Preflight Interview: Lee Archambault, Commander
S98-16197: Lee J. Archambault

Astronaut Lee J. Archambault, STS-119 commander. Photo Credit: NASA

This is the STS-119 interview with Mission Commander Lee Archambault. Lee, could you tell me what it was that made you want to become an astronaut?

Well, growing up in the Chicago area, I had a long interest in the space program, ever since we, myself and the rest of the nation, followed the lunar missions back in the '60s and early '70s. So the idea of becoming an astronaut has always been in the back of my mind but it really wasn’t front and center until I got well along in my military career. I spent about 10 years as an operational pilot, then transitioned to be a test pilot and it was at that time when I was serving as a military test pilot that I started asking myself, “Well, what’s next in my military career?” NASA has a long history of using military test pilots to pilot its vehicles so I thought, thought this would be a nice logical extension of my career as a test pilot. So it was at that point that I put an application in to NASA and was fortunately selected with Group 17 of the astronaut class.

You touched on the, the test pilot part of your career. Can you recount the educational and other professional path, the parts of the path that you took to get to NASA?

Sure. Coming out of high school in the Chicago area, I went to college at the University of Illinois, attained both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the, from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana. Completing my master’s degree, I went on to my Air Force career and again I spent 10 years as an operational pilot, transitioned to the test pilot corps, kind of made a mid-course adjustment where my career was taking me in the Air Force. I decided to go towards a test field where I could use my educational background directly and continue to fly aircraft and switched out from my test pilot career over to NASA when I was selected in 1998.

Tell me about the place that you consider your hometown and how that place influenced you and the things that you’ve accomplished.

I grew up in the Chicago area. My mother actually was born and raised in the city of Chicago, my father just a few miles outside the city. Since I was 2 years old and actually through my days in college, we lived in a, very near western suburb of Chicago called Bellwood. Bellwood’s about four miles due west of the city and without traffic it’s only about a fifteen-minute drive to downtown Chicago so we’re right smack dab in the middle of the Chicago metropolitan area. And Bellwood’s a village of our 20,000 people and it’s mostly a hardworking, blue collar, class neighborhood. The folks in Bellwood have a unique relationship with NASA that goes way back. It actually goes back into the '60s. Bellwood is the home of a former astronaut who walked on the moon, Eugene Cernan. When Mr. Cernan was in the middle of his days at NASA, particularly flying the Gemini missions and the Apollo missions, he was the main business in the town of Bellwood and we followed his career closely. I can remember vividly standing in a parade when I was about 6 years old honoring Mr. Cernan’s first mission in the Gemini program. So we followed Mr. Cernan’s career along quite closely. It was interesting to see him walk on the moon and actually he still has to this day the distinction of being the last man that walked on the moon.

What or who was it that helped you realize the value of education in life and in achieving things?

Probably a conglomeration of several people, certainly my family, my friends, and teachers I grew up around. My parents, as I mentioned both from the Chicago area, neither of them went to a university. It just wasn’t in the cards back then. Their families didn’t have the money to pay for it and they didn’t have that opportunity. My mother ended up becoming a nurse, my dad a fireman in the Chicago area. They both worked a lot of extra, part time jobs and overtime in addition to their primary jobs to make sure both myself, my sister had the opportunities that they didn’t. When I was able to go away to college at the University of Illinois, I was determined not to waste their hard-earned money.

One of NASA’s missions or goals is to inspire the next generation of space explorers. How do you think NASA should be doing that?

Just what we’re about to do and that’s to get set forth on this Constellation program with the Orion vehicle. When I was growing up in the '60s and, again in the city of Chicago and following our space program, we were watching Neil Armstrong do something and go some place that no man had ever gone before, the first person to ever set foot on the moon. So as a result, we were just absolutely engrossed in our space program. How could you not have been interested in the U.S. space program at that point? Today’s young adults or youth, whether in high school, even college, they don’t have that perspective of exploring the unknown since, since, basically since the day they’re been born, we’ve been, we here at NASA have been drawing holes in the, in, in the sky about 200 miles up with our shuttle program and International Space Station program. I say that not to diminish the, the great accomplishments of both the shuttle and ISS program. They’ve both done a tremendous job opening up our different areas of space exploration that we hadn’t seen before. I merely point that out to show us the perspective that today’s children have which is different than my generation had. Today’s children have not seen us explore the unknown, but when we start doing that again with the Orion and Constellation program, when we go to the moon for the first time in their lives and go on to Mars for the first time in history, these young adults will be just as inspired, if not more than our generation was when we saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.

