Our Crew Interviews with Dan Bursch, Flight Engineer 2 on the fourth permanent expedition to the International Space Station. As you prepare to embark on a five-month-long space flight, Dan, tell me how you see the mission-what is it that you and your crewmates are being sent to orbit to accomplish?
Preflight Interview: Dan Bursch
A: I think one of the main goals of the International Space Station is to put a permanent human presence in space. Another main goal, which is just in the name itself, is "International" Space Station. A lot of the work that we've done in the last four years has been centered around working with primarily the Russians but also the other international partners, and that by far, to me personally, has probably been one of the biggest challenges for the International Space Station. So, as far as personally going on this mission, one of the things to do is to myself to try to mentally prepare myself for the four-, five-, six-month mission. With my experience in the Navy I think of it as kind of like a naval deployment, where we were gone anywhere from four to eight months at a time, but it's also different in that we're not, it's as if we're doing a whole naval deployment, but we're only doing it with the two other people in our bunkroom or in our stateroom, which is different in itself, and on occasion getting visitors from the Earth. So mentally, I think it's, the preparation for it is different. As far as the mission itself, one of my goals is to take over from Expedition Three, hopefully put the station in an even better condition at the end of our increment when Expedition Five comes up, to have the station in an even better condition than it was before-not only just the condition of, including all the equipment that was up there, but also the added equipment that will come up during our increment, whether it's the experiments, S0 truss, or MBS that comes up on the UF-2- and to, basically, how you would want to take over from anybody. It was kind of like a watch, standing watch in the Navy, is that you want to take over something, you have control over it, and you want to put it in even better condition than when you found it at the end. It's to complete every experiment that the ground wants me to do; I know we'll have maintenance while we're up there; to complete all, installing all the other equipment that comes on board; and also, number one personally for me, has been to make sure my family makes it through not only the training, the long time away that we've been having to spend away from our family, training for this mission, to make sure they make it, they make it through the mission. And for me, personally, that's number one.
How do you see yourself as you go off to do this? Are you a space explorer, or are you a scientist; are you something else?
I think the only way that I can think to answer that is a little of everything. It's almost like a jack-of-all-trades. I mean, there'll be some days where I will be a scientist perhaps… certainly not at the qualifications as you would, more of, on an operator side for instance, some of the experiments we're doing are in growing plants, and there's one experiment I'll actually be harvesting plants; there's another, that same experiment, I may be pollinating plants. And then the next day I may be repairing a box that breaks on space station that needs to be repaired. I may actually be doing some testing on some equipment. The next day a shuttle may come visit and then I'll perhaps position myself at the robotics workstation and working with another shuttle crewmember or one of my crewmates on station and working to install a new piece of hardware. There may be a day where we come up and we have to go outside for some reason to either repair something or get ready for another mission or finish up some work that wasn't done. And throughout all of this, we'll be doing the same day-to-day routines that anybody would do, and that's getting up-I'll be in microgravity and, while we're floating at the time, but it's putting in my contacts, washing up, eating, eating breakfast, reading mail, talking to my family, writing notes to my family, and so it's a little bit of everything. And, it's kind of hard to, in a sense, I guess, you know, I'd like to think that we're exploring, but a lot of the exploration has already been done and that is in working with countries so closely, especially countries that used to be former enemies, and to me, that's exploration in itself.
You've got to have a lot of different talents and achievements in order to be picked to do this in the first place. How did you get to be a guy who was "astronaut material"? What was your career path to reach it?
