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Preflight Interview: Gregory Chamitoff
03.28.08
Expedition 17 Flight Engineer Gregory Chamitoff Q: Of all the careers in all the world that a person could aspire to, you end up a professional space traveler. What was it that motivated you, or inspired you, to become an astronaut?

Image to right: Expedition 17 Flight Engineer Gregory Chamitoff. Image credit: NASA

A: Actually, I wanted to do this my whole life, it seems. We went to Florida for a family vacation when I was 6 years old. We saw, the launch of Apollo 11, by chance, and my dad was always very excited about the space program. I told him then that’s what I want to do, and kind of never gave up on that. I have to admit that I kind of grew up on “Star Trek.” A funny thing about that is that my dad went to the same high school as William Shatner, at the same time. I don’t know if, how well they knew each other but he knew him. So as a little kid I, even though I’m watching science fiction, there’s something real. My dad knows this guy and look at what he’s doing. I don’t know if that somehow … My dad, I think, was also an inspiration. He used to look at pictures of Mission Control and he would say, "Who are those guys? How do they get to work there? That’s the best job in the world. How did they get to do that?" And, so I was always very interested and I think inspired by his excitement about it, too.

You know, for some astronauts it’s easy to ask about their hometown and have it mean just one location, but then there are others like you who grew up in a lot of different places. So tell me a bit about your childhood, starting with the fact that you were born in Canada.

Yeah, born in Montreal, Canada; my whole family’s from Montreal, although a generation before that they’re from Russia. I grew up, basically through most of elementary school there. We actually moved around a little bit there, too, but we left when I was 11 and I never went back until I was 22. It was kind of strange because you know, when you leave a place when you’re that young you have memories of places but not exactly how to get to them or where they are. I kind of went back 11 years later and rediscovered my childhood and discovered places. We had a country house that I think we paid $4,000 for, on a lake, in the mountains, and a lot of my memories are there, at the country house. And in fact when I went back that one time, much later, I went to look at this country house, to find it with a cousin. There was somebody who saw us looking and said, "Who are you?" I mentioned who I was and they invited us in, and there was a post on the wall with names and heights I saw my name and my height, and my brother’s, still on the wall in the country house. I have a lot of memories from being in the country and hiking in the woods and water skiing. Then we moved to California. My dad always felt that California and the United States were the land of opportunity so as soon as there was a possibility to come we came. My father already had family and my mother had family also in California. So it was pretty easy to make that transition, easier than it would have been on our own, I think. And, and so I grew up otherwise in San Jose, Calif., and went to a little bit of elementary, junior high and high school there. It’s interesting now because now that this launch is coming up I’m in touch with some old friends and old teachers from that time. It’s, it’s a long time ago but a lot of my closest friends are from that time in my life.

It would seem to me that those would be really different environments, Montreal and San Jose?

I don’t know if it makes much difference as a kid. I think we did similar things. My, my dad had three dreams. One of them was to live in California, one of them was to have a country house, and the other one was to make enough money to live happily. So we got another country house -- I think he paid $40,000 for the second one. I can’t imagine what these places are worth now. We all spent a lot of time in the country, in the Sierras, in California. I fell in love with Yosemite. It’s my favorite place on the planet. I pretty much spent my youth in Scouts, backpacking and hiking in the Sierras and doing some more kind of things in the mountains with my parents.

Let’s pick up the story then. You graduated high school in San Jose; take me on then through your education and in your professional career that led you to, your dream of becoming an astronaut.

