We are speaking with Vladimir Dezhurov, the Pilot on Expedition Three. Tell me, why did you want to be a cosmonaut?
Preflight Interview: Vladimir Dezhurov
First of all, I decided to be a pilot and a fighter pilot. And I finished Air Force military school and then Air Force military academy. And I flew a lot and on the MiG-21, MiG-23. And after that, I received a invitation [to] go to Cosmonaut Office and first of all, check the health. And after that, if everything [is] okay and I can start my space preparation.
So, space wasn't anything you'd thought about as a child? It just kind of evolved out of your career. Correct?
Oh, no. It's true. And I just thought about flights, I mean, aircraft's flights.
As you look back on your life, have there been any significant people that were a particular influence on you - that helped you get to be where you are right now?
Oh, yes. I have a lot of best friends. And some friends, they also worked in some space program and also Air Force guys. And it's just for me, they were my teachers. And first of all, they taught me how it's flight, how make some acrobatics in the fighter aircrafts. And some formation flights and as a task. And after that also in the Star City, I have…very good teachers, cosmonauts with a lot of experience in space. And it's, it was very good for, first of all, for my knowledge. And they taught me.
All that knowledge got you to be where you are right now. You're going to be flying up on the space station on Expedition Three. What's your assessment of how the partner nations are working together? You've been there, firsthand, to see a lot of history. How would you assess the situation right now?
Maybe, first of all, I want to say about Phase 1 program-Shuttle-Mir Program. And we started to prepare for Phase 1 in 1994. And it was [a] very interesting program. It's really a good program. And we also started some psychological questions between, for example, U.S. people and Russian people. It's also very interesting and it's very helpful. And some countries' tradition, for example, people traditions, it's very good. And at that time, they started to think about our future. And because it's very difficult for one country to make very good, very big program, in space. And if we'll work together and it should be very good, very huge result. And like now, we have [an] International Space Station. And a lot of countries to work together. And I think in the future [it] will be very good result, I mean, for the, some scientific experiments and some payoffs. Because it's for future, this will be the main task, to make some experiments. It's all the directions, medical, some in engineering or other, it's for future.
You have vast experience on the Mir space station. And you've had a chance to speak with your fellow space travelers about their experiences on the International Space Station. What are you expecting to see when you get to the International Space Station?
I expect, first of all, to see [a] completely new station during the docking. And it's really new and it's completely different sizes, the station. And also, inside it's different systems; and of course several systems absolutely the same like in Mir. But generally, it's, of course, it's new, it's modern. And I think I will [be] very excited.
What have you learned from the first two Expeditions to the space station and how will you apply those lessons to Expedition Three?
Unfortunately, we don't have enough time to talk with…in Star City, to talk with first crew. And…but maybe we meet, we met together a short time and discuss about some problems-some technical problems, some issues. And also, this Saturday we talk with second crew. And also they discuss and we decided to talk every week. And it's now for us maybe very important some questions for handover because it's short time. I'm not sure now how long it will be. But it will be 5, maybe maximum of 6 days. And we have to take some of their experience in the station; and after that, we will continue the job.
You're riding to orbit on shuttle mission STS-105. Summarize the goals of that mission. Is the primary goal just to give you a ride to orbit?
Oh, not exactly. Because we have some special tasks in the shuttle before docking. And of course, it's the main, our task, our job will start in the station. But before docking, we have some, several experiments. And we have to make video and photo also during the dock. And we'll have special tasks. For example, we have to check some hatches. Of course, if the possible, through the window; I mean, maybe orientation will be just a little difficult to see it, to check it. But I think about shuttle task: it's…maybe shuttle crew will describe more details.
The shuttle finally will dock with the space station. What are you expecting the moment you see Yury, Jim, and Susan to be like?
I remember when they opened the hatch in the Mir first time. And it was very friendly handshake between each other. And I think this time it will be absolutely the same. And the second crew are really waiting for us. Now…on Saturday, we talk with them; and all guys really waiting for us, and they'll be very happy, to work, to, I mean, handover between each crew.
What is the process of actually taking control of the space station from one crew to another? Does that take place all in 1 day, when you go to live on the station and they come over to live on the shuttle?
Oh, we have [a] schedule. A very strict schedule for each day. And for example, some day I will talk with Yury Usachev and another day with Jim Voss, and another day with Susan. And each crewmember, also will be the same procedure. And each other will discuss about all the system, all the maybe some problems or some difficult or interest in some issues.
Once you've had all these conversations, is there going to be a formal ceremony to actually turn command over from Yury Usachev to Frank Culbertson?
I think so. It will be like official ceremony. And maybe they want to make like some space tradition in the station, just one crew finished and another crew start job. And Shep, he already made some tradition. And the, I think, we will continue or add some tradition also.
I know you'll be busy doing the handovers from one crew to another. Will you be helping at all with the unloading of the Logistics Module that will also be attached to the space station while you're there?
Yes, it's true. And this will be one of the main task. And I think it will be like special all day. And we have to move some racks from MPLM to Lab or again from Lab to MPLM. Yes, it's true.
There'll also be a couple of space walks while Discovery is attached to the station. Will you be assisting in any way with those space walks?
Oh, I don't think so, in this case. Because we will be in the station and the shuttle crew will be outside, I mean, out in EVA. And I think, oh, maybe we can just make some picture or just Frank or Mikhail will be [moving] some arm just for video or through the arm, through the arm cameras.
Tell me about that Russian Docking Compartment. What does it do for the space station?
The Docking Compartment, it's specially for EVAs, for it's like [an] airlock. And for depressurization and go outside and inside again. And also, inside we have special place for put some cargo, some special stuff for EVAs. Some boxes or other. And in our flight, it'll be Russian Strela, inside; and also, during the EVA, we have to install that. And after that, we'll use the Strela and move some boxes from one module to another module. It's to…help…us outside.
Give me a little more detail on that space walk to hook up the Docking Compartment. You'll be conducting that; is that correct?
Oh, yes. Correct. And also several tasks will be just [to] install some not really boxes. It's like plate. There's some special metal or glasses or fabric. And as we have to open it and install it and I think, [the] next crew will take it again and return to the Earth for scientists.
Outside of the major events like a space walk, what's daily life going to be like for you on orbit? Describe what every day will be like when you get up. What kind of work will you be doing?
We receive like special form, like schedule, for next day. And for example, today, we know about what will we do tomorrow. And usually after working day, we have 1 or 1 and a half hour [to] prepare for tasks for tomorrow. And it's both Russian and U.S. tasks. Because it's the MCC also, working together. And we have time [to] prepare for the next day. And also, if we have some questions, we can ask [the] ground- ask MCC about it-and discuss it. But it's usually the end of [the] day. It's like maybe, first of all, it is [a] short debrief. And just talk about tasks for next day.
Every day up there, you'll be conducting science experiments while you're still trying to build the space station. How do you balance those two jobs? Is that difficult, to be building a station while doing science?
It's also very important task because we have to receive some answers for the scientists because it's really scientific experiments. And in the schedule, for example, it says "9 to 10"; and it's like for some experiment time. And the next hour or 2 hours, maybe, for some technical tasks like for build something or install some box or connect some cables or other tasks.
Give me an overview of the science work you'll be doing onboard the station.
We have several U.S. experiments and also several Russians. Maybe it's [a] total [of] 30 or 40. And it's medical experiments. We have to take some blood and check our blood on board and then to send it…download this information; and then collect urine; and also…maybe, geology tasks. It's…we have to check some, maybe, important places on the Earth. And in the mountains, and we will see that this task and just check exactly in the…exactly time. For example, 10th of August at 9 o'clock, for example, we have to check in the mountains, in the Pamir and some very strict areas. Maybe it's some hurricanes or something else. It's very important. And after that, you have to report it to the Earth, and also make some digital pictures. And if it's really dangerous, and we have to send it to the Earth and describe [the] situation. And some people, who response for this on the Earth, can tell it to that country, for example, and describe it and prepare people for some dangerous Earth situation and others.
Is the science work you're conducting onboard the International Space Station much different than the work that took place on the Mir space station or on board the shuttle?
Oh, I think, it's generally, it'll be absolutely the same like in the Mir. And Saturday, when I talk with Yury and he describe me. And also he said, "Don't worry because it's working day. It's structural working day; absolutely the same like in the Mir. And it's comfortable and because," he said, "you flew in the Mir, I flew and," he said, "nothing, I have, nothing, maybe more important changes in the structure-working day structure."
What will the Payload Operations Center at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama be contributing and what kind of interaction will you be having with them while you're on orbit?
Yes, it's very good, very interesting guys. And now we have, we had some training for some payloads. And we know each other very well. And for example, if I will talk with them; and I really know who is it. And we can talk not exactly about some experiments or payloads. And it's like completely free conversation. And we can just tell each other some jokes; and we understand each other very well.
So, that sort of communications makes it easier for you on orbit to actually get your work done-to have that sort of human relationship?
Yes. Yes, it's true. It's also, for us, it's like psychological distraction.
Tell me about the Human Research Facility and describe the kind of work that will be going on with that.
Because it's here, and we have some experiments we have to work with, GASMAP or HRF. And it's like also special procedure for each experiment. And in some experiment, we have to breathe in some gas analyzer and just close and open the…some valve and check it in displays and also check it in the ECG. It's pretty good. And it's also where now we have like one language, I mean, to understand each other. And because like last weekend, last week I have several lessons for HRF, for example, experiment; and with HRF rack. And during the 2 hours, we didn't ask each other about it. And I know my task. And I have a procedure; and it's, I know, they taught me how to do it. And it's, now it's absolutely clear. And we understand each other very well.