Actually, my first recollection of when I started thinking about going to space or becoming an astronaut, I was in a summer camp and we were listening on the radio when we first walked on the moon. And I just remember that moment-if you remember moments in your life, and certain special moments like that-and I just remember thinking that that was really just, it was so hard to believe that something like that was happening. And, I thought, well, I hope perhaps maybe I can do that someday. And to tell you the truth I never really gave it another thought until after I was out of the Naval Academy; I remember my brother telling me while I was at the Naval Academy, him saying something to the effect that, hey, you know Dan, you ought to be an astronaut. You know, and I just, I kind of laughed at it as something that, you know, was probably my older brother just giving me a hard time. But, and I never thought about it again until I went to the Navy Test Pilot School as a navigator-I was a Naval flight officer in the Navy, and I was a navigator in the A-6 Intruder-and I went to Test Pilot School and didn't learn to test airplanes but let's say the avionics or the black boxes that are in the airplanes. And there I learned that there were several graduates of the Navy Test Pilot School that became astronauts, and also we had a field trip while we were at the Navy Test Pilot School and we actually came down here to Johnson Space Center and we visited - had briefings with the Astronaut Office, met some of the astronauts, and it was there I first really got interested in and thought that this is something that I really want to do. And it all started back in about 1984, when I first started applying, and wasn't accepted 'til 1990.
In the course of all of that, from watching the moonwalks all the way up to being accepted to today, are there certain people that you recognize have been, or maybe still are, the biggest influences in your life, in you getting where you are today?
I think number one, as anybody would, most people would probably say, probably my parents encouraging me to do anything that I wanted to do. They were always, when I was growing up, wanted me to try different things, and at times prodding me to do things that I otherwise thought maybe I couldn't do, and so they were certainly encouraging. I think any astronaut that comes to the Johnson Space Center and works with all the great people that we have here certainly there's key figures that stand out. I think John Young is probably just about everybody's idol in the Astronaut Office, just somebody who's done as much as he has including walking on the moon, is just [an] incredible feat, and first to fly in the space shuttle-I mean, it's, I think everybody in the Office kind of looks up to him and I still cherish any time that I'm able to fly with him. But those were probably the people that most influenced how I try to live my life.
Of course, the invaluable assistance of your big brother…
Oh, that's true, that's true.
Both you and Carl Walz have three previous space missions to your credit, which gives you a combined experience of about two months in space. And, now you're looking at a single flight that will keep you up there for about five months. What do you see as the big differences in the ways that you've gone about preparing yourself for such a different kind of mission?
I think early on, well, maybe after about a year of all the traveling and training Carl and I were talking about it with Yury and I think we all came to the realization that this is, the mission is different. And Yury was, has been very helpful and because of his experience already on Mir and the six months that he spent on space station, of letting us know that it is different. And the best way I think I can, or the best analogy that I think I can come up with, it's kind of like the difference between a sprint and a long-distance race. I mean, this is, it really is a marathon in some respects-and it's probably a short marathon compared to what we will do in the future when we go to Mars and other planets-but I think it's a marathon in that physically not so much physically but mentally, how you need to think about it is that, on a space shuttle mission, most missions these days are about eleven days long on the space shuttle, maybe twelve, and some have been much longer than that, however, in general it's kind of when you think of a space shuttle mission, it's kind of like finals week, where you pack everything into a week or a week-and-a-half or two weeks, and everything is so critical and it's kind of like you get ready and it's a burst of energy and you do it. With a long-duration mission I think it's going to be more of, like a marathon, where it's going to be, we're going to have to pace ourselves: we're going to have, we can't run at the same pace that we're used to running on the space shuttle, and there'll have to be times where we'll have to help each other out just to say, hey, it's time for you to just take a break and sit by the window, look out, and take some time; have some time to yourself. It seems funny to say that because we'll have, we should have lots of time to ourselves with only three people up there in the same environment but, really in a lot of respects, I think it will be much to where it's kind of, we'll have to pace ourselves. However, there'll be times when a shuttle comes to visit, like 8A, and we'll have six to eight days of very, very busy days of getting ready for them to come, while they're docked, helping with the EVAs, helping with installation of new equipment, and so it'll be times of, it'll vary from very, being very slow to very fast, almost shuttle-like pace, and then slowing down again. And what'll be different, also, is that the weekends-I haven't quite figured out how that's going to work; I know that on Saturday [it will] be a lighter duty, and Sunday in most respects we'll have much of the day off, but I can't imagine having the day off and not having anything to do 'cause normally, you know, like here at home, my days off are, I always have a list of things that need to be done around the house, and maybe that's what I'll end up doing, I'll end up saying, OK, give me things that need to be done, 'cause I just, I've run out of personal time or I don't want to read a book right now, I want to do something.