From high school I went to Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, Calif., and, started in physics there but ended up going to electrical engineering. But I took a lot of classes in mathematics, in computer science and mechanical engineering, aeronautical engineering. After that I went to Caltech for a master’s in aeronautical engineering and, and then, well, long before that I knew what I wanted to do but, but I think at that point, in terms of academic career, I was very interested in working on spacecraft guidance and control, and I saw the possibilities at MIT courses, all kinds of courses in that area. So I went to Boston, Cambridge. I worked at Draper Laboratory there and had a fellowship with them. They put me through graduate school. I finished off the Ph.D. there at MIT. At the end of that I wanted to take a trip around the world. I had never been out of North America other than maybe Hawaii or some places scuba diving in Mexico, or something like that. So I took a big loan at the end of graduate school and I went by myself and just did a big around the world trip for three months. Along the way I was kind of looking for possibilities and my, my fiancée at the time also was thinking about, doing some medicine in another country after finishing medical school. Anyway I ended up in Sydney for a couple years teaching at the aeronautical engineering department at the University of Sydney. My wife came and she did some work in medicine in the outback in Australia, which was really interesting. From there we came to Houston. I came to be, initially, a flight controller here, but I had been applying to the astronaut program already for a decade. So that’s pretty much the sequence.

You hear a lot of stories of astronauts who have applied more than once or twice or three or four times before they finally get accepted. And you said it was, for you, I guess it was several classes.

Yeah, I remember one time mailing my application from Perth, on vacation in Australia, and, and then, and then receiving a letter from NASA saying that I had passed the first round and they wanted me to get a medical check. However, it came surface [mail] to Australia and so all the deadlines were long gone. The interviews were over and I just got the letter so I missed that round entirely by being out of the country. But, yeah, it took several times.

Perseverance, then. Among all those places that, that you’ve been then and the, the people who helped you, who were the people who inspired you, and encouraged you to all of those accomplishments?

I think my parents were really my main mentors, especially when I was younger. My dad, was a mathematician but also a quality control engineer so he was a perfectionist; If I came back with all 90-somethings and, you know, something was 89—"What happened here?" Also, he taught us math, my brother and me, he taught us math all the time. So no matter what the homework was from school, the homework for us was every problem in the book. So I always did every problem in the book. Otherwise I think my teachers … Those aren’t famous people. I think that I looked up more my teachers, in junior high a science teacher, in high school, math and science teachers, and in college, too, math teachers.

Now, we know that flying in space can be very dangerous. What do you and your family think about the risks that are associated with the job that you’ve chosen?

The way I feel about it is, essentially, that there’s not any reward without risk. On the other hand, there’s no reason to take stupid risks. It’s funny because some people, assume that because I have this job that I must have a very risk-taking lifestyle, and, it’s not true. I like to go skiing but I don’t go down black diamond runs between trees, you know. I think that’s stupid. I think taking risks that are worthwhile is necessary, and you just do it in a cautious way. And that’s also NASA’s philosophy, essentially -- something’s worthwhile, you just do it and do it carefully and you take all the precautions that you can to manage the risk. We have lots of redundant systems and a thousand people on the ground that are looking out for us all the time. So I think my wife is more worried about me driving to work every day, being tired or something, than she is about the spaceflight. On the one hand, during the spaceflight we kind of have all the risks of our career, more or less at that one time. I see a lot of other things that people are doing that I think are a lot riskier, actually, than the spaceflight. But the most important thing is that it’s a very worthwhile pursuit and we manage the risks carefully.

Well, tell me about reward. Tell my why space exploration and the International Space Station program are important to you and to our future?

I think it’s extremely important. I think not only important, I think it is the future. I think of the resources that are out there. We’re not able to tap into when we’re limited to the Earth. That’s where we have to go. That’s our destiny. We’re going to explore. It’s just a matter of when. We need to use solar power from the sun. We need to use resources that are out there. We, as a society, as a species, I think our, our prosperity depends on going forward, exploring and expanding, into space. The only place to go is up, and a little bit down as well, but mostly up. And so I see the space station as the bridge to that future. You know, everything we’ve done prior to now is little jaunts into space and the space station, you know, since October of 2000, kind of a date that passed by without much notice. I noticed that was the date when we first occupied the space station and I thought, wow: from that day forward we will never be a species that doesn’t have part of our species living off the planet. That could be the, as long as everything goes smoothly with the space station, the turning point for all of humanity, of being a space-faring culture as opposed to only an Earth-based culture. The space station is the tool and the platform we have, to learn how to live and how to expand in space, so it’s, it’s really important.

