Q: This is the STS-124 interview with Mission Specialist Akihiko Hoshide. Aki, at different points in our lives we, we choose particular paths. Can you tell me about how [you] chose a path, that’s leading to space?
Preflight Interview: Akihiko Hoshide, Mission Specialist
A: When I was small, from age 3 to 7, I lived in New Jersey. My father worked in New York and he took me down to Kennedy Space Center one time. That had a huge impact. I also watched, science fiction movies, animation cartoons and watched Star Trek, Star Wars. All that influenced me and by the time I was probably 10, you know, I was set for space.
Do you remember the feelings when, when you went down to the Cape? How much did it impress you?
The Saturn rocket just huge and it was, it just overwhelming. It was big, in fact, definitely.
Once you made that decision to pursue a career in spaceflight, can you recount for us how you got to JAXA?
Once I thought about going to space program originally I was thinking about being an astronaut when our first JAXA astronauts were selected. But at that time I thought, I was in high school, and I thought, “Well, this is only a one-time thing for Japan.” After a while on a newspaper article it said that NASDA, at that time the Japanese Space Agency, is thinking about having a next selection. So at that time I thought, "This could be a career.” And after that I just pursued and when I was in college the next selection happened and I applied. I tried to apply but I didn’t have the right certification so, instead of going to a different area, I decided to join the Japanese Space Agency and wait for my turn.
What were you doing initially when you joined the space agency?
Initially I was working for the H2 Launch Vehicle for two years and then I was transferred to the Astronaut Office, worked as a support engineer and, as a matter of fact, I supported Koichi Wakata for his first mission as a support engineer.
Can you give us an idea of what, what it was like growing up in your hometown and how that place influenced who you’ve become?
Well, it’s kind of hard to say. As a kid, you know, you just play around with your friends and watch TV and but always in the back of my head space was there and I really wanted to go out into space. At that time, you know, astronaut as a job wasn’t in my mind at all. I was a, a normal, you know, standard kid.
Can you tell us a, a little bit about how you found out that you were going to be making your first spaceflight and what your reaction was?
Well, actually that day I was in a simulation on this as part of my space station training, a whole day and then we were having a debrief. My cell phone rang and it was Steve Lindsey, our Astronaut Office chief. He called and said, “Hey, could you come down in 30 minutes because you’re getting assigned?” So it was like, from simulation to reality in 30 minutes.
So how long did it take for it all to sink in?
A while, yeah.
Do you have a favorite hobby or activity?
Yes, I played rugby football in college and after I joined the space agency a little bit, but at that time I broke my leg. I can’t afford that any more so I can’t play but I still watch it and whenever I have a chance when I’m back in Japan I go the stadium and watch it.
It’s pretty big in Japan?
Not really. It’s a minor sport.
Could you summarize for us the, the main goals of STS-124?
The main goal is to bring up the Japanese Pressurized Module, Kibo. That's the main module for our space agency and to install it and activate it. That is the prime goal and objective of our mission.
Can you introduce us to the JEM module? What is it? What’s it for?
Basically it’s the Japanese lab. We have the U.S. lab already on orbit so we’re installing the, the Japanese lab. We’re hoping to accomplish a lot of scientific experiments on board and that includes like material science, life science and outside we will eventually get a exposed facility so that we can do like space, environment measurements, astronomy, astronomical experiments, and so on.
In addition to being a science lab, Kibo has, has an airlock. What’s that going to be used for?
When you say airlock you imagine a spacewalk, a crew member going out that airlock. The JEM airlock is a little smaller and it’s mainly used to exchange small devices inside and out. If you have a failure of equipment outside, you can use the JEM robotic arm to bring it over the airlock and then close the hatch, open the hatch on, on the inside and then bring it back in and bring a new piece of equipment outside. So that’s the main purpose of that airlock.
Okay. Kind of a temporary storage. And the Logistics Pressurized Module, that’s also a part of the whole deal. What's its purpose? How will it be used?
For us, for our mission actually, we will have some racks installed and there will be some system racks to power up one channel. The JEM has two strings of power channels. The JEM pressurized module itself is too heavy to have that installed and launched so STS-123 will bring up the, those racks inside the logistics module and we’ll, we’ll transfer it into the pressurized module and get that string activated. But the module itself has a purpose of being like a storage module.
Tell us about, about the arm. Could you describe its characteristics and how it compares to the station arm that’s there now?
Well as you know, the station arm has seven joints. The JEM robotic arm has six, just like the robotic arm on the shuttle, and it’s attached to the port side of the JEM pressurized module. It’s not going to move around, not like the station arm. It’s going to sit there. It will be used to exchange payload equipment on the exposed facility.
Do you know when JEM will do its first work and can you tell us what that will be?
Unfortunately we won’t be doing any science on our flight but we will be getting ready and activate the JEM and then transfer some of the payload racks inside the JEM pressurized module. And then once we undock and then the station crew will take care of it and start checking out the payload equipment and hopefully will get some science soon.
