Preflight Interview: Doug Hurley, Pilot
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Astronaut Douglas G. Hurley, STS-127 pilot. Photo Credit: NASA

This is the STS-127 interview with Pilot Doug Hurley. Doug, this year marks the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the first human steps on the moon. Can you give us a sense of how that historic event played into your maybe decision to become an astronaut and how it has impacted you?

Well, I was about two-and-a-half years old when they landed on the moon so I don’t remember the actual event when it took place. However, as I got a little older, obviously it was fairly fresh in people’s minds that we landed on the moon in the late sixties and early seventies, so it was definitely something I think a lot of little boys are interested in is flying in space and so, in a sense, it started to inspire me to look towards that as something to do as I got older. However, what I remember more often is the Sky Lab missions. I was old enough and I remember on Saturdays you’d get up to watch cartoons and sometimes in between the cartoons they would show these little clips of the Sky Lab missions and these guys running around in circles inside Sky Lab and, you know, as a young kid obviously [you] think, “Wow, that would be pretty neat to get a chance to do,” so I think they kind of planted the seeds for me, at a relatively young age and then as you got older and learned more about the Apollo missions and what they did and how they went about doing it, it was just an incredible leap in technology and faith in a lot of ways to just go from almost nothing in the early sixties to standing on the moon in the late sixties. So it was, it’s a real testament to the folks that worked on that program.

Can you recall the time frame or the moment that it, you finally decided in your mind “I really want to do this for real”?

You know, I know a lot of people have those particular moments. I think for me it was a progression of things, you know. Growing up, I remember always having interest in space and airplanes and so I think, you know, it’s funny how things that interest you as a young child kind of never leave you and so, at some point, I think, probably in high school, I had an interest in, a pretty serious interest at that point, I thought that maybe aviation would be the thing to do and the military seemed to be the avenue with which that would probably be the best fit for me so that’s kind of the direction I went. And then once I finished flight training and became a pilot, then it was “Okay, what’s the next thing on the horizon?” and becoming a test pilot and then subsequently when you’re a test pilot, then the next big thing is “What airplane can I fly that, you know, would interest me?” And so that’s kind of where I went in that regard and then the astronaut program just seemed to be the next best fit for me since I had a background in engineering and I was a pilot and obviously, you know, the chance to do that would have been something that you would jump at.

Tell us about the educational steps you took to become an astronaut.

Nothing too out of the ordinary, I would say, based on what most folks do. I had a, when I graduated from high school I received a Navy ROTC scholarship to go to Tulane University and then attended the university for four years and got a civil engineering degree. And then from there, from formal education standpoint, I didn’t do anything again until I went to the U.S. Navy Test Pilot School in 1997, so that’s my formal educational background. So, it tends to pale in comparison to some of the folks in our office, you know. When I showed up here it was like “Well, I have a PhD and an M.D.” and I’m sitting there going, “Mmm, wow! Maybe I was a bit of a slacker.” But you know, your professional development as a pilot and the thousands of hours you get as a pilot, you know, brings something to the table here at NASA as far as the astronaut corps so I think, you know, what I didn’t get maybe in formal education I got from an operational experience standpoint, you know, is something that you can definitely add to the whole mix of the office.

Tell us about your hometown and what it was like growing up there and what kind of kid you were.

Yeah well, you’d have to ask my parents about that one. But I grew up in Apalachin, New York, which is a small town in upstate New York, pretty rural, four, five hours away from New York City so I think people, when they ask you where you’re from, you say “New York”, they assume you’re from the city and I’ve probably only been there twice, at least that I can remember. And so my father worked for, at the time, IBM in Owego, New York, and my mom was [a] homemaker and it was just a great small town existence. I mean, small high school, very small hometown. We didn’t get a stoplight until I was a, I think, in college at that point, so, and played the usual sports, you know, played baseball and skied and played football, soccer and those kinds of things but just a, I think just an average American childhood.