You are flight engineer and science officer on Expedition 17 to the International Space Station. Greg, summarize the goals of the mission and what your main responsibilities are going to be.

Expedition 17 is actually a big transition point for the space station program because we’re going to have all the international partners involved at this point. The Japanese module will be on board as well as the Columbus, European module. At the beginning of my expedition we’re bringing up the Japanese module. Installing and activating that module is a big part of the mission. And as part of Expedition 17 we’re transitioning to a six-person crew. A lot of the equipment for that will come up during the next shuttle mission. For those two reasons, sort of having the most capability on board with all the international partners involved and transitioning to a six-person crew, these are big steps for the space station program.

It’s your first flight as an astronaut. You must be very excited about that.

Yeah, very excited; you know, long time in coming.

Let’s talk about some of the milestones of this flight. You mentioned the flight that delivers you to the space station also brings the main component of the Japanese laboratory complex, Kibo. Tell us about this new module and, and the capabilities that it’s going to add to station operations.

Well, Kibo is made up of three different components. One part will be up there already when we get up there; a logistics module. The main module itself is the largest part of the space station that we will have ever added. It’s a huge module and it’s a beautiful piece of engineering. The Japanese are very proud of it, as they should be. It also has an airlock and robotic arm as part of it. About a year later, they’ll be bringing up an external platform which will be the most capable facility we’ll have on station for doing science outside of the space station, exposure to vacuum and radiation in the space environment. It’s basically going to be a module with many racks. We’ll be moving some science racks in there that are already on orbit and the Japanese science program will have a lot of research racks in there as well.

These racks are the same sort of, of science racks that are in Destiny and in Columbus?

In terms of size and shape, there’s been standardization to make it possible to move these around and hook them up in different places, which is very helpful. But each country has different goals and different facilities. So each of those racks is unique. Some of them are world-class, robotic, engineering science platforms on their own. They’re amazing. The two that I’ll be working with on the Japanese module are very impressive pieces of equipment.

Give me the thumbnail sketch on those then.

One of them is a fluid science rack, essentially, and, one of the things that, that they can do is look at a flow called Marangoni flow. It’s looking at something that we can only see on Earth in a very small scale. It’s a surface tension-driven flow. In space they can do it with a larger volume of water, or fluid. It’s a physics experiment but the applications are broad. It may be possible to remove pumps from cooling systems in the future and other things because of understanding the physics of that. And then there’s a biology rack in, in the, in the Japanese module and there are other facilities, biology racks in the Columbus module; there’ll be combustion facilities. There are a lot of different, interesting science facilities and a wide range of possible science we can do with them.

And you mentioned the external platform yet to come. How does that differ from experiments currently attached to the outside of the space station?

It is different in that its capabilities are much greater and that each of those experiments is almost as large as what we can do in the racks inside. We can handle many of them and they’ll have communication and power flowing to them. Right now we have experiments, for example, we can mount outside and expose certain materials to the vacuum and radiation and temperature extremes to look at how materials perform in those conditions. But with the Japanese facility they’ll be able to have communication with those payloads. There could be robotics on them or cameras that can control them from the ground; there could be anything from physics to Earth observation to space environment monitoring, but they can interact with them from the ground or even from inside. We can move things in and out through their airlock, so there’s a lot capability there.

During the shuttle mission, as we said, that delivers this module, describe briefly how the, you, the station and shuttle crews, go about installing that new component?

