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Associated Press Interview With Discovery Crew
07.11.06
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AP interview with Discovery crew (9:57)

AP: Discovery, ISS. This is the Associated Press. How do you hear me?

Mark Kelly: We have you loud and clear aboard the space station in the U.S. lab.

AP: Well good morning from Cape Canaveral, this is Mike Schneider with the Associated Press. Thanks for taking time out to talk to me. I was wondering if I could start with Piers. I wanted to ask you about the SAFER and whether you felt comfortable about using the SAFER again after what happened yesterday. And have you heard back from Houston on whether you can use tape to fix the latches.

Piers Sellers: Ah, you get right to the point (laughs). No … chat. The SAFER is fine. What we think happened was that the little latches that protrude a bit got bumped when I was wriggling around in very tight corners trying to release some bolts on the TUS. And we talked to Houston about it, and they're going to come up with a plan we hope to have those interfaces taped over so they don't budge in the future. And we should hear sometime today.

AP: It would just be ordinary duct tape like we use down here? Piers, can you hear me. Piers? I don't think we can hear you down here.

Kelly: Yeah, comm. check. How do you hear now?

AP: OK, very good thank you.

Kelly: Did you hear Piers' response?

AP: I did not. If he can repeat it?

Sellers: Well, we think what we'll probably be using is Kapton tape, which is very slippery so that if it gets bumped against something it's more likely to slide over any lumps or latches. But we'll see what they come up with.

AP: Do you know will there be any other changes to the equipment or any other parts of the SAFER during tomorrow's spacewalk because of what happened yesterday.

Sellers: I don't think so. Tomorrow, we're not called upon to get into any tight quarters, as far as we know yet, so I think with a little bit of tape, and the fact that we're doing it out in the open most of the time, means we're good to go.

AP: My next question was for Mike. I know before the mission you were hoping to get this third spacewalk in. I was wondering if you could tell me why it's so important and what you hope to find out tomorrow.

Mike Fossum: Well, it's the NOAX material that could be used for … is being investigated to repair the shuttle's Reinforced Carbon-Carbon panels. We've done a lot of testing. Piers and I have both done very long vacuum chamber tests in Houston as we're testing the material. But there's still a … so we've got it in the right thermal environment, the right vacuum environment … but to take it into the zero-gravity environment -- because it does off-gas. When you squirt some of this out, when you extrude it using what looks very much like a common caulking gun, it starts to boil in a vacuum. The molecules in it flash to a vapor. And you literally have to work it down a bit as you use a putty night to smash it back and forth between gaps to get it to thicken up to the right consistency to do the repair.

Those bubbles behave differently in zero-g; they don't rise to the surface. And so that puts in question your entire repair, because if you have too many bubbles trapped beneath the surface, then you're not going to get the kind of repair you want. A lot of effort's gone into this, and we're just hopeful we can get it. Maybe in the big scheme of things it's not that important, but Piers and I and the rest of the crew and many many people have a lot invested in it. We're hoping for the opportunity, we're glad it looks like we're going to get it.

AP: Thank you. I also wanted to ask both Mike and Piers, how tired are you all from these spacewalks. I know it takes a lot out of you. Do you still have enough energy for one more?

Sellers: Absolutely, ready to go … definitely a bit tired coming in, but you know … four cups of coffee later we feel much better (laughter).

AP: Thank you. My next question is for Mark. You said before you went up that you knew flying the shuttle is risky business. Given how clean Discovery is and how well the external tank performed, has your view on the risk of flying the shuttle changed at all?

Kelly: No, you know the space shuttle's a very complex machine. It's got a lot of moving parts that move and operate at pretty much the limit of what we've been able to engineer. You know, spaceflight is risky. I think with regards to the tank, we've reduced some of the risk there. We've changed the design a little bit and we've made some pretty big strides in trying to get foam not to shed from the tank anymore. So there is some risk reduction there and I guess overall the risk is probably a little less. But you know this is a risky business, but it's got a big reward. So, you know, everybody on board Discovery and the space station here thinks it's worthwhile.

AP: Also, I guess Mark or anyone else who wants to tackle this. I was hoping you could all describe your feelings two days ago when NASA managers cleared Discovery for return to Earth. Was there a wave of relief that passed through you all?

Kelly: Well, you know, we're pretty busy executing the timeline, so we're really not thinking about it all that much. But before that data goes down to the ground, while we're doing the inspection, we can see all those areas of interest. And knowing what we know about the thermal protection system, we had a pretty good idea that the tank would be cleared. Or the thermal protection system would be cleared. So it was certainly not a surprise. It was more expected. At least that's my view, personally. Don't know if anybody else has a different opinion.

AP: Thank you.

Kelly: I think we've got a consensus.

AP: Great. My next question was for Lisa and Stephanie. Both of you waited so long to go to space, and now that you're finally there, I was wondering what has surprised you the most about the experience.

Nowak: Well, one of the things we both work on a lot is robotics, and we were told that it would be different at night, and that some of the payload views would be more challenging to use or not usable at all. And even though we knew that, it's quite dramatic when you see that up here. Another big thing for me is, even though you know the view is going to be spectacular you just have to experience it. It's incredible looking out the window and seeing the Earth and moon at the same time, changing night and day every 45 minutes. It's incredible.

Wilson: I'd have to say the same. Clearly for the robotics, you really have to do it first hand and be here on the shuttle and on the space station to really appreciate just how the views look and how different it can be from our training. Something else that surprised me a little bit is how fun it is to float through the space station, but then again you have to find yourself stable to be able to perform your work. So just trying to find yourself a good stable platform to do the work takes a little bit of time but its certainly doable.

AP: Thank you. For my next question I was hoping I could get an answer from each of you if that's possible. I'm changing gears a bit. I wanted to ask you about the wake-up songs you hear each morning. Do you all ever pass judgment on each other's musical tastes and, for instance, did anybody find it annoying to get woken up by ABBA?

Sellers: Hey, that was Mark's kids' favorite song and, you know, I used to be an ABBA fan. Hey Mark, come back.

Kelly: Well, you know, sometimes we know ahead of time what the music is going to be and who its for, and other times it’s a complete surprise and you're just woken up by it and you got to scramble out of your sleeping bag to try to make some profound statement about it. Other times that just doesn't happen. We do comment about the songs, I think we heard a Texas A&M fight song one morning, maybe not yet? If not yet, I know it's coming.

AP: OK, thank you. For my last question if I could squeeze one in. I wanted to ask you, what you think the long term legacy of this mission will be now that there has been a mission without damage to the shuttle from the ET foam. Do you think NASA will look back at this as a turning point in the program?

Kelly: I think my brother put it very well. I spoke to him on what's called the IP phone, which is an Internet phone and he said, "we're back, baby."

AP: Well, thank you all very much.



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