What’s it like today there? Have you had a chance, do you go back much and…

Oh yeah. I get back quite a bit. My parents don’t live in the same town any more. They’ve moved about twenty miles away, so same area, not same town. But it’s very much unchanged. You know, I still have several of the folks I went to high school with and grew up with that are, that have either come back to the area or that visit, you know, kind of along the holidays and those same times, so I get to see them, but it really hasn’t changed too much. And I’ve always kind of found myself drawn to the smaller towns. It’s in the military obviously you get a chance to move around quite a bit and live either near or in much larger cities, Houston being one of ‘em obviously and it’s always nice to get back to, you know, the quiet, no traffic, you know, lots of open space, not a lot of buildings and so it is kind of a retreat for me whenever I get back. It’s kind of nice and very enjoyable to get back into the country.

One of the things that NASA strives to do is to inspire the next generation of space explorers. What would you say that, what’s the best way in your mind for NASA to get more young adults interested in space exploration?

Well, I think part of it is just to reach out to those kids from those smaller towns, you know. I had exposure to it on TV. I mean, that’s how I saw it, with Sky Lab, seeing that on TV and the shuttle launches on TV and to, I guess, get across the point that it’s like it doesn’t matter what your background is or where you grew up, you know, you have the same opportunity as anybody else to explore, to become an astronaut if that’s what you desire or a scientist or an engineer or a doctor, whatever the case may be. I think the thing we need to do is just say, “Hey, look, you can do it.” Obviously it takes perseverance. It takes an incredible amount of discipline and you’ve got to work hard. I mean, no one’s going to give it to you. But, by the same token, if you do those things there’s a good chance that you can be very successful in what you want to do and I think NASA’s done a good job to kind of portray that, and you see that within our office. There are several folks that are from very small towns all over the United States or came from very interesting backgrounds where they didn’t have much growing up and they’ve become astronauts and some of ‘em not only astronauts but doctors or scientists and pilots, so I think that’s where we need to go is just “Hey, look, you can do this but, you know, you’ve got to put the effort in. No one’s going to give it to you but, by the same token, the opportunity in this country is available if you just work hard.”

What was it like for you when the call came from NASA to say “Hey, you want to come on down?” After just the realization that “Hey, I’ve put in this work and this is about to happen.” Tell us what that was like.

I think my story is kind of unique in that regard. I remember just getting the call to have an, to come down here for an interview was a little bit surprising ‘cause you just think “I’m not, you know, there’s thousands of people that want to do this and they’re not going to call me.” But anyway, got the interview and subsequently I remember this vividly. I was on a trip with my father in the Northwest Territories in Canada and we were in the middle of the mountains, far away from everything and it was funny that my dad had actually brought a satellite phone with him that time and we were probably in the fourth and fifth day of the trip and my dad said, “Well, you know, should you call back home and check your answering machine and see if you got any messages?” And I said, “No, they’re never going to call. It’s, you know, it’s not going to happen,” and, anyway he persisted and so I got to a point to where the satellite phone worked and there was a call from Charlie Precourt who at the time was the chief of the office, the Astronaut Office and this was in July of, I think it was July of 2000 when we got the phone call and he said, the message said, “Hey, this is Charlie Precourt from the Astronaut Office. If you could just give me a call.” And I think he’d called the day before so I was a day late. And so anyway, I’m like, “Oh, oh, what’s going on here?” So I called the number that he left, with the satellite phone, you know, and got a hold of him and he said, “Hey, do you want to come work for us?” And, of course, you know what, you can’t say no to something like that and it was just an incredible experience to be out in the wilderness with my dad. It was probably one of the more special moments in my life and something I’ll never forget. And of course, then my dad ran the battery out of the cell phone or the satellite phone calling everybody he knew even we weren’t supposed to tell anybody because they tell you, “We haven’t done the press release yet,” and so I said, “Well, make sure you tell people not to…” anyway, so he, it was a great day, I mean, a really special day for me and I think for him and obviously my family so, but, probably not the typical story that folks have.

It’s a cool story. It’s almost like your dad knew.

It is. It’s really weird ‘cause it just, yeah, he must have had a sense, or at least more of a sense that I did that I was going to get [a] phone call. Maybe did, maybe didn’t, you know, but, yeah, it was a great, great day.

What’s it been [like] working with these crew mates training for this mission? You’ve probably, I’m sure you’ve learned a lot from a lot of the vets, you know, Mark especially, but tell me about some of the times that you’ve had.