It’s quite a choreography. It’s pretty amazing, actually, because first of all it has to be attached to the space station and that involves robotics and EVAs. There are several, EVAs involved in getting it out of the shuttle and attaching it. We’re also moving the logistics module from one place on the station to connect it to the top of the Kibo module. So that choreography, in addition bringing it up and powering it up internally, it’s kind of like a bootstrapping process where you can’t turn on a computer until you have power but you don’t have power until you have something to cool the power box. So it’s kind of a complicated process bringing everything up. And then look carefully at what happens, well, if this box won’t start; what can we do to change all that? We’ve all been trained of course, on how to do it and how to deal with all the contingencies. For me, since I’ll be staying up there with it, I’ve kind of seen everything we have to do. So whenever the shuttle leaves, however far we’ve gotten, I can finish the job after that.

During the, the installation what part are you going to be playing?

During the installation I’ll be doing some of the robotics activities, a lot of them, and I’ll be also helping the, EVA crew, getting all their work done in the airlock before EVAs, checking out suits and all the work necessary to handling the EVAs themselves before and after. A big part of what I’m doing, though, is handing over with Garrett Reisman, who will be up there as the previous long-duration crewmember. Our job essentially is for him to “core dump” on me everything he’s learned living on orbit. He’ll be leaving on the shuttle I came up on and hopefully I’ll have learned the lessons that he’s learned quickly and be able to, to carry on from there.

As you implied that after the shuttle crew leaves there might still be some work that was planned for that mission. They might have finished everything they were planned, but there’s still work that you and Sergei [Volkov] and Oleg [Kononenko] will have to do to, get Kibo ready for its full operation.

Right.

What’s involved in that work, that commissioning of the module?

If everything goes perfectly smoothly during the shuttle flight and everything’s working, there’s still checking out a lot of the systems, there’s tests they want to do, make sure everything’s working right. There are the science modules, installing those and configuring those to actually start doing science and testing them out. There’s a robotic arm on the Japanese module and so there’s a whole series of checks to make sure that’s working properly, and there’s an airlock which we have to check out, make sure everything works properly. So we’re really going through everything to make sure all the systems are working and is fully capable of conducting all the operations and science that are planned for it.

Expedition 17 Flight Engineer Gregory Chamitoff In doing that work you’re going to be working with a mission control center in Japan, in the town called Tsukuba, and, of course, the crew will also be working with mission controls in Houston and outside Moscow and Huntsville and outside Munich, and there are two more. How do you imagine it’s going to be working with people on the ground all over the world?

Image to left: Expedition 17 Flight Engineer Gregory Chamitoff participates in an integrated immune orbital vehicle training session at Johnson Space Center, Houston. Image credit: NASA

It’s going to be really interesting. I spent a number of years working as a capcom and at that time we had just three control centers talking to the crew. We had daily planning conferences as we still do, at the beginning of the day and end of the day, to talk about, what we’re going to do, how we’re going to do it, any fine points and then the review kind of at the end of the day. Those would go on for a long time, occasionally, and now we’re adding all these new control centers so we could spend the whole day talking and not do anything if we’re not efficient about it. So it’s going to be a learning process, I think, not only for us on board—especially when there’s a crew of six. There’ll always be somebody talking to a control center somewhere about something. On board you hear the radio going and you’re always wondering if that’s something I need to pay attention to. It will be a learning process on board but, I think, especially on the ground. The coordination between the control centers, when we need a decision about something, is going to involve many more partners to make those decisions. That’ll be interesting.

Do you get a preview of what that might be like with all the training that you’ve done in all those different places?

I think so. I think, it’s amazing, really, to see it from our perspective because we get to travel to all the different countries and the different space centers and see how they are doing things and how much has been integrated, what’s been accomplished in terms of international cooperation and integrating, how we’re going to train, how we’re going to operate, how we’re going to make decisions, how the interfaces between hardware and software, between crew and hardware. We’ve done so much to make things, surprisingly similar, but there are of course, still big differences. I think we’ve been learning from each other, from working with the different countries because sometimes, one country has a better way of doing something, even if they’ve been trying to model it after what we did but they did it later so the new version’s sometimes better. On the one hand, it’s real neat to see how coordinated it’s been, and the international cooperation, which I think is one of the really spectacular achievements of the International Space Station program. On the other hand, that’s going to make it challenging. It’s still going to be a challenge on orbit and a big learning process for us to do all the work with so many countries having, real-time operations and, and science going on on board.