You mentioned the fact that the three of you have spent probably about four years now studying and preparing for this mission. Do you think having had that much time together to get ready will give you guys an advantage in working together once you do get there?
I think just from a language standpoint, that's been important because certainly Yury's been taking English, we've been taking Russian for over four years; that's been a big challenge. One of the advantages of having a long training flow is that we haven't had I think some of the pressures that, for instance, some of the shuttle or the Phase 1 [of] the space station, Phase 1 of [the] space station program with Shuttle-Mir, how some of those astronauts and cosmonauts had, with the quick the pressures that they had to learn a different language, especially a different language like Russian, in such a short period of time. It's also given us an advantage, I think, is that we learned better to know the kind of moods that we are. I mean, Carl and I, we flew our first flight together so we've known each other- and also classmates-so we've known each other ever since we first reported here on the same day. And for Yury it's been interesting because it's not only getting to know him personally but there's also the cultural differences that you learn: that there may be certain customs…or traditions that we are accustomed to that they aren't and vice versa. So we've been getting to know and through that you get to know…their moods. It's almost, I wouldn't say it's certainly not exactly a marriage, but it's pretty close because there are times when, in fact, we need to be apart. I mean, there's some times when you just, you spend so much time together where you just want to be by yourself, and I think we're going to, I think there, we have learned that there's, those times do happen, and so we need to give each other space at times, too. So, in those, I think that has been an advantage in working so long together. Again, having a marathon type of attitude towards the mission.
As I mentioned, your title on this mission is Flight Engineer; tell me what it is that you will do in space. In general, what are your responsibilities as a member of this crew?
Well, just as in shuttle flights and just about as in any one task that any team-whether it's baseball, football, soccer-that goes out to do, everybody has their own position and their own responsibilities because it's kind of the definition of a team is [that] not any one person can do it themselves, so early on we kind of broke up the, or divided up the responsibilities of the crew. Yury, for a Commander it's kind of, it's different in that he's responsible for everything, so it's kind of hard in, but there are certain areas, he's tended to specialize more on the Russian segment and some of the Russian systems, especially because he had the experience on Mir and a lot of the systems, some of the systems are similar to Mir. Carl, with his experience on, for EVAs, kind of became the de facto and natural kind [of] lead for any type of EVA activities that we would do especially on the U.S. segment or using the U.S. spacesuit, or the EMU. Yury's kind of, is more of an expert on the Russian Orlan, or the Russian spacesuit. Myself with my experience, I, and it was, I [gratefully] took it on was working with the space station Remote Manipulator System or what we affectionately call the Big Arm, or the SSRMS. And that has been my prime responsibility and my prime system. There's also systems on the station that we divide up. Me personally, I'm listed as prime for the Thermal Control System on station and also for the command and data handling system, so the computers on space station, and I'm also prime for a crew medical officer but one of the things to keep in mind with only a crew of three everybody kind of has to know a little bit about everything. So it's not quite as divided as maybe some of the tasks are for the shuttle, where perhaps only two people have been trained, out of the, out of say a crew of seven or six or seven, have been trained on a system, pretty much all of us on space station have been trained as operators on any system. But we give us, give each other maybe "prime" designation to say, if a maintenance action needs to be done or if some problem comes up, chances are all three of us may work on it; however each one of us has tried to specialize in a certain part of the system to take care of that. And as far as payloads go some of the experiments that I have-and maybe we'll talk about them later-but there's, we divided up the experiments. Part of the reasons were that we had a lot of payload training to do and we, and it usually is associated with each experiment had its own amount of time so we split up the experiments as well so each of us has their own experiments that we're responsible for. So we kind of had a big list of all the tasks and everything, of all the equipment and all the things that we need to do on space station, and we just basically divided them up.
Let's start at the beginning. You're going to arrive at the station on the shuttle Endeavour when Dom Gorie and his crew bring you up. Now, the first time stations crews exchanged, they did it one at a time over several days; the second time the exchange was made, in August, all three crewmembers moved over on the same day. Tell me how you guys are going to do it, and what's the rationale for doing it one way or the other?