Well, we’ve had a lot of fun. And we’ve worked really hard. This mission, with the five EVAs and all the different robotic maneuvers that we’re doing throughout the mission, we’ve been really, really busy, I think from, almost from the time we started training. But as you said, Mark has been just a great, great guy to work with. He reminds me a lot of some of the great guys that I served with in the Marine Corps squadrons, just extremely talented, competent, a great leader and a mentor. You know, “Hey, this is kind of how it works” and he’s patient and it’s just been a real pleasure to be assigned on my first space flight with him. And then it goes down the line. I mean, Julie Payette, Chris Cassidy, Tom Marshburn, I mean, just all great folks. They bring a lot to the table. They’re, you know, really talented and then Tim Kopra, who’s a classmate of mine, in my Astronaut Candidate Class so it’s a great opportunity. You don’t always get to fly with your classmates, someone who you kind of started with, so it’s kind of neat that we’re getting the chance to fly with him. And then, of course, the incomparable David Wolf, who, I mean, he walks in the room and you just start smiling, just, and he’s a wealth of experience as you might imagine having served on Mir and then flown on shuttle. So I can’t believe how lucky I’ve gotten, as far as that goes, just we really in-, you know, like everybody works really hard, but we enjoy being around each other which makes all the difference ‘cause, you know, you spend over a year working and training together and then you spend, in our case, over two weeks on a space mission together so it really makes it a much better experience if you like each other and you get along and work together well and kind of, we’re at the point now where we kind of understand each other to the point where sometimes you don’t even have to say anything to the other person. They just know that this is what you’re going to do and this is what you’re going to say, so it’s been a lot of fun. I think I really lucked out, as far as that goes with the crew.

What’s it like for you when you get to meet many of the thousands of people that work behind the scenes to ensure the success of the mission and the safety of the crew during your travels around the training? What’s it like when you get to meet these people?

There’s probably nothing more rewarding, because it’s, of all the things that I’ve gotten to do in my career this is the, by far, the most challenging as far as, you know, the amount of people that it takes to perform a mission. You know, if you start the day that the crew gets assigned, by that time there’s already been hundreds, if not thousands, of people working on just the mission template, what you’re going to do when you’re there and then obviously the folks that train us, the folks that process the vehicle, the folks that run the simulators, the folks that, you know, maintain the airplanes. I mean, it goes on and on and on. My personal experiences with that were more, let me try to say this again. You know, I worked as a Cape Crusader down in Florida, so I spent a lot of time down there and got to spend a lot of time with the folks that work on the vehicles and, and process the vehicles so that was a very rewarding experience to get to interact with those folks on a daily basis and, you know, thank them because it’s just a, it is an incredible amount of work to make the, a shuttle flight successful and to accomplish all the mission objectives and it really is mind-boggling to think that these thousands of people have to do their job right every time for that amount of time in order for everything to go well for us in space. And, so, you know, we can’t thank them enough for everything that they do.

Tell us about the things you’re going to be doing once you get there. What are the key objectives of this mission?

I think the key objectives, at least in my mind and I know that the programs have their published objectives but, I mean, obviously the first big objective that we have is to deliver Tim Kopra to the ISS for his stint as a long duration crew member and expedition member and then bring, obviously, his counterpart, Koichi Wakata, back from space station. And then our other primary objective is to deliver the Japanese external facility to the ISS and then install it as well as the Japanese logistics element, some exposed payloads and then we’re also taking up an Integrated Cargo Carrier which has some orbital replacement units on it and some batteries for the space station. So it’s a pretty packed mission as far as our objectives are concerned.

And as the pilot on the crew, what are some of your primary roles and responsibilities?

I think on a typical space shuttle mission the Pilot is kind of the Co-Pilot. You know, you’re backing up the Commander on all the vehicle tasks as far as ascent and entry, rendezvous. The Pilot also gets to do the fly-around so that’s the Pilot’s chance to actually pilot the space shuttle as we undock and fly around the space station. And then for me on this particular mission I have a fair share of robotics tasking as well, so, which is somewhat unique. Some pilots get to do more than others and I think with our mission, since there’s so much robotics it was kind of a necessity as much as anything to allow me to do some of that tasking. So I’ll get to fly the shuttle robotic arm as well as the station robotic arm and the Japanese robotic arm, so I won’t get bored on this mission, I can tell you that.