On the subject of challenges on orbit, when you arrive you join Sergei and Oleg; at that point, all three of you will be in the first days of the first trips to space for all of you.

That’s true.

Any thoughts about what it will be like for three spaceflight rookies trying to get acclimated to life on orbit?

It was kind of a unique thing of our mission. In the history of the International Space Station program there haven't been three rookies at the same time on board. But we kind of have a joke about us being experienced rookies, if that’s possible. We’ve all been doing it for so long. I met Sergei, he’s the commander, for the first time seven years ago doing water survival training in Russia. We’ve all been backups for multiple flights prior to this, which means going through everything right until the last day, essentially. We know each other really well and I have the highest regard for these guys, so we’re not worried about it. And finally I think, too that we have this handover process so when they get up there they’re going to be handing over with the two, the two folks who are going on the Soyuz. After their handover time -- they’re going to spend that whole time trying to learn everything that those guys can tell ’em about, OK, here’s what you learned on the ground and here’s how we’re really, how it really works or where this thing is really kept or, whatever they need to know. I’ll do the same with Garrett. So by the time we’re finished with that handover, hopefully we’re in good shape. And we can always call them on the phone, too, and say, "By the way, how do you do this?"

We mentioned a few minutes ago that one of the major objectives of Expedition 17 is to prepare the station to accommodate a crew of six people. When is that going to happen? When’s it going to expand, and what is it that you folks are going to do to get things ready to achieve that milestone?

We’re hoping to do that, in the early half of 2009. On the next flight that comes up after mine, the one that I’m going to go down on, STS-126, they’re bringing up all the hardware for that. There are water reclamation racks, hygiene racks, new sleep stations, various different facilities that we need and a lot of equipment, for example, emergency equipment for more people and so on. That’s all coming up on that flight. It’s an MPLM [multipurpose logistics module] flight so it’s a lot of cargo. I think the last number I heard was 22,000 pounds of stuff that’s coming up on that flight, and I have to make room for all that and get ready to install the racks where they go before they get there. That’s going to be my job is preparing the space station for installing all that. Then when they come up, we’ll all install everything together. Sandy Magnus, who’ll be the long-duration crewmember following me, will be up there with all that and then testing and making sure it all works. Very soon after that they’ll be able to start actually having a six-person crew. She’ll have a real fridge, by the way. That will be the first time crew will have, be able to have cold drinks on the station.

That’s coming up with, with them?

Yeah. That’s right.

Your timing is just that much off.

That’s right.

That’s work you’re going to be doing throughout your time on orbit.

Right.

Also throughout your time on orbit you’ll be doing science; you’re the science officer on board the station. Research on how people can live and work in space is one of the primary focuses of ISS science. Talk about some of the human life sciences experiments that you’ll be working on during Expedition 17.

We’re interested in understanding how humans can live and work in space for long duration, for example to go to Mars, to live on Mars, to live long-duration on the moon. So expanding our ability to live and work and stay healthy for longer times in space, whether it’s zero gravity or a different gravity environment and, different radiation environment, is a, a prime objective for us. We’ve been able to collect a lot of data on shuttle flights, but those are, those have been short. What’s new about what we can do now and what keeps coming and improving as we’re working on the space station is the ability to measure things throughout the mission. For example, by, blood and urinalysis and measuring gases, you know, while we’re doing exercise, and different types of samples and different types of equipment to analyze the samples or store the samples so they can be analyzed later but not, not destroyed because they’re, they have to wait too long to be analyzed, we get a lot more capability to, to study, how our different hu, human biological systems are doing during that time. For example, immune system, neurovestibular system, musculoskeletal system, nutrition, sleep cycles, all these type, and then the ability to, to re-adapt, adapt, adaptation up there but also adaptation back on Earth -- so, the ability to look at all those things and how they’re affected by the radiation and the zero gravity and the other factors … there’s a lot more capability to do that now. We have been doing that, and that’ll continue during my flight.