How has preparing for this space mission, your first as a commander, differed from your first ever space flight and preparations for that?

As a pilot on my first mission, STS-117, I zeroed in on exactly my specific duties on that flight, those being the pilot duties, learning the systems on the right side of the cockpit and also serving as a robotics arm operator. I was completely dialed in to those duties and really paid attention to little else what was going on. I left that for my crew members to worry about. On this mission, as the commander, I need to take a more global perspective of the whole mission and I need to also allow the other crew members to become the experts on their individual fields. I stand back. I’m not really the expert on any one of the fields although I have a little knowledge of all the fields but I need to let them become the individual experts and trust them to take care of their job and leave them alone to do their job the way they know how to do it and it, so it’s, it’s trying to just more or less be a chess player, to assign the individual crew members to the right job so that ultimately we can over, accomplish our mission objectives.

Tell me a little bit about what it’s been like training with, with these crewmates for this mission and if you, if you’d like to kind of expand on, on particular skills, skill sets of each crew member, feel free to do that too.

These crewmates have been absolutely tremendous to work with. I’ve told every single one of them from the start that I wish I could claim credit for putting this crew together but I can’t. Steve Lindsey, the chief of our astronaut office, is the guy who makes the flight assignments. He gave me this crew and I’m very, very appreciative. In a lot of ways I look at this crew and I say, “Boy, you really stacked the deck in my favor and I’m very appreciative for each one of these guys.” They’ve been a joy to work with. Each one of them brings us their own special talent to the table and, looking back at it I, I’ll say, “Boy, I’m really proud I selected this crew” but I can’t claim that credit. It’s Steve who gets all the credit on that.

Any particular crew members you’d like to, like to give us some insight of, of their skills that, that make, make the team gel at all?

Yeah, I can touch on every single one of them.

OK, feel free to.

JSC2008-E-140066: Astronauts Lee Archambault and Tony Antonelli

Astronauts Lee Archambault (left) and Tony Antonelli, STS-119 commander and pilot, respectively, pose for a photo in the cockpit of a NASA DC-9 aircraft prior to a Heavy Aircraft Training session at Ellington Field near NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo Credit: NASA

Tony Antonelli, our pilot, is consummate pilot, professional in every way, shape and form and he’s, he’s a systems expert. He really brings a lot to the table in the entire flight regime but in particular our ascent and entry training. Our mssion specialist No. 1, Joe Acaba, a first-time flier, has done a, a wonderful job. I call him a jack of all trades. We’ve got Joe doing ascent and entry flight deck work. In addition he’s a robotics arm, shuttle robotics arm operator. He’s also doing a couple of EVAs out the door and he’ll be an IV for another couple of EVAs so he’s getting a taste of everything and he’s doing, for a first time flier he’s got a full plate and he’s doing everything quite well. Steve Swanson, our mssion specialist No. 2, our fight deck engineer is also our lead EVA man for the, for the team. I flew with Swannie on STS-117. There again he was also the mission specialist 2 and he was a perfect fit for the job. He knows the systems up and very well and this mission he’ll be our lead EVA person basically in charge of, the execution of all four EVAs. He is a, a perfect man for the job. His skills are well respected throughout the entire office in the EVA world. Down on mid-deck we’ve got Ricky Arnold, another first time flyer and he came to us with some outstanding credentials in his EVA skills training prior to getting assigned to this mission. Ricky will be Steve’s right hand man assisting him with all the EVA planning and execution. Ricky will also be performing three of the EVAs, one of them as the EV-1. When we finish this mission I fully expect Ricky will be the next Steve Swanson in our office. Moving over at MS4, John Phillips: John brings essentially all the experience to the table for our crew. John’s a veteran of not only a shuttle mission but also a long duration mission. I’m relying on John a lot to handle all the mid-deck operations as well as the space station robotic arm operations. In addition, he’s my glue as far as allowing our crew to bond and work closely with the station crew. John knows both ends of the stick on this one. He’s been a station crew member as well as a shuttle crew member. And finally our rotating expedition crew member, Koichi Wakata, is just phenomenal. He’s a great robotics arm operator. He’s going to be a great long-duration space station crew member and he’s been well tasked by our crew. He’s doing everything quite well in training.