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Doug Hurley, STS-127 pilot, participates in a training session in the Jake Garn Simulation and Training Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo Credit: NASA

How much are you looking [forward] to the fly-around? That’s going to be pretty cool.

Yeah, it really is. It’s your one chance to actually pilot the vehicle for a fair amount time, you know. The fly-around takes a little while, and yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. Now towards the end of the mission, sometimes the fly-arounds, you don’t get to do a complete fly-around, fuel requirements and other things that are going on but, hopefully, I’ll get to do some of one and from what everyone tells you, that the views are incredible on the fly-around and that’s when we do kind of the photo inspection of space station just to let folks see kind of what we did on the mission and then take another close look at space station as we leave. So it’s definitely going to be kind of a neat moment for me personally because I get to actually drive the space shuttle but then, you know, I think for the crew in general that’s kind of your chance to say, “You know, this is all the work we’ve put into this and, not only us but the thousands of people that have supported the mission, this is what we got to do.” And so I think it’ll, I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’ll be very rewarding.

The Japanese Experiment Module or exposed facility, or J-E-F, “Jeff”, as it’s been nicknamed. Can you give us your best description of what it looks like and what it’s for?

Well, I’ve heard it described as like the front porch for the JEM, the Japanese Experiment Module and obviously it’s more than that but it looks similar to that. It’s a large platform that attaches to the end of that module and what it could be used for and will be used for is to attach exposed payloads, ‘exposed’ meaning ‘exposed to space’, and monitor those while it’s on orbit and what we’ll do, we’ll attach it to the JEM and then from, later on in the mission, we’ll attach the logistics element to it which carries some of those payloads and then we’ll transfer those payloads on to the exposed facility and those experiments will remain on orbit for a given amount of time. And it allows the folks on ISS to do science with experiments that are exposed constantly to the vacuum of space. So, that’s probably a good way to describe it. I’ve also had people say that it may block a little bit of the view since the view out of the JEM is supposed to be one of the best on ISS but hopefully it won’t take up too much of that view.

On this mission the term ‘space management’ is probably going to take on a new meaning with all the people that are going to be up there. The ISS crew will have increased from three to six by that time and then you’re going to have seven of you guys coming up, so that’s thirteen people that are going to be there kind of negotiating the space. What do you think that’s going to be like?

Oh, I think it’s going to be a bit of chaos. Being the first, at least right now it looks like we’ll be the first shuttle crew to show up after they’ve established the six-person ISS crew so I think we kind of, everybody’s kind of expecting that to be a little bit crazy when we first get there and before everybody gets everything sorted out. But by the same token, that’s what we’ve all been working towards for many years is to get the ISS up to this, six-person capability so I think it’ll be helpful in many ways because that’s three more sets of hands that you have to help out, especially with our mission where, as I said before, you know, we’ve got a multitude of EVAs and robotics to accomplish, so it’ll be great to have some extra helping hands there because the mission is so busy and every day depends on what you did the previous day. So, I think it’ll be very helpful to have all those extra folks plus I think it’ll just be, it’ll be really neat to see thirteen people on board ISS at the same time representing almost all the international partners so it’ll be a really, I think a very memorable event for all of us and hopefully we can kind of work out the logistics of kind of moving around and sorting things out so that we don’t kind of crowd each other.

After launching on Flight Day 1 and configuring systems for your stay in space, you’ve got plenty of activity on Flight Day 2. Tell me about the activities planned for Flight Day 2.

The big focus of Flight Day 2 is our inspection of the heat shield of Endeavour and that’s become the norm since STS-114, is to do, to use the orbiter boom sensing system to take a look at the port and starboard wings as well as the, the belly of the orbiter of the crew cabin to make sure that there weren’t, there isn’t any significant damage to the heat shield. So that takes several hours to do those surveys and that is the bulk of the Flight Day 2 robotics work that we’ll do, and Mark and Julie and I will do that. And then along with that, Dave and Chris and Tom and Tim will be doing the checkout of the EMUs, the spacesuits, because once we dock to space station the next day, those guys will be transferring all that gear across so that they can start work on EVA 4, or EVA 1 which starts on Flight Day 4.

And you mentioned the docking the next day. There’s rendezvous before that. Tell me about the activities of rendezvous and docking and what you’ll be doing.