So you’re in that, to that extent you’re a subject of an experiment. There are lots of other disciplines in which you’re going to be an operator of experiments. Give me some sense of the range of the different kinds of science that can be accomplished on board this space station.

There’s so much now. There’s a total of like 43 science investigations that I’m participating in, so I can hardly keep them straight.

So you can name them all for me, right?

It’s amazing, and that’s not even counting the Russian ones. The Russians will be participating in some of ours and some of the European and Japanese. But, but for the most part, I’ll be working on European, Japanese and, and American experiments. The range is huge. It includes Earth observations, which is very important. We have a perspective from the space station that we can’t necessarily get from satellites, and we can also see phenomenon at certain angles and in a timely fashion pick up something that’s happening like a volcano or fire or something. So Earth observations is a big one, and that’s been ongoing, for a long time. Of course there are experiments outside the space station; we’ve already touched on some of those. Some of those could be automated or run from the ground and may not require any crew interaction at all but there’s control centers all over the world running them and they’re studying the, solar physics and space physics and the environment, looking at debris fields around the Earth and modeling that. There’s a lot of things like that. But, internally, you know, of course there’s biology other than human biology, there are chemistry and materials science, fluid physics -- a wide range of different things. A couple of examples of ones that are interesting to me: One of them that has been kind of a favorite with folks is called SPHERES [Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient Experimental Satellites]. It’s basically a free-flying robot, or a couple of them, that can do formation flying. Ultimately we like to think of robots being able to help us in zero-g environment, do work outside the space station or fly in formation with another space vehicle and take care of, required tasks outside. This is an experiment that we can program and it can do its own task planning and optimization. I’m excited about this one, too, because it’s in my field and I can be a co-investigator. I’ll be actually writing some algorithms for it while on board and hopefully be able to test them and try them out while I’m there. I mentioned the interesting fluid experiments going on and, anyway, there’s a wide, such a wide range of experiments. It’s going to keep me pretty busy.

As science officer you’re going to be the first to have quite so many laboratories in which to do this work.

Yeah.

You’ve got Destiny and Columbus and Kibo and the Russian segment. How do you keep that all straight? How does it come together?

I can only do one thing at a time. On the other hand, if you look at a video of what’s going on up there, it may look like the crew’s doing one thing but there could be 30 experiments running at the same time because they took some time to change a sample, set something up, start it going and then the ground is monitoring it. We’re the hands and sometimes the eyes and ears for the principal investigators, but in most cases there’s a whole science team on the ground that’s also conducting the study. So, for the most part I’ll be setting up and initiating a lot of the science investigations and, do the best I can as one person. As we get to a six-person crew we’ll be able to take full advantage of the, the capability that’s on board.

Of course the other big reason for having a crew on board is to take care of the station itself. Since late last year the program’s been working on an issue with the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint out on the starboard side of the truss. First, can I get you to describe what that joint is, and why it’s so important that it works properly?

Essentially, the station’s powered by these very large solar panels. They’re rotating on a truss that runs perpendicular to the main core of living modules. That truss has points where it can rotate. Outboard of those points the solar arrays are mounted, and so essentially the space station can fly in one orientation and the solar panels can track the sun on their own. There are two joints for each array. The main joint rotates these solar panels in a plane, and then each array can rotate on its own axis. The solar array rotary joint, the, the large one, is preventing this entire array … actually we stopped it on purpose because we don’t want to do any more damage. but during Expedition 17 what we’re going to be doing is positioning the entire structure as optimally as we can, possibly move it a few times during the mission as we need to but, we’re not going to be having it automatically continuously track until we do something to fix the joint. So in the short term, we may go out and try to clean it. There’s a race ring that has some damage on it that we’re looking at possibly cleaning it, possibly lubricating it. We’re developing techniques on the ground now to, to do that. It’s a possibility that it may show up during our expedition and I would love the chance to go out and take care of that. Then in the long term, we may move to a, a redundant ring. There’s a second side, all the components can sort of mount on a different side and allow it to roll against the opposite side. We call it outboard ops. If we do that we’re using completely redundant string, but that would probably be later. If we fully understand the problem and know that we’re not going to create the same problem on the redundant side, then we would do that, and that, that may come later after Expedition 17.

