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Preflight Interview: Valery Korzun
JSC2001-03047 -- Valery Korzun

Expedition 5 Commander Valery Korzun. Photo credit: NASA

Q: Valery, you are set to begin a four-month-long mission in space; can you give us a bit of a summary-what are the goals of this expedition to ISS?

A: OK. Main goal of our expedition is to continue assembly of space station; this is main goal. If some details about our expedition, during our expedition we will work together with three shuttle crewmembers and we will make two EVA. And we will docked…I mean, not mean dock, our dock, but control over the docking two cargo ship, and two cargo ship, and we will unload this cargo. And, of course science program-this is not just only Russian and American science program, this is international space program. We will conduct a lot of experiments: Russian, American, European, Japanese.

When you look at the role that you will play here, do you see, on this mission, that you are being more of an explorer or more of a scientist, or is it something else?

You know, it's very difficult for me to call myself "explorer" because a lot of people was in space before my flight, and on they live on station, American station, Russian station, before. And I think first of all my main duty [is] to provide the safety of the, our program, space program, and this is in general, because everybody, every crewmember have personal duty: my colleagues, they are flight engineer, they respond, they have responsibility for the control of the station systems, American side of the station, Russian side of the station. But myself, I am, in general I should be control of the escape ship if we need to use this one; I am pilot in the transport ship. And I am operator during the cargo ship docking. And during our mission, I mean during our common activity with shuttle crew, I need to provide organization on the station for science experiments, for activity, during activity with shuttle crew. And…if I think about cosmonaut, who they are in space, they are not only engineer or pilot, not only researcher or explorer; they are sometimes, they need to fix something, they need to be doctor if we have situation, an injury situation. And we should be maybe a little philosopher, and diplo…diplomats, we need to be, diplomacy, because this is important in space, especially in space, and when a lot of people from different country work together in space.

Tell me about you, if I may; why did you want to become a cosmonaut in the first place?

I know a lot of my colleagues wanted to be cosmonaut, they were children or something; I never want to be cosmonaut because when I started my career as pilot and usually Russian Space Agency selected commander for the space mission from pilot team, and but I was big, I mean now, I'm not short now and I'm not, and parameters of my body was not good for cosmonaut's body.

You were too tall?

Yes, I am too tall, and, maybe my weight not big weight for a spaceship because long time ago in Russian program use not big people, because space capsule was not big, and they have special limits for the people. And, why I didn't dream about cosmonaut because I knew that I never can be cosmonaut because I am big. And when I was student in the Military Air Force Academy GCTC, Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center selected pilots for the cosmonaut team. And, suddenly I felt…myself I wanted to be cosmonaut, and I write report because I am military I should use military form, I wrote report to commander of GCTC and I done medical check-in and passed some exams, and I was selected. I was surprised. But later, I had some problem with my body. But no it was successful for me later.

But why is it that you wanted to be a cosmonaut?

When I was a student at military academy, I read new information about space program, Russian space program. And our famous writer, Yaroslav Golovanov published some material about our space program. And I remember one of the, maybe main phrases from this material, for me when they selected pilot to be cosmonaut, they suggested him to fly on the new vehicle-new, unusual vehicle because huge speed and huge altitude and it was very interesting for me. And, I don't know why, but I wanted to fly on the new vehicles, especially new vehicles in space, because for me it was unusual flights. And after that I was selected on the cosmonaut team.

Tell me a bit about your history, your path in education and in your career, your military career, that led you to that point.

I was born on, the south of the Russia, and when I finish school, I…I go, I went to the pilot military college, and I finished this college and served approximately ten years in the Air Force. And after that when I finish Air Force academy I was selected on cosmonaut team. I have short history. But, I was fighter when I finish my military career, I was commander of squadron, and I served in [an] aerobatic regiment. And I flew, I finish to fly as military pilot on the MiG-29. And after that, approximately fifteen years, I am a cosmonaut in GCTC, and I am participant of small piece of Russian space program.

You, in fact, have almost two hundred days of experience on orbit when you were the Commander of Mir-22 in 1996 and 1997. And of course on your mission to the Mir space station there was an on board fire that almost forced the crew to evacuate. Would you tell us briefly about what happened, but more importantly, I think, how has that experience influenced your feelings about the danger of spaceflight, or your approach that you transmit to your crewmates of how you go about your daily operations on orbit?

