking, you are scheduled to receive some number of visits from space shuttle crews during your time on board. What are the significant tasks that will occur during shuttle assembly missions while you and Yuri and Shep are on board?

Each shuttle flight will deliver different hardware. Next shuttle flight is going to deliver, basically, foundation for future truss, and install hardware connected to it. Then 4A will install truss and the solar array on the station, an early thermal system. So, after 4A, station will have more power and for us it will mean that we have to reconfigure a lot of things to have different power sources because before 4A flight only power available for us would be power generated by FGB and Service Module solar arrays. And most important flight I believe in our scheduled mission is 5A flight which deliver Lab for us. It will mean additional modules for us to live in because 3A and 4A will install equipment outside of the station, and it wouldn't be habitation area for us, but 5A will deliver Lab and its new module which is going to be central part of U.S. side of the station. It also has new computer systems, new hardware for future scientific equipment, and life support equipment also. So it would be another big and interesting task for us to activate all of this, check out to check it in different modes, to reconfigure all computer systems on board to the station to make computer able to talk to each other and exchange information and actually, I believe biggest task for us will be through all flight, will be computer configuration, and testing hardware and software in different modes. Because although even on Russian side, Service Module is very similar to Core Module of Mir station, physically, and it has also a very similar systems also, like many life support systems were designed and test on Mir, and…now even similar system which we used to use on Mir are going to be controlled differently. So, major difference probably between this station and Mir, especially in early stages when International Space Station is going to be actually smaller than Mir but still it has very different and I will say advanced…control system; it's not only flight control, I was going to say flight control system, but it's not only for flight control, because even simple things like switching lights on and off would be done through computers also. Many life support systems would depend on feedback from computers and computers will work in several layers, actually, to get information on different layers and feed it to highest tiers and then send commands and process all information together. So each module [will] actually add a part of this computer network, and we need to hook up basically several networks together. And check it out and be sure that everything work in synch and computers understand each other, every part of this system will send information they supposed and other information get information it expected. So…

ISS01-361-017 -- Sergei Krikalev

Expedition 1 Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev is positioned at a port hole on the Zvezda service module of the International Space Station as space shuttle Atlantis approaches for a link-up leading to several days of joint activities between the two crews. Photo credit: NASA

During those shuttle missions, the shuttle crewmembers will be performing space walks to attach these new pieces of hardware that you've described. What do you folks do on the inside? Do you get to just watch them, or do you have tasks that you must perform during those times?

In many cases support starting from…support nominal behavior of the station in general because a lot of EVAs depend on specific position of the station so we need to be sure that attitude control will be proper, and configuration of jets which hold attitude will be proper because if crew is working somewhere close to jets we need to be sure that jets wouldn't fire on the shuttle, on the arm, on the crewmembers. In many cases, at least 4A would be a good example, when after installation of solar arrays we need to reconfigure system to get power from the solar array, and actually start activate computer system which control cooling and power supply. So in many cases we will do this job in parallel: crew will work outside and we will work inside making all internal connections. In many cases like 5A task, wouldn't be done on EVA, although shuttle will take big module and attach it to the station, it wouldn't be done manually, it would be done with shuttle arm so even this assembly task wouldn't be done outside immediately. And also as we talk about it, many times we don't know exactly what we are going to do but we need to be ready to do a lot of tasks. And this is one of the challenge of long-duration space flight training in general. Because we are training, we are not able to rehearse all flight flow in preparation to the flight; but main purpose of this training, to get ready to do everything. And then, when we ready, doesn't matter what happened on what day. And part of training we did and probably we will continue this training even before flight to do some deferred task from shuttle EVAs. So basically everything what shuttle crew are going to do which is not required shuttle arm-because obviously when shuttle leaves we wouldn't be able to replace shuttle arm-but a lot of tasks which crew is doing outside, we also went through similar kind of training, and if on some reason they don't complete this task, if they need to leave early, if flight plan change and they leave some tasks for us, we are trained and we need to be ready to do this tasks in our flight. So, it could be another EVA, kind of cleanup after shuttle flight.

It sounds like it's [going to] be a very dynamic and ever-changing environment. It's one that has changed a lot for you on the ground during the time that you've prepared for the mission and it will continue to do that as you head off to a brand new space station in a brand new millennium. What are your thoughts about the impact of having human beings in space and why you think it's important that we continue to be there.

We need to continue space exploration anyway, because it's…it's path we choose and there's no other way. We can delay space exploration, if we wish, but sooner or later we will do it anyway. So, continuing space exploration, there are many different point of view what we need to do and how. And, of course…many, different reasons bring you to different way how to do space exploration. But major point I would say, people are discussing, manned or unmanned flight-this is biggest decision. And as we discussed before, if we are going to build something new and build something new, reliably, we need to have a human on board. Automated systems are working; in some cases they work better than humans, like if we want to point telescope on specific star it's better to do it in unmanned vehicle because humans continue moving around the station. We need to do exercise, and microgravity is not as good on manned spacecraft than on unmanned. But to test everything for the first time, to test new control system, to test how we are going to do things is more efficient on manned space flight We already saw that, from Mir experience, that some systems as soon they arrive on station, we switched them on and they don't work as we expected, and for manned space flight is no big deal: we change mode, we test system in different mode, find best way to do it. And then I know that similar system was installed on unmanned spacecraft, to do space photography, star photographies; similar for new station. New station is going to be platform for testing, we're going to test some equipment in new mode, and as soon as we sure that this equipment is working properly, it could be used in unmanned vehicle; we are going to use outside of Earth orbit sooner or later anyway, and we need more experience on long-duration space flight We did a lot on Mir space flights, but this new station is next step, and we need to do it to be able to fly to the moon, to Mars and move beyond Earth orbit. So, it…I wouldn't say we make something really different from what we are doing for last thirty, forty years. We make space flight, manned space flights, flights long and longer; we involve more and more nations and experts and experience from different countries' outer space program. We create more and more complicated space programs and hardware because no one would rely on something completely new in many cases. So, we need to add complexity step after step to move reliably. So that's what we are doing with this new station.