I don't fully understand why the first and second Expedition crews did it over several days. I think it had to do with some of the timeline constraints they had of when the hatches could be open and when they could be closed, and I think they had several periods of time where they had to, because the shuttle was going to a lower pressure- at that time we didn't have an airlock on space station yet so we were doing the EVAs or space walks, out of the space shuttle, so the shuttle, for their prebreathe, had to bring down their atmosphere down to 10.2-well, when you do that, we had to close the hatches. And in order to take advantage of the handover time we did exchange crews one by one and then closed hatches, and we did it that way. The advantage is that you get the handover done and you can use some of this time, where otherwise you wouldn't be able to do it if you didn't exchange crews. The disadvantage is that there would be, there is a potential, if something were to happen where the shuttle had to undock for some reason, then you have a mixed crew on station. And we never close the hatches between the space station or the shuttle until we have the correct…the seats in the Soyuz are molded to our body, so they're specifically-and the suits-are specifically for each astronaut or cosmonaut in the Soyuz spacecraft. So our rescue vehicle or lifeboat on the space station is a Soyuz. So until you have your specific, and we call it seat kit, but until you have your specific kit installed, then you cannot use that Soyuz spacecraft. So that's one of the major handover items is to exchange those seat kits. And what we realized, and I think what Frank Culbertson realized, too, as the Commander of Expedition Three, is that he wanted to do that exchange of the crews as quickly as possible such that, if we can do it in one day then we minimize that window of time where we would be vulnerable to having a split crew. And I think having a split crew in itself isn't that bad, but it means that you know, some people will be spending a much longer time up there than they thought; also all the clothing, provisioning that comes up is meant for the new crew that's coming up-it physically may not even fit the previous crew up there. So we just, I think we gradually decided that if we can do it in one day and exchange these kits quickly, then at least physically, if something were to happen, we may not have completed the handover as far as talking of, about all the systems and the things that we need to complete a full handover, but physically we can separate the crews and have the new crew with their kits installed in the Soyuz and ready to go.
Let's talk about handover. There's time scheduled throughout the docked phase of this mission for handover, and that's not just a sightseeing tour I take it. Give us a sense of what the Expedition Three and Expedition Four crews will be doing and talking about during that period.
I recently talked to Jim Voss who recently came back from…he was on Expedition Two, and he put it a way that I thought was pretty interesting. He says that in handover, you kind of have kind of like three, if you can think of it, three sets of notes or questions that you have that you need to hand over between the crews. One set is kind of an ongoing set of items that the ground keeps track of, maybe a system we're operating in a different mode than we've been trained or that we have been doing before or there's a certain way, these are some…a way that the system has…it's had a failure so this is how we're operating it instead, we're operating it in this degraded mode or in a different mode. So it's specific things about the systems that we know that are operating right now and that will probably remain the same at least at the beginning of our increment. So that is one set of notes or questions. Another set might be just personal notes of, from Expedition 3 that Frank and Mikhail or Vladimir will have of notes that they have that they've seen that maybe surprised them when they got on station, that they didn't realize that were different, or different from what they trained, or maybe tips that they can give us that, hey, when you operate this system watch out for this because this caught me a couple of times, or make sure you do this, or certain, and it could range from day-to-day operations or it could be something very specific that they may even have late in their handover just to say that it's not quite that important, but something to note. So that's the second thing. So the first thing was, you know, the list of things that we know that the ground kind of keeps a running tally of, or track of; second would be the off-going crew, or the down crew, sometimes what we call them, the crew coming off, and they have some of their personal notes; and then after we can see maybe those first two notes, we'll probably come up with our own questions, or maybe even after reading the first list we'll come up with some first questions as to, you know, have you found this to be something as a problem, have you found, you know, how have you configured the communication when you're operating the robotic arm or have you thought about how you're going to configure the communication when the other two people, let's say the shuttle's not there and the other two people are outside, have you thought, are you going to do anything different with the communications and it may just be personal questions of how, you know, did you have enough supplies in this particular area, so it's a list of our own personal questions. So, through those three lists I think we'll, that's kind of how we conduct the handover. Another thing that we're trying to do is some of the tasks, let's say when we go up to space station, if there's a robotic task that we need to do with the Big Arm, with the station arm, what we're trying to do is in general to plan both the up crew and the down crew to do that task, because while we're working together at the robotic workstation that kind of serves as a time to handover because as we're working together, doing a task, then while we're doing it the experienced, more experienced crew, that's on board right now they can point out some things that might be different than we saw either in the simulator or during training or what we were briefed or what we saw up in Canada when we were training for the arm.