Expedition 17 Flight Engineer Gregory Chamitoff But for the meantime you’re looking at the possibility that you may have to go out to do some work out there?

That’s a possibility, yeah.

Image to right: Expedition 17 Flight Engineer Gregory Chamitoff (foreground) and Commander Sergei Volkov participate in a routine operations training session in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at Johnson Space Center, Houston. Image credit: NASA

There are also plans for spacewalks out of the Pirs docking compartment in the Russian Orlan suits during your expedition. What is the current plan for the Russian spacewalks?

Those plans are still evolving. There’s a science experiment they’re going to go out and install, there’s a possibility later that they’re going to relocate the docking compartment module, which is now nadir, on the Russian segment. They might move it, possibly zenith. In order to do that there’s, some things they want to install to help with that task later. I think it’s a foot restraint they want to install on the Russian crane. We also want to set up the ability to use our robotic arm on the FGB, the other Russian module, which will help use the U.S. robotic arm to do tasks farther aft on the Russian side of the station, so these are, these are some of the things that they have in mind.

And I take it you’d be, you’d be helping out from inside while Sergei and Oleg go out on those.

Right, right.

We mentioned this a couple of times: the next shuttle that visits the space station is the one that is your ticket home.

Right.

What are the goals of the joint operations of the space station during the time that STS-126 is there?

You could call that the six-person crew mission. That mission is, doing everything we possibly can to prepare the station for a six-person crew so, it’s got a lot of supplies, a lot of hardware, the equipment and supplies as well as all the racks necessary for the life support for six people on board. Right now we have mostly the living and life support functions distributed throughout the space station, both U.S. side and, and Russian side. But, additional sleep stations will be in the U.S. side, additional hygiene area and galley and water reclamation. It’s actually going to be, very important engineering sort of science project after that. One of the real applications of the space station is figuring how to do things for the future: testing out recycling systems is a really big part of that. on the U.S. side, and so that will be a, a very, very important capability for us to make sure we become experts as we try to go and develop moon bases and, and things like that.

We talked about quite a range of activities that you have looking at your five to six months in space. Is there one thing that you’re most looking forward to about it?

The idea of just living in space for a long period of time and knowing what it’s like to live there, I think, is one thing I’m looking forward to. I kind of think when you visit a place for a weekend or a week, or even two, you’re a visitor. If you stay somewhere for a month or longer you feel like you’ve lived there. It becomes part of your life. It’s a home, one of your homes. I look forward to feeling like I’ve done that in my life where space and the space station were my home. Otherwise of course I’m looking forward to just the opportunity to contribute, just have the honor to be able to contribute to the future in a way that is really meaningful to me. That’s going to be a, amazing experience up there just to have one part of one step of getting humanity up to the stars.

The nations that are building and operating the space station have exploration plans that go beyond this vehicle, of course. Greg, what’s your philosophy about the future of human exploration of space, and the contribution that the International Space Station makes to that future?

I think of the space station as a bridge to the future. I feel like our future is out there. Human beings are not going to start using less resources and needing less water and, and less energy. Practically boundless energy and endless resources are out there. I think that’s our destiny. I think the space station is really our bridge to being able to, to explore and live in space. The resources and the possibilities and the future out there are just unbelievable. The space station’s our porch. That’s as far as we get to go. But time for us to, to go farther than that.