As I mentioned before, you know, the Pilot supports the Commander as far as flying the vehicle and for rendezvous, obviously, we’ll be, Mark and I will be, along with Julie for most of it, will be doing the rendezvous burns, you know, to join up with space station and so I’ll be backing up Mark on a lot of those tasks as well as actually flying some of the burns myself. So, and then Julie and Chris will also be supporting that evolution all the way up until docking and that’s the majority of Flight Day 3 is the rendezvous itself, albeit we do have some stuff to do right after we get [to] the space station. Once we dock we get the standard safety brief and, you know, the ISS crew kind of says, “Hey, look, this is our place. Don’t mess it up, and, these are some of the things to watch out for. These are where you need to go if there’s an emergency,” those kinds of things. And then Julie and I are off to do robotics as soon as we get done with the safety brief. We do, we move the shuttle arm into a viewing position and we move the Japanese arm into another viewing position to get set up for EVA 1 Flight Day 4 stuff, so it’s a really busy day almost from the time we start ‘til the time we land. So this is just another in a series where we’ve got major things to do in a given flight day and we’ll be busy throughout the day.

And that next day, Flight Day 4, it’s all hands on deck for the first EVA. Tell us what the goals are for EVA 1 and walk us through what you’ll be doing on the inside.

Well, EVA 1 starts off with Dave and Tim going outside, and Mark and Julie will be running the shuttle arm, and Koichi and I will be running the station arm and the big goals of Flight Day 4 and EVA 1 are to install the Japanese exposed facility so the EVA folks will go outside, and they have other EVA tasks as well as getting the exposed facility ready to be taken out of the shuttle payload bay, and that’s kind of an orchestra in itself because Koichi and I remove the exposed facility from the shuttle payload bay with the station arm and hand it off to Mark and Julie who are running the shuttle arm. Then we have to walk off the station arm which means we have to grapple the mobile base. The base then does, then it, the base moves down the truss and then Mark and Julie hand the exposed facility back to Koichi and I with the station and then we install it on the JEM, so it’s a double hand off, for lack of a better term, and it takes quite a while to do. All along Dave and Tim will be outside doing their EVA 1 tasks, so busy day right from the start. We hit the ground running our first full day on space station so…

Flight Day 5 is going to be potentially loaded with more dual robotic arm operations. One scenario has you doing what’s called a focused inspection. Can you give us some sense of what that is and how it will be performed if, in fact, you have to do it?

Sure. Focused inspection would come about if the folks on the ground, the imagery folks on the ground, and the flight controllers see something on our heat shield from the Flight Day 2 survey that would require them to get a closer look at a particular area on the shuttle. When you’re docked, it’s a little bit more of a choreography of robotics as well just because of, you know, the arms and where you have to position the boom and all those things so the plan, if we need to do a focused inspection, would be for Julie and Tim to hand the orbital boom sensing system to Mark and I with the station arm, and then Mark and I would run the shuttle arm with the boom attached and look at the particular area where they, where the ground folks thought that they needed a focused inspection. And so that could take, you know, on the order of several hours to maybe just a few hours. So the planners, that’s what we have to do going into the mission, is plan for the focused inspection and if we don’t have to do it, obviously that gives us a little more flexibility on Flight Day 5.

Focused inspection or not, there’s still some other things to do on that day, one of which is grabbing a cargo carrier or ICC-VLD, or Integrated Cargo Carrier Vertical Light Deployable, out of Endeavour’s payload bay. What is that carrier and what does it contain on it?

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Doug Hurley, STS-127 pilot, attired in a training version of his shuttle launch and entry suit, awaits the start of a water survival training session. Photo Credit: NASA

Simply put it is a carrier for orbital replacement units. On our particular mission it’ll contain six new batteries for the P6 truss on ISS as well as three ORUs and those ORUs specifically are a space-to-ground antenna, a linear drive unit and a pump module, so it’s got several different components on it and what we’ll do that flight day is, Mark and I take it out of the bay with the, in this case, the shuttle arm and then hand it off to Julie who’ll be running the station arm.

So another handoff.

There are several of these, and based on the ISS configuration these days, just because we have Columbus and JEM out towards the, what would be the front of the station where dock, the arms are fairly constrained as to where they can move in their trajectories. So more times than not these days you have to do some sort of a handoff between the two arms to get something out of the shuttle payload bay and, in this case, we only have to do a single handoff whereas a double handoff with the exposed facility, so it makes it a little bit easier. But still we find ourselves having to do multiple handoffs on this mission so once again we’ll be doing that.