You made a reference to it before, and I want to see if you can expand on it a little bit and give us a better sense of what you expect day-to-day life to be like as a member of a space station crew. Do, will there be such a thing as a "normal" day on board ISS?
I think, to tell you the truth, it's really hard for me to imagine because, again, going back to the whole pace of a shuttle mission, all my experience has to do with shuttle and the shuttle mission you know day-by-day there's every Flight Day where you knew that, OK, this was Launch Day and you had to do post-insertion and you were really busy and reconfiguring your spacecraft into a research vehicle instead of a rocket. So each Flight Day almost, in ten to eleven Flight Days, you could almost memorize by each Flight Day the major task that was going to be completed, and I think that's going to be, it's going to be different on station because I think there will be, except when a shuttle comes up to visit, such as when 8A, when STS-110 comes up to visit-on 8A when they deliver the S0 truss, then again we'll be back to each specific Flight Day we'll have a primary task that they'll be doing, whether it includes, most days it includes robotics and [an] EVA so each Flight Day we can track like that. Other than that, I think the days on space station, what they're trying to do is to keep the timelines somewhat flexible in that we have a list of items that we can do when we think we are able, or the ground will send us a list of things to do, sometimes they call it a task list, sometimes they call it a job jar, and if you can think of it, it's a jar of things to do and it's kind of at our discretion. And that's one of the things that they found out from the Phase 1 program is that it was, it gave the crew, and whether it was psychologically or just, it was better for scheduling-wise to give the crew some autonomy in determining their work schedule, their workday. So it's kind of like if you have a list of things to do for the day or you're on your, a daily planner of things that you want to get done, and they're usually in a list of priority and you can choose those things and pick the times that would be good- no, I think it would be better to work out right now, but right after I do that I can start this task that the ground asked me to do. So I think day-to-day routine certainly every day would probably even when the shuttle's there, it'll basically be, wake up, get ready to go have some breakfast, read the morning mail, and have some time together to talk, to talk about the upcoming day, what do we have planned for the day. So regular things like that, whether it's personal hygiene or reading or getting up-to-date is going to be somewhat normal. And then there'll be some weeks that I think the pace will definitely change: it'll probably be highest, the pace will probably be toughest or a quickest pace when the shuttle is visiting and we're, we have mated, when we're, the shuttle's docked and we're doing operations together and involving many different systems. Certainly the, hopefully the pace will be much lower, let's say, if the shuttle isn't there but even, let's say, if the shuttle's not there yet, we have an EVA scheduled, that whole week will probably involve time when we're getting ready for the EVA, time when we're actually doing the EVA, and then after the EVA reconfiguring systems. So the pace is probably going to be all over the place.
You do have space walks scheduled, but a little ways into your increment. The first few weeks, the schedule really seems to have your attention to be on science. In a broader sense, how do you see the space station's overall scientific mission being advanced by the work that's going to be done during your time on board?