It’s a perfect transition into the next question. With several Japanese Space Agency components now on the station complex, JAXA has become a full-fledged member on space station. Koichi Wakata will stay there, as you mentioned, as the first long-duration astronaut for JAXA. How does it feel for you to have a part in, in attaining that milestone?

We’re very, very proud to have Koichi as part of our crew. Koichi’s been an absolute joy to work with. He’s a, a phenomenal astronaut and just as important he’s a great person and he’s just been an absolute plus for our crew to have aboard. When we got assigned to take Koichi on this mission up to the space station, I had to decide how I really wanted to use Koichi. As you know, he’s only a crew member, a formal crew member of our crew until flight day 3. After we dock and then we get some of his gear transferred over to the ISS at which point he then becomes a member of the Expedition 18 crew and we absorb Sandy Magnus as part of our crew so we only have Koichi formally as part of our crew for three days. So I had to decide, how, how do we want to utilize Koichi? One avenue you can go down is that from a commander’s point of view you might now want to task him to do too much because for one, he’s only going to be with your crew for a few days and two. A lot of times his space station training doesn’t overlap real well with our shuttle training, but from Day 1 Koichi came to me and said, “Hey, use me where you need to use me. I’m here for you to support the crew.” We’ve done that. I’ve decided to leverage his great skills, particularly in the robotic operations area. Koichi’s going to be a very significant player in our early inspection on flight day 2. In addition, he’s going to be doing a lot of robotic operations with John Phillips during our docked time frame. So he’s, he’s a full up crew member while he’s with us. In addition after he becomes a member of Expedition 18, he’ll still be working a lot of robotics operations with John. So he’s been just a great addition to our crew and I can’t imagine how we could have done it without him. We’re very proud to have Koichi aboard.

There are thousands of people that work behind the scenes to, to make this and all space missions happen. Tell me how you feel about their contributions and, and what it’s like when you do get to meet these people.

I mentioned before when I talked about my hometown that I grew up in a hard-working blue-collar-type town. I’m most comfortable when I get a chance to really meet the guys on the level of turning wrenches. I feel like I’m one of them and I enjoy being part of them. I always look forward to the opportunity to spend a little time with these folks whether it’s here at JSC or at the Kennedy Space Center. I never pass up the opportunity to thank each and every one of them for the great contributions they’re doing, not only for our mission but for our space program. It’s an honor to meet these folks. They shoulder a big load. The safety and success of every mission is on their shoulders and I’m very appreciative for all the good work that they do for our program.

Please summarize if you would the, the main goals of this mission.

We have two major goals. One is to safely get Koichi aboard the ISS and make him part of the Expedition 18 team. The other is to bring our payload, the S6 truss, up to the space station, deliver it and install it to provide the final segment of power generating capability for the space station.

Tell me some of what your main role and responsibility is for this mission as commander?

I look at my role as really to orchestrate all the other crew members in their assigned tasks so that we accomplish our mission objectives. As far as my responsibility goes, my first responsibility is overall safety for the crew and two, mission success.

Give us your best description if you could of the S6 truss and its attached solar arrays and tell us how the station will change both in, in capability and look after it’s installed and the systems are activated.

The S6 truss is about a 31,000 pound piece of gear. Attached to it on the very end are two solar array blanket boxes housing our solar arrays. We’ll bring that up to the station, attach it on the starboard side to the S5 truss which is currently up there. S5 is currently the most starboard truss segment, so we’ll attach our S6 to the S5. Right now we have four sets of solar arrays on the port side. We have only two on the starboard side so when we get up there we’re going to balance out the look if you will. And for Swannie and I, this is kind of a role that’s regenerating itself. We had the same role on STS-117 where we balanced it out by bringing the starboard S3 – S4 truss with two solar array wings and balanced out the look as it was then. Well, since then the program’s managed to unbalance and now we’re going to get a chance to balance it out again. But in all seriousness, this is the final truss segment that’s going to go up and it houses the last two power channels for the space station’s power structure. When we install the truss, the station will have its full complement of eight power channels.

How would you characterize the work that the STS-126 crew did on the starboard solar alpha rotary joint and how that’s impacted your mission?

As we know the STS-126 team spent several EVAs doing some repair work on the SARJ, the rotary joint on the starboard truss. In the first analysis it looks like they did a pretty darn good job. The drive currents are way down and it looks like we’re on our way to getting a continued and prolonged auto track capability again on the starboard SARJ. Whether or not this turns out to be a long-term fix only time will tell but in a short term it looks like they’ve been very, very successful with their EVAs in repairing and lubricating that starboard SARJ. This has a direct impact on us in that we’re going to be attaching our S6 truss to the starboard side so the better that SARJ can auto track, the better the existing truss segment out there will be generating power as well as ours.

On flight day 1 you’ll launch aboard Discovery and check out and configure systems for your stay in space. Then on flight day 2 there's a limited inspection of the station’s exterior. Can you just walk us through how that inspection’s going to happen?

Well, we are transitioning from flight day 1. It was a very condensed -- six and a half hours from launch ‘til the time we go to sleep and it’s a, it’s a beehive of activity. Flight day 2 is almost a reversal of flight day 1. Things tend to slow down a bit. What occupies most of our day, as you just mentioned, is our early inspection, the flight day 2 inspection. This is about five and a half to six hours of inspection work using our space shuttle robotic arm. Tony Antonelli, Joe Acaba, Koichi Wakata, John Phillips, myself will be the primary operators in that inspection. The inspection is actually three different individual inspections consolidated into one. It starts out with the starboard leading edge wing inspection. Then it goes from there to the nose cap inspection and finally ends with the portside inspection. It’s very tedious work and you’re operating the inspection boom within very close proximity of the orbiter for extended period of time. For that reason we’ve decided to go ahead and switch up the lineup for each of the individual components of that inspection. The idea here is not to let anyone get too complacent and keep everyone focused on the job at hand. In addition flight day 2 is the day that most folks find that they’re adapting to living in space. You’re almost too busy to think about it on flight day 1 but on flight day 2 your body is now finally trying to adjust to prolonged life in zero G and that’s when your, your senses are trying to get used to the zero gravity environment so we have additional challenges that we don’t normally have for the remainder of the mission. For that reason we switch things up quite a bit on flight day 2 as far as the lineup goes between each of the individual inspections. While that’s all going on, we have Ricky Arnold and Steve Swanson down in the airlock doing a lot of inspection and transfer preparation for the spacesuits that they’ll be using on EVAs.

The next day is the first of several very busy days to come for the crew on board shuttle and on board ISS. You’ll be going through the rendezvous and docking maneuvers. Can you talk about how that will happen and what you’ll be doing for that, for that procedure?

We get in our rendezvous timeline real quickly after we wake up. About 90 minutes after the crew wakes up the core rendezvous team, myself, Tony Antonelli and John Phillips, will jump into the rendezvous timeline. The rendezvous timeline starts about five and a half hours approximately before the actual docking. For the first three hours, Tony, myself assisted by John will conduct a series of burns, some OMS, some RCS burns to position ourselves, in close proximity with the orbiter. At the end of those three hours, we’ll conclude that with what’s called a TI [terminal initiation] burn. With the successful completion of that TI burn, for all intents and purposes the orbiter will be on sort of a collision course with the space station. Once we finish the TI burn, we play musical chairs with where we’re at in the cockpit. I will transition from the commander’s seat to the aft flight deck where we have the controls and also can look out through the overhead window. Tony will jump over from his seat to mine and that’s where we bring Joe Acaba into the pilot seat. Joe will assist Tony executing the checklist procedures. For about the next hour and 15 minutes, Tony assisted by Joe will perform a series of, very small correction burns to, to poise ourselves at the end of that fourth correction burn, to place our orbiter within approximately two thousand feet coming up the station from slightly behind and slightly below. At that point I’ll begin manually flying the orbiter. I’ll initially fly it to a point directly below the station at about 600 feet and that’s when we take off the RPM or the rendezvous pitch maneuver. Tony will actually program the auto pilot to do this maneuver and it’ll be a pure 360 directly underneath the station at 600 feet. That’s where the station crew members can take some very good shots of our TPS or our thermal protection tiles on the, on the belly of the vehicle. Coming out of that pitch maneuver, I’ll again take manual control of the vehicle and I’ll fly what’s called a TORVA where I transition the vehicle from that point 600 feet below the station to a point about 300 feet out in front of the station. From there, essentially I’ll just back it right on in and rendezvous with the space station. Ultimately when we dock with the station we’re moving at a snail’s pace of like one to two inches per second. We have four guys working actively on this part of the process. Once we do dock or make contact with the station, Swannie and Ricky will take over operating the APDS or the docking system to, perform all the hook closures and make sure we have a good tight seal with the space station. And while all that’s going on we’ve got Koichi running all the photo and TV gear and capturing all the video that you’re going to see here down on the ground. So it’s a complete team effort. There’s no one just sitting around on this one.

Then on, on flight day 4 the focus turns to S6 and some joint robotic works between the shuttle and ISS. What’s the plan to get S6 out of Discovery’s payload bay and to the point where it will remain overnight?

Flight day 4 is a major robotics day, complete robotic operation from start to finish. We’ll start the day out with John working with Sandy Magnus in the space station robotic work station. They’ll use that arm to unberth the payload from the payload bay of the orbiter and they’ll maneuver it, sometimes within mere inches of the orbiter structure. It’s a very, very, meticulous process. The degree and the accuracy to which they’re flying is really amazing. They’ll get the payload successfully out of the bay and they’ll maneuver it to a position where they can then hand it off to the space shuttle robotic arm. The space shuttle robotic arm will be flown by Tony Antonelli and Joe Acaba. They’ll also at this point grapple the payload so now we’ve got the payload dual grappled. But once Tony and Joe report that they have a good grapple on the payload then Sandy and John will then ungrapple the payload with the space station robotic arm and maneuver the arm into a maneuver position. Once they get that space station robotic arm to what we call a maneuver position, the ground team will then take the MBS, the Mobile Base System where the space station robotic arm is located, and they’ll move it on essentially on a railroad track completely starboard to what we call Worksite 1 which is the farthest starboard. It’s out near the S3-S4, just short of the solar array rotary joint. At that point the station robotic arm can regrapple the truss and then maneuver it to what’s called an overnight park position, an ideal position for thermal reasons that we’re going to keep that truss segment overnight. So it’s quite an orchestration of robotic events that our ground team, headed up by Andrew Clem and Steve Riley have done a, a super job orchestrating this chain of events.

Any good plan includes a contingency plan. Can you give us some idea of what options are in place, what backup plans are in place if, for instance, you’re not able to [get] S6 out of Discovery’s payload bay in the unlikely event that one of the arms fails?

First let me say that we cannot do this mission without the space station robotic arm. It’s impossible to get the task done without the, the big arm as we call it on the space station. Another complicating factor is that we cannot even unberth the payload with the shuttle arm, due to geometry. Now with the Japanese lab out there the shuttle arm would run into interference with the Japanese lab so the only, our only way of even unberthing the payload is now with the space station robotic arm. Fortunately the station robotic arm is very redundant in many ways and it’s checked out quite extensively before we launch so we’ll have a lot of confidence that the arm will work well. But if the station robotic arm were to fail catastrophically when we showed up out there, it’s impossible to perform this task. Now the shuttle robotic arm on the other hand, depending on where and when the failure and the nature of the failure might occur, the ground team might have some options for us. There’s a possibility we can put the payload on the POA or the Payload ORU Attachment, a system which is essentially an end effector that’s mounted on the MBS, the Mobile Base System. Or there’s even a more remote chance that perhaps we can translate that payload with the S6 attached to the station robotic arm though this would take a lot of extra analysis. So again, if we ran into those problems with the shuttle robotic arm, the ground team would have to weigh in quite heavily and do a lot of analysis. There might be some workarounds there but there is no workaround if the station robotic arm were to fail.

The ambitious schedule continues on the next day with the first spacewalk, which is all about S6 into position and then attaching it to the station. Can you give us an overview of how that’s going to happen?

Flight day 5 is EVA 1. I’ll talk to you a little bit about the EVAs in general. For starters, Tony Antonelli is our suit up IV. He’ll be the guy assisting the EVA crew members in the airlock getting ready before as well as after the EVA. Now on EVA 1 the lineup here is Steve Swanson will be EV 1. He’ll go out the door with Ricky Arnold and Ricky then will be in the EV 2 position for our first EVA. On the aft flight deck of the orbiter, Joe Acaba will serve as the task IV and he’ll actively be choreographing the entire EVA with a checklist. In addition we’ve got John Phillips and Koichi Wakata also performing robotic arm operations and they’ll be installing the truss segment with that robotic arm. So, for starters, when Tony is actually suiting up both Swannie and Ricky, John and Koichi will be flying the robotic arm, taking that payload from its overnight park position and maneuvering it to what we call a pre-install position. This position is directly in line with the S5 truss and about five feet out. Once Swannie and Ricky go out the door on their EVA and they translate out to the S5 truss they will then verbally guide John as he brings the S6 truss in its last five feet. They will give it what we call a GCA and vector John in for a very precise alignment and contact of the S6 with the S5. Once we have a good contact there, Ricky will drive a set of claws that are on the S5 around a capture bar of the S6 to stabilize the truss segment. Then Swannie will go around on the S6 truss at the four corners and actually secure four different bolts. At the completion of securing those four bolts, the S6 truss will now become a permanent fixture on this ISS truss segment.

So S6 gets installed and the necessary power and data connections are made. Eventually there are some other tasks on EVA 1. Can you give us the rest of the story for EVA 1?

The rest of the story for EVA 1 is all about the S6 truss. After we get that truss segment installed and bolted on to the ISS truss segment, Swannie and Ricky will perform a series of tasks to prepare that truss for solar array deployment which is currently scheduled for flight day 8. Swannie and Ricky will be releasing several attachments so that they can then take the blanket boxes and maneuver them out from their stowed or their transportation configuration. They have the blanket boxes tucked for flight on the orbiter as we go uphill. They’ll just deploy the blanket boxes. They won’t deploy the solar arrays but they’ll get the blanket boxes spread out. In addition they’ll do some work to deploy the radiator and they’ll remove a few covers that are on the electronics components of the S6 truss.

You mentioned earlier that you and Steve Swanson had a similar mission for STS-117 in, in installing S3, S4. Any lessons learned for you two that will be helpful in, in this mission?

Well, unfortunately, as far as attaching the, the S6 truss to the S5, there’s not a lot of lessons learned from our mission because on STS-117, Mission 13-A, when we attached the S3 truss, that was actually, we were able to actually install a truss without the aid of the EVA crew members. Matter of fact, we did that before the EVA crew members even got out there. What we were using with the robotic arm is called a Space Vision System or an SVS system to give us precise alignment. In addition to bolts that we drove that secured the S3 truss to the ISS were driven from inside the vehicle or, or IV. Neither is the case for what we are about to do. However, what we are to about to do with the S6 truss is identical to what the STS-120 guys did when they installed the P6 truss on P5, so a lot of their lessons learned have been carried over and been incorporated in our training by our instructors.

If mission managers decide that they’d like to take a closer look at Discovery’s exterior once you were docked, it’s called a Focused Inspection, tell us how that will happen.

The Focused Inspection is currently planned for flight day 6, the day after our first EVA. The Focused Inspection will be performed with the same inspection boom that we use on flight day 2 if we do have to do it. Unfortunately, or for the same reason that we can’t take the payload out of our bay with our shuttle arm, those same interference reasons drive us to have to use the space station robotic arm to take the boom out of the bay. So John and Koichi will start out by unberthing the OBSS, the inspection boom from the shuttle’s payload bay. They’ll hand it off to the shuttle arm which again will be flown by Tony Antonelli and Joe Acaba. At that point both Tony, Joe and myself will serve as the primary inspection team and we’ll fly the Focused Inspection to wherever or whatever that the ground wishes to inspect that day. Of course, we won’t know any of the details until we have to do it, hopefully not, at the completion of the inspection. Again, Joe and Tony will have to hand off that inspection boom to the station arm and then John and Koichi will reberth the boom back into the payload bay of the orbiter.

There’s a chance that you might not do a focused inspection on the day that it’s been timelined for. If that becomes the case, what will happen on that day?

Hopefully not. Hopefully we won’t have to perform the Focused Inspection and if so, if that’s the case, then we’re going to move up the solar array wing deployment which is currently scheduled for flight day 8. We’re going to move that up to flight day 6. Now this opens up a big gap on flight day 8 and what we’ll do there is, that’ll just allow us more time for some transfer operations.

Can you walk us through how that solar array deploy will happen?

John Phillips is going to be in charge of running the entire operation, at least our activities inside the vehicle. John’s going to deploy basically the entire shuttle team as well as a couple space station crew members to be focused on and looking at various points on the solar array wing as we deploy it. The ground team’s actually going to start the process and they’ll do about the first 15 or 16 steps of the procedure including unlatching the blanket boxes and deploying each one of those solar array wings approximately one bay. When the solar array wing is fully deployed -- it’s deployed out to what we call 31 and a half bays. The ground team will deploy just the first couple of percent of deployment. Now the actual deployment of the solar array wings has to be done in the daytime, one to enhance our viewing of various points on the solar array wing and two when we, we deploy it, we’ll deploy it in segments. We’ll deploy it out to about the halfway point, roughly 50 percent deployment. Then we have to sit and let it bake in the sun for about 30 minutes. This bake time is to reduce the, the effects of what we call sticktion. That is where the panels of the solar array want to stick together because they’ve been stuck together for so long and allowing it to bake in the sun tends to reduce those effects. And after that 30-minute bakeout, then we’ll deploy from about the halfway point to a full deployment. Each one of those deployments, from, from the start to about the 50-percent point and then from 50 percent out to the full takes about five minutes each.

JSC2008-E-052122: Lee Archambault

Attired in a training version of his shuttle launch and entry suit, astronaut Lee Archambault, STS-119 commander, awaits the start of a training session in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo Credit: NASA

This business of dealing with solar arrays has been unpredictable in past missions. Are there any updated procedures in place because of past issues with solar array deploys?

Well, first of all I mentioned this 30-minute bakeout period, but we actually even incorporated that on STS-117 when we were deploying the solar arrays on the S3-S4 truss. In addition there are some other areas that we need to key in on that have given us some problems when we deployed solar arrays in the past, for instance, where the, how the guide wires are fitting through different grommets. We did have some problems deploying the solar array on STS-120. That’s when we deployed the P6 solar arrays. However, keep in mind that was a solar array that we’re deploying in space for the second time. We had deployed it at once, at one point, then retracted it and then had to redeploy it and we knew when we retracted it that we had some problems with that array. So we kind of sensed that there might be some problems in the deployment of it and sure enough, we did have some problems. But as a result, we now know some other areas that we need to focus in on. Hopefully that won’t be the case with us as we’re deploying our solar array for the first time but there is one complicating factor, if you want to call it that. One of our arrays has been packed up in its box for almost eight years so we’ll definitely have to have that good bakeout period that I mentioned at the halfway point in its deployment.

On the second spacewalk of the mission, Steve Swanson and Joe Acaba will tour the truss, so to speak. Can you give us an overview of the worksites they’ll be at and what they’ll be doing?

As you mentioned, Swannie and Joe will be the EVA crew members on this EVA. Swannie will be going out the door for his second EVA of the mission. Joe will be his first EVA of his career. Inside the flight deck of the vehicle will be Ricky Arnold and he’ll be orchestrating as a task IV that day. As in all EVAs Tony Antonelli will assist them with the suitup and the doffing of the suits after the EVA’s over with. You’re right. They will have a great tour of the truss on this EVA. They’re going to start out on the far port side of the truss, the P6 area, and do some work on some battery prep work for a future mission. They’ll then move inboard to the P3 truss and deploy a payload attachment system. This particular system is called a UCCAS. They’ll keep moving in board around the P1 area and do some plumbing work on some fluid jumpers and cable clamps. Finally they’ll transition to the starboard side for another payload attachment system or PAS deploy on the S3 truss. So they do span the, the gamut of the entire truss segment just about all the way from P6 and finishing up on this, on the S3 which is about halfway out the S3 truss.

Assuming S6 has been installed and its solar arrays have been deployed and everything is fine to that point, you’ll be doing some different tasks on EVA 3. Can you give us an overview about what’s going to happen?

I’ll start by talking about the lineup for EVA 3. Ricky Arnold will go out the door as EV1, the lead EVA crewman, and he’ll be assisted by EV 2, Joe Acaba. Steve Swanson will be the task IV from the orbiter flight deck. When the EVA starts Joe Acaba will actually be riding with his feet connected to the space station robotic arm via an APFR. John Phillips and Koichi Wakata will be flying that robotic arm from the lab robotic work station. Their initial task is to relocate a CETA cart, an equipment rack that’s on the railroad tracks, if you want to call it that, of the space station truss segment. They’re going to relocate the CETA cart to better position it for a shuttle mission coming up to the station in the near future. Once they complete that relocation of the CETA cart, Joe and Ricky will switch positions. Joe’s going to come off of the space station robotic arm and Ricky will get on. John’s going to fly Ricky over to the vicinity of the SPDM, the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator [Dextre], which came up on STS-123. Ricky’s task will be simply be to remove some MLI covers that are still on the SPDM. While this is going on, Joe’s going to work his way on his own over to the S3 truss and perform some plumbing work on some jumper cables. At the completion of Ricky’s work, removing those MLI covers, he’s going to get off the station robotic arm and do some repair work and some lubrication work on end effector, very similar, actually identical to, what Shane Kimbrough just did recently, on STS-126, on the other end of the space station robotic arm. So it’s a myriad of tasks going on but, and it’s not directly related to our S6 truss. But they’re all tasks that the space station program has lined up to better prepare ourselves and put ourselves in a good posture for upcoming missions.

And what’s the plan for the fourth and final spacewalk of the mission?

The plan for EVA 4 is, has been a very dynamic plan. It’s evolved over our training period and until very recently we thought we were actually going to be relocating a grapple fixture off of the P6 truss and moving it out to the FGB. But late-breaking changes occurred as they always do when we have this very dynamic situation going on with our station and, we’ve now settled on to what we think is going to be the, final scenario. In this case, the lineup for EVA 4 will again be Steve Swanson with Ricky Arnold. Joe Acaba will be indoors as the task IV. They’ll start the mission with Steve or Swannie installing an antenna on the Japanese lab. At the time Swannie’s doing that, Ricky’s going to be doing some IR imaging with a special camera they have out, outside. They’ll come off of that task and then work together to install a wireless antenna that will be used in the future for wireless video during EVAs. And finally, time permitting, they’ll perform up to two PAS deployments, PAS meaning Payload Attach System, on the S3 truss and then that ought to wrap up the EVA.

After you and your crewmates are finished, you’ll eventually depart the station. As you’re pulling away, you’ll get your first big picture look at a, at a station completely transformed with its solar arrays and its truss completely built out. How do you think you’ll feel knowing that your contribution will allow ISS to do more with more people in the future and, and reach its capability?

If it’s anything like what I felt on the last mission is when we pull out for the undock and fly around which our pilot Tony Antonelli will be doing, it’s, at that point, really for the first time we’ll probably look at the station and say, “There it is.” It’ll be a real sense of mission accomplishment. We’ve done our job. We’ve delivered the S6 truss. We’ve installed it. It’s out there working and producing power for the space station. It’s the first time that we’ll really absorb it all and, by the way, that’s also the first time we’ll actually be able to send pictures to the ground, both stills and video, to the ground showing the space station in its newest configuration. When we do all that, the sense of accomplishment will be phenomenal. It’ll be just like any other crew that’s going up to the space station, whether it’s a construction mission where you bring up additional hardware or you’re going up on a very important logistics supplies as the STS-126 team just did, we all feel equally a real sense of accomplishment that we’re a small piece in this big puzzle of putting together this absolutely wonderful orbiting laboratory and we certainly hope that our, both our nation and the nations of all our international partners can use and benefit from this wonderful facility for many years to come.