OK. But I know two books which describe situation on station with fire, and I know NASA create movie about this one. And I think a lot of people know about this situation. Shortly…there were six people on space station Mir; if there are three people we usually use oxygen system-it's called Elektron- and then we have additional people we need to use additional oxygen stick to provide oxygen pressure and atmosphere. And for this goal we use oxygen generator, and, oxygen during activation of the oxygen generator and oxygen stick, that stick was burned. Later, a Russian specialist study what happened with this stick, and they have had some opinions but exactly they didn't know, don't know what happened really. But sometimes we can have the same situation in space, because on ISS we use the same generate that they change condition for, stowage condition for the oxygen stick, and they protect this generator from the fire. They improve this system. I mean, in Russian and American. I know, and I knew every time about flight in space, the flights in space are dangerous, and all people understand this one, not only astronauts and cosmonaut; all people understand this one. But, after that case, I mean fire I understand usually a dangerous situation come suddenly, suddenly; and very important what training crew had before. If we had additional, have additional good training for the emergency situation, usually everybody will…will do right things, I mean right activity, good behavior. And because if somebody will lost in this situation the whole crew will have problem. And, after that situation Russian change some flight rules, and now if we had before maybe one training for emergency situation on space station, now we would have approximately one month, one each month, of this training for refresh our knowledge, to refresh our navigate, navigate in the emergency book, and a lot of different things. And of course every time we need to check condition of the, for the equipment which we need in emergency situation. Because I remember when we come on station Mir, we check, checked this equipment month just only one fire extinguisher was attached to the station not nominally, because they, and previous crew didn't remove special bracket which use during launch, and our crew didn't pay attention. And when we try to use this extinguisher we had some problem. But there were a lot of extinguisher; we used another extinguisher. But, this is why we need to understand condition of the equipment for emergency situation. And…summary after that, and now we usually discuss with my crew about this one. If we have emergency situation, maybe one hundred time a day, every time we should keep together and discuss and understand what happened. Because, you know, sometimes if we have one signal, alarm signal, crew come together; then after five minute another, after five minutes, because it's possible to have very often this alarm. And every time we should pay attention for each alarm signal. This is in general.

You and Peggy and Sergei are going to begin your mission when Ken Cockrell and his shuttle crewmates deliver you to the International Space Station. And you mentioned the time that you have to do what's called a handover, where Yury Onufrienko and his crew work with you and your crew to get you set up. On your first mission, you took a handover from Yury Onufrienko…


…as well, but you had two weeks then; this time you have five, six days or so. Is that long enough?

This is not long enough but if we need maybe in shortest handover it will be good for us, but I try to explain that situation. On Mir we had two weeks or maybe three weeks, it depends, of each expedition. Two weeks, this is not only handover, two weeks for handover, because we use maybe 5-or-10% of common time for handover, and another time we use for science experiments between this period when new crew come to the station and old crew prepare to go to the ground. The same…the same situation on ISS: shuttle will come and we will have six days together, not just only for handover because maybe we will use 3% of common time for handover. What is purpose of the handover? Just only for adaptation for station, for each crew. We have special book; we will use this book and there is each system described in this book, and there are some empty space which we need to use to write changes between condition of systems which we study on the ground and real condition of this system on board station. And maybe…not maybe, we will study real situation with stowage of the equipment in station. And, you know, if we had a lot of training on the ground and to activate or to use a system in space, this is not the same than simulator on the station. And we need to have some times to adapt, maybe first time, I can see Yury activity or Peggy will see Carl activity or Sergei will follow Dan's example or something; they will study. And…about handover: now we needn't to use a lot of time for handover because each crew, each shuttle crew bring down some video and, we have now opportunity to watch video that crew made in space and show us situation. And sometimes I think this is a good idea, to look, to watch video and to recognize configuration inside of the module, and we have access for the information. Then information special groups send it's called 8 O'Clock form, I think. This is a condition of the station. They send this information on space for the crew's, station, and they read this information. And we can read this information. And if we have time we can read telegram or we can read some information which Mission Control sent to the station. And very important for us to use INV, this is inventory management system. This is very important system for us, and now we have a chance to see real INV on the ground because they periodically send information, Mission Control have information about INV condition, and we can read and we can use this system. In other words we have now a very good access for, to have information about real situation on station.

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Expedition 5 Commander Valery Korzun works in the Zvezda service module on the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

And, as you say, it'll, you'll need as much information as you can because there's a lot of other activity scheduled during that mission. There are now three spacewalks scheduled during that shuttle mission primarily to install a new component, called the Mobile Base System. Can you tell me, briefly, what is the Mobile Base System, and how is that going to improve the way the station can function in space?