Well the U.S. Laboratory has already been, been up there, and as each shuttle comes up some of the equipment in the shuttle and most of the time in the MPLM in the logistics module when it comes up some of the experiments will have test sections or parts of them replaced or have new samples that will be replaced in the experiments. Some of the experiments will be completely new-we'll be bringing up new entire racks of experiments, some of them will be parts of the rack, let's say, in an EXPRESS rack where we'll have smaller protein crystal growth experiments that we'll be replacing. So, in general the experiments that I'll be working with, one is called ADVASC, it's an advanced astro culture and experiment; that will be growing plants. One of their goals is to see if they can actually grow soybean plants and actually produce seeds in a microgravity environment. Plants, one of the main reasons that we're interested in growing plants in space is that for when we go to Mars a lot of our food that we consume we'll be making ourselves on the spacecraft because that can save a lot of weight, we can reuse a lot of the water that's used, we can, the plants can help us to scrub out the CO2 in the atmosphere, so there's a lot of benefits that can be gained by growing our own plants not only to, for the consumption, for the food, but also for scrubbing the atmosphere. However there's a lot of challenges in that a lot of time plants rely on a day-to-day cycle of light; they also rely on the nutrients they get; they also rely on gravity in knowing to where their roots can grow. Also in some of these, in a lot of these experiments, another experiment I'm doing is called the biomass processing system-another experiment that will be looking at growing plants-and its main goal is not so much in producing, it is, in a way, is in producing the plants but also in testing the enclosure that it's using. It has special enclosures that there's a lot of other gases that plants produce that have to be scrubbed out of the atmosphere. The atmosphere for the plants has to be much more closely controlled even more so than the environment that our environmental control life support system on station controls for us. So it has to control the humidity, it has to control the light, it has to control the amount of CO2 that's in the atmosphere, the oxygen that circulates through the plants, and so that type of enclosure in itself just producing the machines that can grow these plants is a challenge. And that's one of the main goals of that experiment.
You mentioned a couple of experiments; during your time there, there are going to be experiments in, like, four broad disciplines.
Right, right. We also have experiments in protein crystal growth, and the protein crystal growth is important as many people have mentioned before, but basically proteins and amino acids are the building blocks of our bodies, and one of, and a lot of diseases that affect human life use, in a bad way sometimes, use these proteins and fix themselves to proteins. One of the ways that we can combat disease is that if we can figure out the structure of some of these proteins we can engineer new drugs, and it's not by hit-or-miss-most of the time the way that drugs are produced these days, or kind of trial and error, where we test a drug, we mix it together, and we see if it works or not. The new field, and it's not quite so new anymore, is in protein crystal growth, is that if we can grow crystals of protein larger and more perfect in space, because we don't have the convection that we have on Earth because of gravity, and we don't have the mixing that goes on, these proteins tend to grow bigger and larger. And if we can, we can then observe the structure of those proteins, then we can engineer a drug. This isn't a trial and error, this would, if we know the structure of the drug, and the way we know the structure is to bombard it with X rays, and by the diffraction that comes out of these crystals, then we can determine a lattice or the structure of that protein, and then basically engineer a drug, design a drug, on a computer and produce it so that, let's say the point where this disease was fixing itself to this protein, then we can design a drug that will fix itself to that point and not allow the disease to attack that part of the protein. In other areas, it's materials: we have an experiment called Experiment for the Physics of Colloids in Space. And a colloid is, it took me a while to understand what a colloid is, but an example of a colloid is something that, if you can think of anything that you need to mix before you use it-one would be orange juice, one would be paint, is an example; sometimes coffee can be a colloid as well-and if you can think of it, it's particles suspended in some other liquid or medium. And colloids, the physics of colloids, what they want to look at is, sometimes when you get these particles suspended in the solution, they then tend to, they can start to form larger crystals themselves. And what they want to understand is, without gravity in space, how do these crystals tend to form, and then how can we observe their structure. And this particular experiment actually has the different solutions, these colloidal solutions, in a little carousel that will be moving around in the experiment itself, and it'll actually use a laser to shine light through, it has a transparent part of the experiment, to shine a laser through it, and then to look at the diffraction pattern of those, of that laser, and also it will be taking pictures at the same time of those crystals themselves and to see how they form. And I don't fully understand the use of those type of materials, but what I've been used, that they can be used in the future for filters, if they can grow some of these proteins, so it's a whole new idea of materials that might be used in the future, whether on Earth or in space.
We made mention a moment ago that you've been training to do a space walk with your Commander out of the Docking Compartment of the station; it'll be your first ever space walk. Tell me about the jobs that are on the schedule-why are you and Yury going outside?