Flight Day 6 EVA2, Dave Wolf and Tom Marshburn are going to go outside. But even before they go out the door, you talked about getting the integrated cargo carrier out. That’s got to be “temp-stowed” some place. Tell us about that.

Yeah, Julie and I will be temp-stowing that on the mobile base system of the space station arm, on what they call the POA which is essentially another end effector, similar to what we use to grapple payloads with the, either of the arms and it will be held there and that will allow Dave and Tom to access it when they’re performing EVA 2 since they’re going to be moving those orbital replacement units, from the ICC over to the ESP 3 which is on the top of the P6 truss. So we need to put it there in order for them to access it while they’re doing their EVA.

And can you talk a little more in depth about what they’re actually going to do during that EVA?

During EVA 2, as I said before, Julie and I will be running the space station robotic arm with Dave on it and it’ll be a, kind of a ballet of taking each ORU, so we’ll start with the SGANT, we’ll move on the pump module and then we’ll finish up with the linear drive unit, and we’ll take Dave, holding that, from the ICC over to ESP 3. So it will be this maneuver where Dave and Tom unhook that particular ORU from the ICC. Then Dave will hold on to it. We’ll fly him up to ESP 3 where he has to install it on there, and Tom will kind of have to work his way back and forth to support Dave with that. So it will be a great deal for Dave because he’s going to get to see some incredible views of space station as he’s flying up and over the truss, and then back down to the ICC each time. So he’s probably got one of the best seats in the house for EVA 2. But these ORUs are pretty heavy and bulky so it’ll be a challenge for him to do that because it takes a little while for him to get up to each, back and forth to each carrier and install those particular devices.

Flight day 7, more robotic arms’ ops on the schedule with the temporary installation of the Japanese logistics module section or JLE, or “Jelly” as it’s been, as it’s called. Tell me about the JLE and tell me what payloads it contains.

It is another carrier similar to the ICC but it attaches itself, or we attach it to the exposed facility and then the payloads it carries on our mission are MAXI, SEDA and ICS, three exposed payloads, and once we attach it to the exposed facility, we’ll transfer those payloads via the Japanese robotic arm. That particular day has Mark and Julie taking it out of the payload bay with the shuttle arm and then handing it off to Koichi and I for installation on the exposed facility with the station arm. You’ve got to have a scorecard to keep track of all the robotics.

Once the JLE is attached, you’re not done with robotic arms, I’m sure, that day. You have to turn your attention back to the ICC-VLD. What’s going to happen with that?

Let’s see, that gets us set up for the EVAs 3 and 4, and so Julie and I will use the station robotic arm in this case to take the ICC off the POA where it’s been since the EVA 2 and move it to a park position and getting set up for the battery removal and replacement that Dave and Chris will do on EVA 3, and then Tom and Chris will do on EVA 4.

EVA 3, let’s talk about what they’re going to do. Tell me about the ops involved there.

Those are kind of interesting. The general setup for EVA 3 and 4, for that matter, but EVA 3, Julie and I will have the ICC attached to the station robotic arm, and it’ll be fairly stretched out on the port truss because that’s close to the location where Dave and Chris will be replacing these batteries. So it’s kind of a ballet of moving the pallet around for Dave and Chris to take each battery out, hand it off to the EV, EV 2. In this case, Dave will hand it off to Chris and then they will install this battery on P6 and then the old battery, they will put back on the carrier and will do that on EVA 3 we’ll do four of the batteries and then on EVA 4 we’ll do the remaining two batteries. And so Julie and I will be moving the pallet around to hand that particular battery, or put it in a good position for Dave to remove it from the pallet in the case of EVA 3.

Late in the mission there’s going to be kind of a milestone, I guess, for JAXA and [the] space community as a whole … going to have the JEM robotic arm do some work and I guess it’s going to be the first time that’s it’s actually doing real world work that it was designed to do. Tell us about that.