You know…now previous shuttle 8A bring on station I called milestone of the truss system. Truss system-this is huge construction which will include solar battery, electrical power battery, and special reel, reels for the Mobile Transporter. And it's Mobile Transporter will install on the reel. MBS will be installed on the MT, Mobile Transporter, and MBS include four places-it's called PDGF- this is special place for a robot arm located on the MBS. And PDGF provide power, data, and video signal to and from SSRMS-SSRMS, this is abbreviation of robot arm-and there is a special place for payload, for temporary stowage of the payload. And…I will repeat MT will install on on truss, MBS will install on MT, robot arm will install on the MBS, and these assembly will translate along the truss.

And that's going to be installed during spacewalks on UF-2. During those spacewalks, tell me what part you will play as part of the team-what do you do while the shuttle astronauts are working outside?

…everybody of our crew have personal tasks in during this activity. I will support EVA crewmember on the shuttle who is robot arm during EVA 1, and Peggy will grapple MBS and translate MBS and connect MBS to the MT, and…Sergei will check station system during this activity and help us with video view during MBS installation. And during…my mission in this case, I mean when I will support shuttle crew, I need to transfer Franklin from Airlock to cargo bay of the shuttle; he will ungrapple spare PDGF and then I will translate him to the P6. This is for, for there is a special place for PDGF stowage. He will install this PDGF and then move back to the cargo bay, and unfasten pack of MMOD shield-this is special protection for the Service Module. And then I will transfer him to the, with MMOD shield, to the PMA-1. And, they will, Franklin and Philippe will temporary stowage of this MMOD shield, and during our EVA, we will take this MMOD shield and we will transfer it to the Service Module, and we will install this MMOD shield around the corner of Service Module. They will protect Service Module from meteors during flight. This is on shuttle.

And you're referring to a spacewalk that will occur after UF-2 has already left, a spacewalk that you will conduct at the time. Why don't we discuss that right now-talk about, there are, I believe, two spacewalks that are scheduled to be conducted out of the Russian segment of the space station. Tell me who will be going outside and what the tasks are during those, the EVAs.

OK. Number of our EVA will be 8 and, 7 and 8. The first EVA we will do if I'm not [mistaken], one of the, it will be in July and another in August before 9A will come. First EVA, we will conduct with Peggy, we will take MMOD shield from PMA-1, transfer it with Russian Strela equipment to the Service Module, install this MMOD shield on the corner of the Service Module, and then we will install two antennas which they will use for ham radio; antennas, we will install on the Service Module. And then we will replace science equipment which it's called Kromka, and this Kromka now install in the nozzle of the engine. And then, we will take old Kromka and install new Kromka. And, we will come back. Approximately time of the EVA will be six hours.

There is a second…

Second EVA, no, I didn't tell about. We will use DC, this is Docking Compartment Russian airlock, and we will use Russian spacesuit Orlan. And second EVA we will conduct with Sergei Treschev from Docking Compartment. We will install, we will replace flow regulator of the thermal control system of the FGB. And we will remove one of the panel of Japanese experiments, and then we will install special equipment for cable outside of the station. This is approximately the same EVA time, it's about six hours.

The other major assembly tasks, which, as you said, are a primary goal of this mission, will come during a shuttle visit during your expedition-9A-which delivers the S1 truss segment and a CETA cart. Can you tell us about those new pieces of hardware: how will they expand the station, what do they do?

You know, center of the truss system or truss segment is 01 [S0]. During assembly of the truss, shuttles will bring a new piece of truss. And second piece of truss will be S1. S1, this is piece of truss which we'll install on the starboard side of the S, of the truss. And shuttle crew will bring this S1, and Peggy Whitson will connect this truss, will take this S1 from the cargo bay of the shuttle and connect to the S1 starboard side. And then after that they will connect, and we'll connect cable, we'll connect coolant line, and install CETA. This is a piece of the MT, if, before MT used just only S0; now after that MT will use S0 and S1. This is, we'll have, …biggest way move around the truss.

And the CETA cart…the acronym for CETA is "crew equipment transfer"? It's…

It's correct…

…describe that, what that does.