OK. We have, basically there are three types of equipment that we'll be taking out with us, and we'll be in the Orlan, or the Russian spacesuits. Yury and I are supposed to take out a couple of, in Russian they're called ukladka, and it's basically an assembly or a packet of things to bring with us. One is a set of deflectors that will be installed on the aft end, or back end, of the Service Module. And these are deflectors that will go over the thrusters, where the thrusters fire on the Service Module, and that's to protect outside of the Service Module and other things on space station, it's to better deflect the materials that come out of those thrusters, from affecting other parts of space station. The second group of items we'll be taking out are experiments, and these are little, usually they're like little cassettes, or little boxes, that have, that you attach to an outside portion of space station. Then we will open it and carefully not want to touch the material that's inside of the boxes, so it's kind of like a box that you open up and inside will be different materials that are designed to be exposed to atomic oxygen and other things in space to see their, the reactions and several months later there'll be a space walk to go back and to retrieve those experiments and eventually bring them back to Earth. And so our main job's to go out and to install them-there'll be some that actually had already been previously installed, and our job will be to remove those and bring those back. The third part of equipment that we'll be installing are some ham radio antennas that will be installed on the back end of the Service Module. There're four antennas that we'll be installing, kind of at a…equidistance apart.
Within a week or so of that, Yury is to make another space walk with Carl. When they go outside, what is your job inside?
Inside [the] main job is to help them during their walk to make sure that…that to go through the procedure, to keep track of them, to keep the cameras, to use whatever cameras we can on station to monitor their progress; if they have any questions about how something's supposed to be installed or moved or what the next procedure is, I'll facilitate that-they will also have communication with the ground. I'll also, in helping them as well, I'll be trying to maintain monitoring all the systems on board station. Of course the ground is helping us as well, and it gets back to a team, is that we're all working as a team with the main goal is producing what and monitoring and to getting done what they want to do on their space walk. Their, one of their main goals is to reposition it's called a Strela, or it's essentially, it's a small crane, a manual crane, that's used to move people around station, and they'll be moving that from one end of space station to the other. And so in general, keeping the communications on; monitoring their progress; if there was any type of emergency, then it would be in a different, I'd be in a different mode to help them get in as quick as possible; and then, if need be, to repressurize a compartment when they come back in. And to communicate with the ground and if anything were to happen on station that keep them informed.
Now, as we talk there is still some discussion of adding another space walk or two later on in your mission, after the 8A mission, which would be space walks done out of the American airlock. What would be on the agenda for these space walks, if they occur?
Essentially, there's three I guess in, human beings we all like to think [in] groups of three, but there's three kind of groups of things, main ideas, that we could, would probably come up. There may be a list of, there's a list of things that we want to accomplish during 8A; if for some reason that some of the space walks take longer than usual, if they weren't able to finish all the things that they wanted to during those space walks when the space shuttle was docked, that-all the tasks are prioritized you can bet that, let's say, on the docked time when 8A comes up all the space walks they do are prioritized such that the first EVA's going to do the most important tasks and so on, and so by the last EVA some of it will be cleanup, some of it will be preparing for the next mission that comes up-and some of those will be things that if they just don't, they weren't able to get done during 8A maybe that'll fall into something that we need to do. It may be as simple as moving equipment outside, it may be as simple as taking equipment out and getting it ready for the next mission that comes up. So that's one group of things, is to do some things that we already know we have to get done to do. Other groups of items could be maintenance type. Let's say if a box outside needs replacement, then we would go outside and replace that box, or it needs to do some other type of repair work, we would go out and do that. So that's kind of a task that we somewhat train for but [we're] not exactly sure what box will need to be replaced. And the other task that might come up would be, let's say, not tasks that weren't done on a previous mission but, let's say, it just came up that we found out that UF-2, before they come up, they really want something done before they come up and do a space walk that they want done. And so, that would be, again, to pre-position perhaps some equipment and get ready for them to come up.
