A Place for Everything
If you're like most people, you don't know exactly where everything is in your house.
Now, imagine how hard it would be to know exactly where everything is in someone else's house -- every pen, every bar of soap -- and to tell them where to find each item they would need that day. Think of how much more difficult it would be if you had never actually even seen the house! That challenge would be a lot like Leelannee Godfrey's job.
There are more than 8,000 items to track onboard the International Space Station.
Godfrey's job is to help the International Space Station (ISS) crew keep up with more than 8,000 items onboard the Station, which is the size of a three-bedroom house. An inventory stowage officer at NASA's Johnson Space Center, she works in the Cargo Operations
department, which keeps track of all the equipment carried on the Space Shuttle and the ISS.
Daily, the crew is given a "shopping list" of items they will need for the day and told where to find them. To do that, Godfrey and the Cargo Integration Officer's (CIO) team have to thoroughly know the crew's inventory and make lists of items that have been lost.
Keeping up with the equipment on the Station involves a great deal of teamwork. They have to work with the crew on board, their Russian counterparts and the ISS science experiment group at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center to make sure all stowage information is correct. The level of teamwork required will increase as ISS segments from other nations are added.
Cargo brought by visiting spacecraft, such as a Russian Soyuz capsule or unmanned Progress supply ship, also falls under the CIO team's supervision. The team tells the crew where to put the items they unpack. When a crew prepares to return to Earth, the CIO team tells them what to pack aboard the Soyuz to bring home. When the Shuttle visits the Station, any experiments that are performed on ISS and then brought back on the Shuttle are added to the ISS database when they arrive, then removed from the database again when the Shuttle departs.
Expedition 8 crew members Mike Foale and Alexander Kaleri are good at maintaining the ISS stowage database.
"Of course it is difficult to picture what is where, since we can't see it," Godfrey said. "But with the help of the mockups and training we have here, as well as video and pictures we get down from the crew, it makes it easier to picture what the crew is seeing."
But, she said, they do rely heavily on the ISS crew for help. "The data we have down on the ground and in the database is really only as good as the crew will let it get," she said. "Mike (Foale) and Alexander (Kaleri) who are onboard now for Expedition 8 are very good at making updates to the stowage database."
Thanks to Godfrey and her team, an ISS crew member can always find any of the thousands of items on the Station. And when every second counts, never having to wonder "Now, where did I put that?" can be a very nice thing, indeed.
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