How would you, you characterize what it means for Japan to, to finally be a full-fledged contributor to ISS?
I think this is a big mission in that we will have our own module up there. This is a big step for the Japanese community, the science community especially, because that means that they can start their own science. We also have the payload open to any other partners in the station program, so we, we’ll be conducting different experiments for everywhere.
It’s got to be pretty big for the education community too.
It would be, yes, definitely and it’s a big milestone for, for Japan.
Tell us about what, what you’ll be doing for the rendezvous and docking phases of the mission.
I’ll be using the handheld leader or the laser equipment to shoot the station and then get distance and relative velocity. This is used as a backup to the other measurement units on the shuttle and I’ll be backing up Karen. I’ll also be the prime operator for the docking mechanism.
Once you dock, what kind of preparations do you have to do for the next day?
Well, the next day is a pretty busy day with a EVA so we’ll be transferring a lot of things and preparing for the JEM installation. So we’ll be pretty busy.
And moving on to that day can you kind of give us an idea of the big items on the list that day and kind of give us an overview?
EVA 1 day is going to have a lot of activity. It’s not just EVA, but robotic arm related. Karen will be flying the shuttle arm and I’ll be primarily flying the station arm that day. First thing will be handing off the OBSS which is stowed on the truss and the two EVA crew, Mike and Ron, will be releasing those from the truss. I’ll be taking that and then handing it over to the shuttle arm. Then I’ll go and grapple the JPM, the JEM pressurized module and, while Ron and Mike are doing some preparation for that to be installed. Once they’re done then I’ll remove it from the payload bay and then install it to the Node 2. So that’s a pretty busy day.
Then the following day, what are the main items on the to-do list?
I have to think.
…one of the big things is the vestibule…
Yes, that’s a big day for Japan actually. We’ll be doing vestibule outfitting which is basically hooking up all the jumper connections between Node 2 and the JEM pressurized module. That is for power signals, data cables, fluid lines, all that stuff. And then once that’s done we will be activating the main computer in the JEM pressurized module from our laptop computer inside the station and we call that ‘initial activation’ and then once the computer’s activated, then ground, the Mission Control Center in Tsukuba Space Center, they can start commanding from the ground so we’ll hand it over to them. They will start doing the final activation of the module.
My understanding is vestibule outfitting is broken up into the three parts.
Yes, that’s correct.
Will you tell us the reason for that?
Vestibule Outfit 1 is mainly those jumper connections required to do a Channel B activation. You, you only need several jumper connections to activate the water loop which cools the equipment and also to provide power and data for that computer to be activated. So that’s Part 1 and Part 2 is the other connections except for one jumper and that jumper will be connected in Vestibule Outfit Part 3 and that single jumper is a power jumper for Channel A. So we don’t want to connect that yet.
So it’s basically a process; it’s methodical because you’ve got other things that have to happen not in unison but one after the other.
At some point, if I read the timeline correctly, at some point you’ll ingress the pressurized module to do setup activities. What does that entail?
For the ingress portion we’ll be checking out the module, checkout valves, reconfigure some of the valves and then for the setup, this is for just the preparation for later activities. We’ll have to transfer some of the racks from the logistic module to the pressurized module. In order to do that the pressurized module is so empty and you need some, somewhere to hold on to, to transfer the racks and install it. So we’re going to set up some hard dummy panel so that we can grab onto and move ourselves around for rack transfer.
And the, the rack transfer also is important for the next day’s activity.
We need two racks for Channel A activation. Those are not installed for launch so we’ll have to move those around and then also the JEM-RMS, JEM robotic arm rack is also not in the pressurized module so we’ll have to move that in there in order to activate the JEM-RMS.
Flight day 6 -- can you give us an idea of the main items on, on that schedule?
On flight day 6 EVA 2’s going on and inside we’ll be transferring racks and getting ready for Channel A activation. Now in a nominal situation we’ll have Channel B activated already so Tsukuba Space Center can start commanding for the Channel A activation. So our main job is doing physically rack transfer, hooking up umbilicals and all that and then all the commanding ground can do.
Can you tell us a little about the TV equipment that’s going to be installed on JEM? How much will it help you when you have to fly the arm? What kind of views and how much versatility does it have?
During EVA 2 Mike and Ron will install the two visionary equipments outside. Those are the JEM cameras. It sticks out on the port end of the pressurized module. The main purpose of that is for the exposed facility so until then, for JEM itself there’s not a whole lot of use except for JEM-RMS activities. We use that to check the clearance, how the arm is moving, which way it’s going and all that, just visually check. And we found out that if it looks station aft it has a very good view of the truss. When we’re doing some SSRMS activities later in our mission, that provides a great view. So I’m, we’re hoping that we can get that activated.
On flight day 7, one of the activities is focused inspection. That’s scheduled. But one of the other big things is moving the logistics pressurized module. Can you give us an idea of how that’s going to happen?
Sure. Karen will be the prime operator for that. She’ll be flying the station arm to grab the logistics module, bring it up from Node 2 and then move it to the JEM pressurized module and bringing it down. I will be the prime CBM operator. Those are the docking rings between the modules so I’ll be demating the module and then waiting for Karen to bring over the logistics module and then mating it to the JEM pressurized module.
We touched some rack transfers earlier. Those are particularly important for this day though. What has to happen before this JLP can be moved?
The JLP needs to be completely empty. The plan is to not have any racks inside because we’re trying not to freeze any racks, just in case a, a heater failed and we can’t have the module warmed up.
Can you tell us what’s involved in deploying the Japanese robotic arm, initially and eventually flying it?
It turned out that we need to do initial deploy in order for the EVA crews to access some of the launch locks. It was too close in the launch configuration to the module itself so that Ron and Mike cannot access those launch locks. So what we’re trying to do is to deploy it just a little bit and that’s called the ‘initial deploy’ so they can access. It’s not too far. It’s not too close, but it’s just right and we’ll leave it there. We’ll have them take off the launch locks and then we’ll do a final deploy so that’s away from the module and then later in the mission we’ll do a checkout of the arm, making sure that the brakes are working correctly and then move it into a storage configuration.
And you’ll be doing the initial deploy?
Driving it? Any pressure?
Well, it’s the first time to fly that arm and it’s very close to the structure so you don’t want to bang it into the module and damage the arm or the module, so we’ll be very, very careful.
Any other feelings about being the first person? It has been a long time coming.
It has and I think more than myself. I think the folks in Tsukuba are going to be very, very excited. It’s going to be a big day for them.
There’s also more outfitting that day, this time the logistics module. Is that as involved?
Not as much. The JEM pressurized module has some water loops. The logistics module does not, so you don’t have to hook up water loops. So the current plan is to hook up power and data to warm up the logistics module. Later we may get to it or maybe not but we’ll hook up the other power jumpers and data connections. But that might be a stage activity.
What about flight day 9? What’s the plan for that day?
That will be EVA 3 day. The biggest thing for the arm operators, Karen Nyberg and myself, would be to help out Ron to do the NTA-RR. It’s a big windshield maneuver over the truss so we, we’ll have Ronnie wait at the S1 truss where the old NTA is. He’ll ingress the APFR, the foot restraint on the big arm, the station arm, and then he’ll re-, remove the old NTA. We’ll bring him over to ESB 3. They’ll swap out the old and the new NTAs and we’ll bring him back. So it’s a big activity between EVA and the SSMRS.
Kibo, the nickname for the JEM module, means ‘hope.’ Once this mission’s completed what do you hope that it will be for the bigger mission of space exploration?
Well, I hope the Japanese science community will further be engaged in space exploration and we can accomplish a lot of scientific activities. But more than that I think it would expand the possibility on orbit, especially for the Japanese community. So that is my hope.
Can you give us some insight into some of the skills and talents and intangibles of your crewmates and tell us why that makes you confident this is going to be a successful mission?
It’s a very good mix of crew, I think. Everyone’s very professional but at the same time we try to enjoy the training and the mission itself. Commander Mark Kelly flew twice, but this time it’s a first mission for him as commander. Mike Fossum flew once, with Mark Kelly, as a matter of fact. But those two have been providing us some insights of the real spaceflight -- what to be careful of, where to focus and giving us a lot of guidance. And we all traveled to Japan for our training in June last year and we had a lot of fun and good memories.
So [you] have become pretty close-knit then?
You’ve had a chance in your travels and during training to see the support personnel at the different space flight centers. What impresses you about their work ethic?
They're very professional and they are very open. Whenever we have a question, they’ll answer it. If they don’t have an answer right there, they’ll get back to us in a couple days and provide us the answer. I think everyone’s very, how shall I say it, very proud of the space program. It’s the same in Japan as in the States. I think everyone’s very excited about the space program and very happy and pleased and honored to work in it.
Knowing the hard work that, that everybody’s put into this mission what are your thoughts about being able to do this for them? It’s going to be you and the crew up there actually doing this. You’re just, you’re the person…
Absolutely you’re right that you know it’s a big team. There are people who train us, people who actually manufacture the module, the orbiter, doing work down at the Cape, all the flight controllers here at Johnson Space Center as well as in Tsukuba Space Center who are working really long hours, making sure that we have all the procedures and they’re training, simming, just like we are. We’re a part of the team, and we’re really proud to be part of the team.
It could be said that the measure of fortitude is in how well we adapt to unforeseen situations and surprises. There have been a lot of opportunities to do that with some things happening up on space station, whatnot. How would you say that everybody’s done in that endeavor, in adapting, or in thinking of inventive ways to get around things?
I think this will be a new experience for the Japanese flight control team. But I think in any case in the past we’ve been prepared and been inventive once something happens and we overcame that, that challenge. I think that’s the main advantage of human spaceflight. If it’s unmanned, then you have some limitations and if it’s manned human spaceflight then you do have some capability that no one really thought of but you can do that real time.