While you are up there, a couple of the Russian Progress resupply ships will arrive at the station. What's the process of getting the International Space Station prepared for its arrival?
First of all, we have to find the…by IMS - Inventory Management System - some place. Because Progress, it's, this is cargo spaceship. And usually in the Progress, a lot of boxes. A lot of stuff. And you have to put it from the Progress in the, to install it also, put it to some panel for like temporary storage. And also check it in IMS. And in this case, it's important, also for the next crew because some stuff, it's not really just for our crew. And maybe it's for the fourth or for the fifth mission. And we have to put it in the…write its location in the IMS. And after that download this file, and [the] ground will know exactly where each box [is], for example, [its] location.
The Soyuz vehicle also serves as your emergency vehicle if something were to happen on orbit. Describe the process of getting the Soyuz ready to use as an emergency vehicle. Does that happen pretty quickly?
Yes. Soyuz, it's true, it's spacecraft for emergency. And because I [am] responsible for the Soyuz…I am Commander of the Soyuz; and Soyuz should be ready all the time for emergency. And if you'll be [in a] real emergency situation and we have to undock very quickly and return to Earth immediately.
After 4 months or so on orbit, another shuttle arrives bringing your replacements, the Expedition Four crew. What will have had to have happened in your mission for you to feel like it had been a success?
I think for that time we will know about what we've done or not. If we really finished our schedule-I mean general schedule for flight and-I will be happy. Because we have a lot of tasks, a lot of EVA. And it's [a] hard schedule. And if we'll do it, I will be very happy.
How are you expecting your life on the International Space Station to differ from your life that you experienced on Mir?
Maybe just a little difference. And because, for example, in the Mir flight, we have one MCC and we talk just with one Mission Control. But now, we have to talk with MCC-Houston and MCC-Moscow, both. And we will receive some information from Moscow and from Houston also. And we have to…integrate it onboard. But I'm sure everything will be okay. And we have a very experienced Commander and a very smart Engineer; and I think it'll be…everything will be okay.
You, yourself, served as commander of Mir-18. Do those experiences as Commander help you prepare for this mission?
Yes. And you know, I mean, Frank and me, we know each other very well and a long time. And because we worked in the Phase 1…program [also]. And I will help him; and now I help…I'm helping him. And he also help[s] me. And we didn't have some problems maybe or problem with the understanding. And I think it's very easy for us. And we understand each other very quickly and without any problems. And also I think it's psychological problems with me and between me and Frank-absolutely nothing. We don't have it.
You were there for a key moment of Phase 1, when you shook Hoot Gibson's hand when the STS-71 came to the Mir space station. What are your thoughts about the significance of that moment and how it got us to where we are right now?
It was [the] first docking; and it was, you know, that flight where they begin our international program was started. And it was…that moment was…comment…start since this time and the future. But, I think, it was a very good start. And we really were happy with Hoot Gibson. And now it's time to continue.
How did the Shuttle-Mir Program help continue? What did it help - for both Russia and the United States, how did it help guide them to where they are now?
Yes. And it was like, I mean, the Phase 1, like, big lesson for Russian people and Russian cosmonauts and astronauts also. And because they began to study traditions maybe in some details. And now, we know it very well. And we understand it. And we started to work together in space. It's very important. And because, for future, if we are going to fly to Mars, for example, and it will be very good experience.
By the time you arrive on orbit, Phase 2 of the International Space Station Program will be complete. The core modules, the Lab, and the airlock will all be in place. What are your thoughts about arriving in a station that has achieved these milestones and is a real, functioning space station?
Yes. It's very good in that huge station. It's absolutely modern. And if we compare, for example, and like in the Mir space station, and we don't have, we didn't have a network, for example. But in the ISS, we have a network and you can check from each module, it doesn't matter, some situation on board by computer. And also, you have, you can talk with some people by e-mail also. And now, Susan and Jim tested [the] phone; and in our mission, it will be like [a] regular NASA phone. But, of course, it's through the network also. But it's working. It's very good. And you don't think about it [going] through the network or through the HRF. It's working. And it's working very good. And it's [a] very big, modern step to [the] future.
You mentioned earlier going on to Mars. Tell me more about your thoughts about the importance of the International Space Station and what it means to the future of human space flight.
Now, it's process for build. And maybe after 3 or 5 years in the station, it'll be not just three people. It will be six or more-seven. And also it will be a lot of special and different tasks…for…payload tasks. A lot of experiments. And both, not both, all countries, all [of the] international partnership is preparing now for task-maybe important task-for future for make maybe some medicine also or something else onboard. Because sometimes it's really not possible to make it, some medicine, [on the] ground because [of] gravity. But in zero-gravity it's okay. It's a high quality. It's very good. And in the future, it'll be the main task, its payloads and experiments.