Yeah, it’s kind of neat. We’ve actually gotten to train quite a bit on the Japanese robotic arm. We’ve made two trips to Japan in order to train on it and integrate some of the operations that we’re doing throughout the flight with the Japanese flight controllers. But what we’re going to do that day is, several of us will be involved with transferring the exposed payloads on the JLE to the Japanese exposed facility and the Japanese robotic arm is obviously in a perfect position to do that. It’s attached to the end of the JEM, and very similar to moving something out of the shuttle payload bay, it will be that same kind of view for us and ease of maneuver and we can stretch the arm out to the Japanese logistics element, grab the payload and then move it into its appropriate position on the Exposed Facility, and Koichi, Tim, Mark, Julie and I will all be involved with that. So it’ll be probably most of the day to transfer all three payloads but we should be able to do that all on that particular flight day.

On to EVA 4, is that pretty much a mirror image of EVA 3?

It is in the sense that we’ll be trying to do the last two batteries, which are Battery Echo and Battery Foxtrot, as they’re labeled via the alphabet. I think that’s five and six. So it should be and hopefully won’t take as long obviously as to do the four the previous day and then I know Tom and Chris have some other EVA activities to do as well. But the main focus of that EVA will be to finish up the battery replacement activities.

And at some point you will have to, you will be done with the logistics exposed module, excuse me. Tell me about the ops to get that back into the payload bay.

Yeah, the good thing on this mission is that a lot of the robotics activities, you put it back the same way you got it out so, for the JLE, Tim and I will remove it from the exposed facility, from “Jeff” and then the maneuver is such that we can hand it back off to Mark and Julie who are flying the shuttle arm and then they’ll put it back in the payload bay and we, or the plan is to bring it back with us at the end of the mission.

You’ve got some things to do before, to prepare for your departure and before closing the hatch between the two spacecraft. Then, I guess, early on Flight Day 15 you will undock. That will be your time to shine, so to speak. Talk a little bit more, in general and specifically, about the activities that happen for undocking on that day.

Yeah. As it’s currently timelined, we’ll close the hatch the day before so we’ll have to say our good-byes to the ISS crew on what is currently Flight Day 14. So we’ll spend the night in shuttle at that point and then when we get up on Flight Day 15, that’s when we’ll start preps, preparations to undock. As we talked about before, I’ll be the one at the controls of Endeavour, so really looking forward to that. We’ll back out to 450, 500, 600 feet as we work our profile and then we’ll start 360 degree fly-around of ISS. And generally speaking it’s a chance to survey ISS and it’s a chance to get photography of the current configuration. And then once we complete that 360, fuel allowing, of course, we’ll start our series of separation burns to get away from ISS and begin our trip home.

Forty years after Apollo 11 and the first human steps on the moon, we are in the midst of refocusing our direction with the potential of returning to the moon and maybe even going beyond. How do you think the lessons that have been learned with Apollo and the past program will serve as an inspiration and helping us in that direction with Constellation on the horizon?

Well, I think, Apollo definitely planted the seeds of exploration for all of us that are in the Astronaut Office now and I think most of the country. But I think we’ve also gone a long way to live in space by what we’re doing now on ISS. So I think if we combine those two things, it gives us a great stepping stone back to the moon and on to Mars which I think is the ultimate goal right now. And I think we’re in for an exciting time. I mean, we’re kind of at a crossroads in the human space flight program, and it’s a really exciting time to be involved in developing a new vehicle, finishing out what has been a tremendous legacy with space shuttle and then continuing long duration human habitation on ISS. We’ve learned more and more every day of what it’s going to take to live in space and function in space for more than just a few days, and as everybody has mentioned before, you know, if we go to Mars, the trip is a long trip, several months to potentially over a year by the time you go, come back. So we really need to have a great understanding of that before we embark on a journey like that, and I think we’re making huge strides on ISS to get to that point.

What’s it mean to you to be part of this whole legacy, of what’s happened in the past and now having a hand in the future of space exploration?

It’s pretty humbling, to say the least. I’ve been in the military now over twenty years and serving my country has always been something that I’ve enjoyed and felt that was something that was the right thing to do, and I think this is just another chance for me to do that and frankly, it’s just the adventure is incredible that we’ve done and that we’re still doing in space every day. I mean, we’ve had continued human existence on space station now for, gosh, the better part of eight years, maybe going on nine so that in itself is something that, you know, when you’re think about that you’re part of that it really does humble you. But thankful, I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity.