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Preflight Interview: Ronald Garan, Mission Specialist
JSC2007-E-054255 -- STS-124 Mission Specialist Ronald J. Garan

STS-124 Mission Specialist Ronald J. Garan. Photo Credit: NASA

Q: This is the STS-124 interview with Mission Specialist Ron Garan. Ron tell us a little bit about how you came to, to choose a path in life that leads to space.

A: I think I have a, a very similar story to other astronauts that are in the same age group as I am. I remember it was July 20, 1969. I think I was about 7 years old at the time and I remember watching the first moon landing. I remember it vividly and I remember distinctly thinking that’s what I want to do. When I grow up, that’s exactly what I want to do. And I think that stayed with me throughout my whole childhood. I always dreamed about becoming an astronaut. I think when I got into high school, though, I kind of lost that dream and one of the reasons why I lost that dream is, is it was post-Skylab. It was pre-shuttle and for just a kid in New York, not really keeping up with things, I didn’t even realize that we had a space program. I remember I was a sophomore in college when STS-1 landed and I distinctly remember again thinking, “Wow! This is what I want to do.” And the very next day I went to my advisors and I started taking math and science courses or enrolling in math and science courses. That’s my path to how I got to become an astronaut or that’s the start of that path. But what it also shows is how important the space program is to education and to encourage people or encourage students to pursue math and science. And at least for my own personal experience, I think that was a pretty compelling tribute to the space program.

Tell us about the academic work that you did, and then if you would transition into what kind of professional steps that you took to get here.

I was a sophomore at the time but I was in an accelerated program in business, business economics. So I had already taken all the core courses that I needed to complete my bachelor’s degree in business, but I still had the electives left. So the electives that I started taking were math and science and, you know, chemistry and pre-engineering courses. My goal, after that, was I was going to graduate from college. I actually graduated a semester early and headed down to Daytona Beach, Fla., and I enrolled in an aeronautical engineering program at Embry-Riddle University. And my plan was I was going to stay there until I either got a pilot slot in the Air Force or I ran out of money. Before I went down there, I went to the local bank and took out a student loan and jumped in my car and drove south to Florida and fortunately, both of these things happened at the same time. I was accepted into the Air Force, got a pilot slot into the Air Force about the same time I ran out of money pursuing my engineering degree. So I never finished that bachelor’s degree in engineering. But if you fast forward, I joined the Air Force, started flying F-16s, started out in Europe and then had about four or five different tours in the F-16. At one point during that, that part of my career I enrolled in the University of Florida to get a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. So that was kind of the path that led to test pilot school and then from test pilot school I was selected into the astronaut corps in 2000.

Is there anything that you can kind of pinpoint about growing up that kind of helped you, helped you become who you are?

Probably a strong work ethic. You know that if you have goals and you work really hard to achieve those goals then you, you have a chance to do it. So I think that’s one of the things I learned growing up in New York is determination and persistence. New Yorkers are, are famous for their persistence. I was told many times along the way that I was not going to be successful and I had many hurdles to get over and many disappointments along the way but I kept persisting at it and eventually I was able to be selected and selected for a space flight.

Ah, got another dream job or, or fantasy job that you could do if you…

I’m doing my fantasy job right now, my dream job. This is all I ever wanted to do and I’m really really fortunate to do that. But I, of course, think I can’t do this forever. One of the things, when I speak at different places some people ask who are my heroes. When I think about that one, some of my heroes are teachers. I really think that teachers have, a wonderful opportunity to really affect our world and affect our future and how important our kids are for, for our future. So down the road I’d probably like to, to get into some kind of teaching or coaching later in life, I think. But right now I’ve got my hands full with what I’m doing so…

If we were to ask your closest friends how they would characterize you, what do you think they would say?

I think they would say that I’m somebody that’s goal-driven, somebody who likes to have fun, somebody who loves his family deeply. I don’t want to speak for them but I think those are probably some of the big things that they would say.

Can you tell us, give us a little story about how you found out you were going to be picked for your first spaceflight and what your reaction was?

I think I was probably about 6½, 7 years training for a spaceflight before I got word that I was going to fly my first spaceflight. So I was really, you know, just over the top happy about that. This is something I’ve been waiting my entire life to do. I’ve been training, you know, for 6½, 7 years to do and finally here’s the opportunity. When I found out the crew and found out the mission that we’re doing and how important it is and how, how challenging it’s going to be and exciting it’s going to be, words just can’t describe how happy I was that I was given that opportunity.

Was there some kind of a celebration at all, or was it just at that point you were really expecting it …

Well, I wasn’t expecting it but, not, not a big celebration, no. A lot of times when you find out it’s not really official yet so you can’t get too excited because sometimes things change, until it’s, sometimes it changes after it’s official. I think it was just within my family, just celebrating with them, you know, just kind of, kind of quiet.

Could you summarize the goals for this mission?

The primary goal is to deliver and install and activate the Japanese laboratory. That’s the No. 1 thing that we’re doing and that is a very, very challenging part of the mission. We also have some space station maintenance that we’re going to be performing. We’re going to do activation/checkout of the Japanese robotic arm. So those are the really big things that we’re going to be doing.

Could you tell us a little bit about the Japanese pressurized module, what it’s for? Just kind of introduce us to it.

Well, we’ve got the U.S. lab and we’ve got the European lab and this is the latest addition to the space station, the Japanese lab. It is going to be an integral research facility up on the ISS. What kind of makes it unique, though, is the fact that it has its own robotic arm. It has its own airlock for experiments and it’s going to have an external platform where we conduct experiments externally -- astronomy, Earth observations. And so it’s really just a fabulous platform to conduct science.

We talked about the JEM robotic arm. Can you tell us a little bit more about it? How does it compare to the space station arm that’s already up there?

It’s very similar in a lot of ways but one of the big differences is, the station’s robotic arm can move to different places. It has a mobile transport that can move it up and down the truss. It can walk off, and we’re going to do that during our mission. We’re going to move it to different parts of the station. The Japanese arm is fixed and it’s for a specific purpose. Now the space station’s robotic arm can support experiments and things like that but it’s primarily designed for the construction of the station and for maintenance of the station, moving big modules, big ORUs as we call them, to support the maintenance of the station whereas the Japanese arm is primarily to support the payloads that we’re going to do, as far as the research that’s going to be conducted on it, on the laboratory.

Talk more about the specific mission activities. On flight day 2, can you give us an idea of what the key activities are on the schedule for that day?

Well, flight day 2 will be our first full day in space. Normally, on most flights, flight day 2 would be our inspection. We look at our thermal protection system. We’d look at the imagery or the ground would look at the imagery from the ascent, from the launch, see if any foam came off, if there are any other indications that there might be any other problems with the thermal protection system. In any case, we’d be out there with our OBSS, Orbiter Boom Sensor System, and we’d be looking underneath the orbiter, looking at the wing leading edges to see if there’s any damage and to evaluate it and to give a whole week or more worth of time to evaluate that data. We do not have the OBSS on board with us. The Japanese module is so big that we can’t carry that and the lab at the same time. So STS-123 has left the OBSS on the station for us. So on flight day 2, since we haven’t docked yet, we don’t have it on board. So we’re going to do an abbreviated survey with the, with the robot arm and just looking with the camera with the robot arm but it’s a really abbreviated, it’s not going to give near the data that we need to clear the vehicle for re-entry, so that will occur later after we undock. Flight day 2 is a survey but not the real detailed survey that we normally do. But we’re preparing for the rendezvous the next day which is the first really big event that we have on the mission.

What are your duties for rendezvous and docking?

Rendezvous and docking I’m basically backing up the pilot, Ken Ham. The commander, Mark Kelly, will be in the aft station flying the vehicle and Ken and I will be in the front two seats and we’re basically going down the timeline. We’ll do some of the burns or Ken will do some of the burns with me backing him up. Then we’re basically making sure everything gets done, all the housekeeping, any malfunctions that may occur. We, handle that so that the commander can do his job and do the docking at the station.

You dock to the station; but the work doesn’t stop there.


It probably increases at that point.

Yeah, flight day 3 is where we’re going to do our docking. The day that we dock and the day that we undock are going to be our two busiest days of the mission. We have to dock with the station so we have the whole rendezvous. We have the approach to docking. We have the docking. We have getting the hatches open. Then we’ll, we’ll greet our fellow crew members on the station. We’ll get a safety brief and then we’ll be off to the races basically getting ready for the spacewalk the next day. Mike Fossum and I will be going into the airlock. We’ll be transferring all of our space suits, all of our equipment, all of our tools, all of our tethers that we’ll need. They’ll all be going into the airlock and then we’re going to be going into the airlock with them and closing the hatch and depress-, depressurization to do what we call ‘camp out’ to help us get the nitrogen out of our bodies. The next day we can get out the door as fast as we can and, and start on our spacewalk.

Okay. Next day is the, the first spacewalk, also your first spacewalk. You probably heard a lot about what it’s like and what to expect. What are you expecting, just, just from yourself?

I have friends who have done that before. Mike Fossum who’s the EV 1, my spacewalk lead, has tried to tell me what it’s going to be like. I anticipate that it will be very overwhelming. The view, just the fact that this whole massive station is out there in front of you. We’ve trained it in the pool and but it’s just not the same. It’s very close but it’s, it’s not the same as when you step out of the airlock in the pool. The bottom of the pool is, you know, 10 feet below or five feet below you. When you step out here, you know, the Earth is 250 miles below you or above you, depending how you want to look at it. That’s going to be a little overwhelming I anticipate. But we’ve got a lot of work to do. What’s going to get me on the step is going to be to get to work real fast and just to get our job done, getting all the objectives met that we are set out to achieve. It’s a very, very challenging set of spacewalks that we’re doing.

JSC2007-E-098651 -- STS-124 Mission Specialist Ronald J. Garan

STS-124 Mission Specialist Ronald J. Garan uses virtual reality hardware in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at Johnson Space Center, Houston, to rehearse some of his duties on the upcoming mission to the International Space Station. Photo Credit: NASA

Go down the list for me, if you would, of the, the major objectives for that day, for EVA 1?

The big objective is to get the Japanese laboratory ready to be unberthed from the payload bay and to be berthed to the station, to basically put it in its new home, to do the construction work that we need. The first thing we’re going to do, that’s the major objective but our other major objective, as we’ve talked about, we don’t have the OBSS. We don’t have the boom system yet so the first thing we’re going to do is climb to the top of the truss and basically hand off that boom to the space station’s robotic arm. The space station’s robotic arm will then hand it off to the space shuttle’s robotic arm and then we’ll be set for our post-undock inspection. So that’s the first thing that we’re going to do. It’s going to be very challenging, and a pretty interesting start of a first EVA. From that point, we translate our way down the whole length of the station, down to the payload bay. We climb down into the payload bay to the JPM, to the Japanese laboratory. We start preparing it to be unberthed from the payload bay. We have to remove covers. We have to remove cables that are keeping power to the module while it’s in, for heaters and keep-alive light power, etc. There’s a bunch of work that needs to be done for that. And then once all our work is done in the payload bay, we’re going to go back up to the truss and do some work up there. Meanwhile, the space station’s robotic arm and the space shuttle’s robotic arm are going to start maneuvering for the unberth. The unberth will actually be done by the space station’s robotic arm with the space shuttle’s arm providing some camera views. Then Mike and I are going to be replacing some antennas on the truss and doing some other maintenance work and R&R on the station. That will be the end of EVA 1.

Let’s move ahead to the following day. What items are on the to-do list for that day?

That’d be flight day 5 and the big job for us, for Mike and I, is going to be to get ready for our next EVA the following day. So we’ve got to recharge our batteries, we got to, and the spacesuits. We have to get our carbon dioxide removal systems all ready to go. We’ve got to reconfigure our tools and our tethers and review what we’re doing on the following EVA. So in addition to many other tasks the big objective for Mike and I is going to be to get ready for EVA 2 that will happen the next day.

Also on that day there’s a, the JEM, the JPM will be, go through what’s called vestibule outfitting. Can you kind of give us an idea of what that’s about?

In addition to getting ready for the next day’s spacewalk, we’re also getting the Japanese laboratory ready to be used for, what it was designed for. So the Japanese laboratory has been removed from the payload bay. It’s been mated to the station but the hatches are still closed. Now we have to run jumpers. We have to run cables. We have to get power to the lab. We have to get cooling to the lab. We have to get data to the lab and so all these things require a few hours worth of work of basically connecting cables and connecting jumpers and making sure that is not a temporary mate of the two modules but more of a permanent mate. The construction task will be almost complete once we have all those connections made. Then the hatches will be opened and, not on that day but the following day, we’ll start all the internal outfitting, removing racks from the JLP, the logistics module, and transferring them down into the pressurized module, the JPM.

Why is that particularly important for the following day’s activities, that you’re going to be transferring the RMS rack?

There’ll be a number of racks that are transferred. The RMS rack is one of them. But the Japanese lab is so big that we couldn’t put all of the racks in it and launch with it because it would have been too heavy for the, for us to carry on the shuttle. So we launched a lot of the key racks in the JLP on STS-123, the mission before us, 1J-A. So now, in order to get the Japanese laboratory fully activated, we have to move those racks in. Some of that’s for electrical outfitting to make sure we have the right number of strings of power being provided, data provided the RMS rack that you talked about. So those are some key racks that are pretty big. It barely fits through the hatch. It makes it through there but it’s a pretty big construction job going on inside and while that’s all going on, Mike Fossum and I will be outside on EVA 2. We’ll be doing the external outfitting of the, of the JPM, of the Japanese lab.

What else goes on for EVA 2? Tell me about, tell me about EVA 2.

Again the major objective of EVA 2 is to get the external outfitting completed on the JPM or as much as we can on that day. So Mike and I will be carrying very large cameras, video cameras and large stanchions. We’ll be carrying them out to the Japanese laboratory’s new home there. We’ll be on the end-cone actually and we’ll install those two cameras. I’ll install the one on the forward side. Michael will install the one on the aft side and then we will be removing launch locks. We’ll remove covers from the joints of the Japanese robotic arm and then we will be on the zenith side of the JPM, of the Japanese laboratory, and we will remove covers from the common berthing mechanism. This is so the next day we can move the Japanese logistics module over to the top of the laboratory and we obviously need to take those covers off before we do that. So those are some of the outfitting tasks that we’re going to be doing on EVA 2. In addition to that, we’re going to get ready for EVA 3. We’re going do some of the preparation tasks that we need to do for EVA 3 and we have an object called the nitrogen tank assembly. That’s something that we’re going to remove and replace with a new one and so we need to get that all ready. We need to break torques on some of the bolts, do some of the fluid line disconnects, some of the electrical disconnects and then head way out to what’s called ESB 3 which is a platform where we have the spare NTA. We need to prep that spare NTA to be ready to be moved over to where its new home will be.

Let’s move ahead to, to flight day 7. Can, can you give us an idea of, of what’s on tap for that day?

The big event of that day is the re-locate of the logistics module to the top of the Japanese laboratory and so what’ll happen is, after everything’s out that we need to get out and everything is put where it needs to be in the laboratory, the hatches will be closed. The module will be de-mated from its present home which is on top of Node 2, the zenith side of Node 2, and it will be moved over to the zenith side of the JPM, the Japanese laboratory. Karen and Aki will be doing that with the space station’s robotic arm and once that’s mated, then we will start vestibule outfitting all over again to open up those hatches and to basically have it in its permanent place where it needs to be.

What else happens that day? I guess there’s a chance that since you have the OBSS back now you, you may use it on this day.

We are scheduled also during that day for a focused inspection and if we see anything on any of our telemetry, on any of our cameras that are looking at us at ascent, if we see anything during the RPM, the maneuver where the space station crew takes pictures of us on the rendezvous, if anything looks questionable as far as our thermal protection system, then we will do a focused inspection. We will take the OBSS that we, you know, a few days prior had taken off the station and we will take a, a really good look at that just to give a head start to the guys on the ground that are looking at that data to try and clear us to come home. So that will be an opportunity that’s built into the flight plan, built into our timeline, to give us time to do that. Maybe not be necessary but probably, you know, we have a really good chance of being, of doing that on this mission since we didn’t do the inspection on flight day 2 like, like we normally do.

Let’s move ahead to flight day 9, EVA 3. You touched on it briefly, the remove and replace of the nitrogen tank assembly. Tell us about, not so much the, you know, details of that, but kind of give us an idea how that’s going to happen. You’re going to have a pretty fun part I hear.

This is going to be an absolutely spectacular EVA. What’s going to happen is I’m going up to the truss, to S-1, where the old NTA is and I’ll do the final preparations to pull it out of the truss. Meanwhile, Mike is going to translate all the way out to ESP-3 where the spare is and he’s going to make the final preparations to receive the old NTA and to get the new NTA ready to move. So when everything is all set, I’m going to get onto the end of the space station’s robotic arm and I’m going to pull the NTA out of the truss as the, the arm is backing away from the truss. And so when we get out a safe distance away from the truss, I’ll have this 550-pound box in my hand and the space station’s robotic arm, if this is the truss right here and this is me on the end of the arm, is basically going to do what we call the ‘windshield wiper maneuver’ and it’s going to go over the top over to ESP-3. So this maneuver right here takes about 20 minutes and on the top here I’ll be almost a hundred feet above the station looking straight down on the aft side of the station and the Earth 250 miles below. So it’ll be a pretty spectacular view and, and pretty spectacular ride over to ESP-3. We will stow the old nitrogen tank assembly on ESP-3. I’ll grab the new one and we’ll just do the maneuver right back to the other side where I’ll install it back on S-1. Meanwhile, Mike’s out and tying up ESP-3, making sure that that NTA is ready to come back to Earth when, when we’re ready to do that on a later mission. So that’s the big thing that we’re going to do on that mission. After that we’ve got a number of other tasks, a whole bunch of maintenance of tasks on the station. Mike’s going to go back out to the Japanese laboratory and finish some of the work on the robotic arm that we couldn’t do because on EVA 2 it was in the launch configuration and we couldn’t get at some of the covers and some of the fasteners that we needed to undo.

What’s that EVA been like in the virtual reality lab for you?

It’s been interesting and in the pool it’s also been interesting. We have a robotic arm in the pool that we use and Karen will be taking me for a ride on the arm there. Aki will be also helping on that so there’s a lot of choreography that goes into it. There’s a lot of teamwork that’s required. There’s a lot of things going on, not just holding the tank and moving but it’s, the reach that we need. The arm is not long enough to get there so we have to put an extension on the end of the arm just to be able to reach from S-1 over to ESP-3 where the spare is going to be. So there's a lot of coordination.

Let’s talk about flight day 11, undocking day. Tell me about what goes on then.

Well, I said flight day 3 is going to be one of our biggest days because that’s the rendezvous day. Well, flight day 11 is going to be probably even busier because a lot of things have to happen on flight day 11. We’re going to undock. We’re going to depart from the station. We’re going to do a fly around. Ken Ham is going to fly Discovery a whole 360, if we have enough prop for it, a 360 degree loop race track around the station. We’ll be doing a lot of documentation of the station, photo documentation, and then we’re going to back away even farther from the station through a set burn that we’re going to do and then we have to get into our inspection, the inspection that we normally do on flight day 2, we’re going to do on flight day 11 and, so we’ll go through that whole process which, I think, is about six hours worth of robotics work and then, after about a 13-hour day, it’s time to start getting ready for bed that day. So it’s a very long day. And the reason why we have to do it is we want to give the guys on the ground, the scientists, the engineers, time to look at all the data to make sure that they can clear us for, for re-entry and make all sure all the systems, all the thermal protection system, the tiles, the wing leading edge is all, is all good to go. So we need to do that as soon as we possibly can once we have room. We can’t really do what we need to do on the station because the station is obstructing what we need to do with the arm so as soon as we have that space that we can do it, we need to do it as soon as possible.

What’s the plan in place in case there is some suspect area found? What, if you, you’re able to return to ISS?

Well, we have a number of options. If the focused inspection turns up something that we feel is not safe to re-enter, we have the option to redock with the station. Mike and I could go out and, and fix it if it’s within the realm of things we can fix. There has been a lot of effort, a lot of time and a lot of really smart people working on ways to fix thermal protection system, EVA, so there are a lot of things that we can fix. There’s a chance that we may have to do that. Or they may say, “Well, we have some damage. We put it through all the wringers. We put it through all the tests and, and it’s still cleared to go.”

It’s my understanding that the English translation of the word Kibo which is the, the nickname of the Japanese experiment module is hope. After you’ve completed this mission, what do you hope it will have done for the larger mission of space exploration?

We understand that there’s a big hope in this mission, that this is very important for the space program. It’s very important for the Earth and we tried to represent that in our patch and the design of our patch. After this mission and after Kibo is up there we’ll have another laboratory that can do material science, that can do medical science. It can do astronomy. It can do Earth observations, so there’s many, many different types of research that can be conducted to complement the other laboratories that are on, on the station and, you know, there’s, there’s new, new materials that will be made. There’s new medicine that, that could come of this and so there is a lot of hope that we have. One of the other big things that we’re going to use the laboratory for is to learn how to go farther into space, learn how to live longer in space, learn how to work better in space. These are all key things, especially on Kibo with the external platform and external experiments. We’ll get a better understanding of the space environment. We’ll get a better understanding of how materials react, how people react, how electronics react in the vacuum of space and in the harshness of space. So I think there’s a great deal of hope. There’s a great deal of hope for the space program and there’s a great deal of hope for us on Earth, too.

JSC2007-E-043428 -- STS-124 Mission Specialist Ronald J. Garan

Attired in a training version of his shuttle launch and entry suit, STS-124 Mission Specialist Ronald J. Garan awaits the start of a water survival training session in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory near Johnson Space Center, Houston. Photo Credit: NASA

Can you give us a little insight about the skills and talents of your crewmates and, and what it is about those things that make you confident it’s going to be a successful mission?

I think probably everybody’s partial to their crew. But I really cannot imagine a better crew. This is just a wonderful group of people that all have complementary skills, that all get along really good, like to have fun together. But Mark Kelly, I can’t imagine a better commander. He is extremely competent. He has tremendous patience. Out of the seven of us on the mission, there’s only two that have flown in space before. Mike Fossum has flown once and Mark has flown twice. We have, we don’t have a big experience base to build upon. So we train really, really hard so that we make the mistakes on the ground and, and not in space. Mark has an incredible amount of patience with us and he gives us a lot of responsibility and is just a really smart guy. Ken Ham, the pilot, is just extremely sharp, extremely smart, really good pilot, a lot of fun to be around. He’s going to be great, too. Karen, MS-1 she is a wonderful person. She’s really fun to be with, really, really smart, you know. I’m in awe actually of the intelligence of the people on my crew. She’s a big asset to the crew. She’s very meticulous in what she does. She’s very disciplined. She really takes the time to, to learn her job, to learn what needs to be done and she has some really key roles, one of which is going to be moving me across, across space. There’s a great deal of trust that I and everybody else puts in her. Aki, one of the hardest working guys I’ve ever seen. Again across the board all, everybody is just a lot of fun to be with. Aki is no exception. He really knows the Japanese systems and actually we kid Aki a lot because his English is so good that we doubt that he actually speaks Japanese. The first time we went to Japan we caught him looking at a Japanese phrase book in the airport on the way over there, so we, we really suspected that. He did spend four years in New Jersey growing up as a kid. Greg Chamitoff, we’ll be leaving him on the station and picking up Garrett Reisman, again two great guys. We didn’t have the opportunity to train a lot with them because they are so busy training for their own respective missions once they get on the station. For Garrett who’s on 123, for his mission. But again, just, it’s an, an incredible group of people. And I forgot Mike Fossum. How could I forget Mike? Mike’ll be my spacewalking partner. He’s the EV1. He’s my lead. And again, incredible patience, incredible leader. He has given me a tremendous amount of responsibility and he has the confidence in his own ability to be able to let me take responsibilities and, not try and micro-manage. He gives me enough room that I can learn from my mistakes in the training. He is extremely mechanically inclined, really, really smart. I’ve been very, very fortunate to have him, to learn from and to watch him in the pool. I’ll be watching him in orbit soon and learning how he does it on spacewalks. And so it’s been really good experience being his apprentice if you will. So it’s like I said, just a really neat crew, a really fun crew and a very, very competent crew, which is important because we have a very, very challenging mission ahead of us.

You’ve been around to the different spaceflight centers during your training, to look at hardware or procedures or whatever. How would you characterize the work ethic that you’ve seen from the support personnel at those centers?

Absolutely incredible; absolutely incredible. Everybody knows that they’re doing something really important. They’re a part of a really important team that has an incredible accomplishment that is in the process of being fulfilled. The station is just probably the greatest thing that man has ever made. It is the capabilities that are built into it, the amount of forethought that went into it, the discoveries that hopefully will come from it is just incredible. So to be a part of that huge undertaking … You could just see the excitement everywhere you go, every center you go. If you go to the sub-contractors, everybody from the people that are turning the bolts and the nuts and to the people who are designing things. You could see it in their eyes. You could see how excited they are to be a part of it because really it’s an amazing accomplishment what is being achieved on the ISS through this construction.

NASA’s had a lot of practice in, in improvising, in calling audibles, if you will. How would you say that, that NASA has done in that endeavor because nothing is always going to go as planned and you’re going to have to be able to improvise? How, how have we done?

Oh, I think we’ve done incredibly and part of the reason for that is we try to think of everything that could possibly happen. We spend countless hours in every possible scenario -- OK, what happens if this happens? What are you going to do? What if that happens? But unfortunately you can’t plan for everything. You can’t think of every possible thing that can go wrong. But that creates a creativity that you can fall back upon, that the whole team can fall back upon and to say, “Well, this isn’t quite like the way we simmed it or the way we thought it might happen, but it’s similar enough that if we take a piece from this one and a piece from that one and put it together we could, we could make it work." And it’s just some of the challenges that we’ve overcome and even in the recent couple years have been really impressive. Hopefully we won’t have to do that on our mission, but if we reach a snag, if we reach something that was unforeseen I have no doubt that the big team will put together a plan and we’ll, we’ll get through it.

We are in a phase of construction of ISS where it’s nearing completion. This accomplishment is becoming, is coming to fruition but it also could mark the end of an era, in a sense. What are your thoughts on that?

Well, it will be the end of the construction era and the start of the utilization era for the station. We will really be able to look back on this era of construction in awe of what was accomplished because it really was an incredible accomplishment to build what was built on orbit. When you see the capabilities, it’s just incredible. But it’s not the end. It’s only the beginning. We’ve been utilizing up until this point but not to the extent that we need to, not to the extent that we want to. So now will come the research, the experiments, and the payloads. We’ll learn how to live and work in space more. We’ll learn what it takes to, to really separate ourselves from the Earth to live in orbit. But it will also be the start of the next era in going back to the moon and exploration of the solar system with CEV. So we’ll see that era start too. I wouldn’t say it’s bittersweet. I would say on one hand there’s this great feeling of accomplishment. On the other hand there’s this great feeling of excitement on what we’re going to do with that accomplishment and how that’s going to be the stepping stone to even bigger things.