…it's correct to, it's correct to. In general, this is the same MT but just only manual. We will use this one for transportation equipment along the truss. CETA, this is short, small transporter, and there are some places for the equipment for the big-size equipment, which will install for the temporary stowage of the, to the CETA. And then there are some control equipment of the CETA; I mean, brakes and release or something, you know; manual brakes or, and there are, …some, APFR, I mean special equipment which astronauts, cosmonaut use for the, attach to the CETA. And then CETA will…transportation along the truss manual of the EVA guys which will use.

We're not talking about your mission in chronological order, and that's all right; I'd like to get you to step back from the assembly portion of the mission and talk for a few minutes about the science portion of the mission. Tell me, how do you see that the space station's scientific mission is going to be advanced, is going to be expanded, during Expedition 5.

Because assembly of the station not complete science program…science program, this is main goal of the ISS but during time when assembly of the station not complete science program not big and maybe…not important in this period. But…usually science experiments include some part of the science program. I mean, this is technological experiments, biotechnological biomedicine experiments or different part of the, these experiments. And, I know…a lot of experiments will provide for the monitoring of the Earth's surface. I mean, ocean, pollution, and place where plankton appear in the ocean. If when…and we will, we will do science experiments on the Russian segment and U.S. segment, and everybody have personal task for this experiments. And I know one of the experiments to study cold plasma and other experiments to study crystal grow, which they will use on the ground. And a lot of experiments study radiation situation in the space, not just only in, on, on the, into the station but outside of the station. And a lot of experiments study human body in space. We have a lot of experiments with blood, with muscle, muscles, with bones, with mind, with psychology experiments, because it's very important for, to study behavior of the people who live long time in the isolation place.

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Expedition 5 Commander Valery Korzun, wearing a Russian Sokol suit, floats through a hatch into the Unity node on the International Space Station. Photo credit: NASA

As the Commander of this mission will you be spending only a short amount of time doing science, or will you be spending a good bit of your time on that?

You know, what does it mean, "Commander?" Commander not just only give direction. I mean-and check safety; this is additional duty. I think our main duty, my main duty to do science experiments and not only science, replace equipment, plan fixed of some equipment, and a lot of things. And I think approximately 40% of my activity, it will be science experiments. And we need to study, I will study-not study, I mean, I will…conduct-experiments for ecology, for the geography for the extreme situation on the ground. I mean, looks like fire and flood and we will use we will try to use communication which we have on station for the quickly…warning for the ground. I mean, not just only for Russia, and U.S. and Europe and a lot of things.

As you think that, at the point that your replacements, the Expedition 6 crew, arrives, and you and Peggy and Sergei are preparing to come home, in your opinion, by the time you're ready, your expedition is completed, what will have had to have happened, what will you have had to have accomplished, in order to consider Expedition 5 to have been a success?

I think special…specialists will evaluate our activity, but I think most important for us: done all experiments, to make all our tasks, to conduct all experiments. And…and one other thing we should…we have to safe station, safe condition of the station systems, and I know this is not American value to talk about mistakes of the crew, but I think most important for us haven't mistakes, or if we will have just only minimum and not very dangerous.

The International Space Station, as a project, is a science laboratory as well as a place to, meant to develop new technologies and to do commercial research and development; but it's also a place where people learn how to live in space, and where the nations that they represent can learn to work together. I'm interested in your opinion: what do you think is the most valuable aspect of the International Space Station?

There are some aspects, I think; first, political aspects. Because I think this is better when country cooperate in space program. To conduct space program and to have personal science program which they will make on will do on the station. And, I think human cooperation in this case, this is main goal of ISS. This is first reason; second reason, this is science experiments. Because a lot of country have very nice science potential, and they can use this opportunity to provide, to do new experiment in space. And…and I hope results of this experiments will help the people on the ground. And, you know, for example in space we can create a new metal; we cannot do it on the ground, but we can do it in weightlessness. And we can grow new, maybe, medicine for the people which may be killed in the future, cancer, cancer, or…which…and the… this is second reason. And, I think from my opinion, this is more important romantic reason: because the people on the ground know about station, and the children want to be cosmonaut, astronauts, to fly in space, and this is dream…for them. And I think this is very important for a new human generation, to think about it and to have wishes to go in space, and to have something unusual because looks like the same experience you never have on the ground, you will have just only in space. And you know I think this is important things in our life. Sometimes the people, I understand government and the country maybe measure money, evaluate how many money, money they put in the space program, but nobody calculate what we will have in the future when the people when the new generation will think about it. And I think this is good dream for children now. And, this just only shortly.