Let's talk about the shuttle visit you know you're going to receive, the assembly mission 8A, which delivers the S0 truss and the Mobile Transporter. For starters, give us a brief description of what those components are, and what their importance is in the assembly of the station.
One thing that's really interesting about 8A and bringing up the S0 truss is that we already know that there's been a tremendous amount of work and successful work that's been done with the Big Arm, or the SSRMS. This mission, I think, will raise the bar even higher, because this will be a mission, will be the first time where we actually have people on the space station arm and using the space station arm to position people around to do different tasks on the S0, which I'll describe right now. The S0, basically, is if you think of it in two ways not only is it the first structural cross-element of the truss-if you remember seeing space station, it has a longitudinal axis [that] has most of the modules that are lined up, and crossways, if you see pictures of assembly complete, you see the solar arrays at the end of this big latticework of metal, and that's what we call the truss-the S0 is the first segment that comes up that is crossways on the Lab. And so structurally it's kind of like the backbone of the truss that will be installed on the Lab. Second of all, the S0 will bring up some equipment on board that will allow the American segment, or American side, of the space station to determine its own attitude, and also to determine its rate. Right now we have computers on the American segment that can control the attitude of station, but we get all of our attitude data, meaning how the space station is positioned in space and where it's positioned in space, from the Russian segment. So the Russian segment provides us that information. It'll be the first time that we'll be able to do that by ourselves on space station. It'll have a GP, one of the things it'll have are GPS antennas that will be able to not only determine a state vector or a position and a velocity and acceleration in space, but also an attitude of space station while it's flying. So if you think of it structurally and also the avionics or the black boxes that, the other equipment that will come up on S0. Right now there are four space walks scheduled for, in the installation of the S0 truss, and if you think of a big picture, any time you install something, in general we're going to be using the Big Arm, so myself and Ellen Ochoa will be grappling the S0 truss in the space shuttle payload bay picking it up out of the payload-and it basically takes up just about the entire payload bay of the shuttle-pick it up, move it over to the port side, and eventually install it on the top of the Lab. And then there'll be some preliminary mechanical connections that are made just to hold it temporarily basically, on space station. The first space walk-and actually they'll be waiting while we do that, while we are in, installing the S0 truss we'll actually have the two space walkers Steve Smith and Rex Walheim, will be waiting in the airlock while we do that and waiting for their "go" that it's temporarily installed, and then they go out the hatch. And there's some, there's some what we call struts, but these are more, these are to better structurally attach the S0 truss to the Laboratory we have these struts, and there's four struts that basically are attached. There're two in the front and two in the back of the S0 that go to the Lab, and those have to be attached. Right now, the exact order of what they do first, but if you can think of it in general, we have mechanical connections that need to be made to, to fix the S0 truss to the Lab; there's also umbilicals that need to be connected, and these are the for power to some of the equipment that we have on the S0 truss, it's also data to some of the computers that we have in the S0 truss, there's also video that we'll have, video channels that will eventually go to the Mobile Transporter and to the Mobile Base System that comes up on a later mission. So it's basically fixing the S0 truss to get it to where then space walkers can climb all over the S0 truss wherever they want to without any danger of moving it, and also to get all the connections that we need. There's a time limit in attaching the S0 truss, because there's equipment, once we take it out of the payload bay, we undo a remote umbilical that powers some of this equipment while it's in the space shuttle payload bay; once we take it out of the payload bay then there's a clock that starts ticking that says we need to get power to this equipment before or else the S, we have the chance of losing some of the equipment on S0. So that's another constraint that we have to get these umbilicals attached.
Are you going to be busy running the station arm for all four of the space walks?
What we did is we're splitting up much like I said before. In any type of team, you split up the responsibilities and that's what we've done. My main responsibility will be working the robot arm and working with Ellen on installation of the S0 and EVA 1, which will be on the same day, and then EVA 3. Carl's main responsibility will be working the arm, working EVA 2 and EVA 4. And when we're not working the arm, our responsibility will be helping the space walkers get in and out of the airlock on space station.
After that mission's done, later on in your flight, you are going to be on hand to greet a taxi crew that's going to bring a new Soyuz spacecraft to the station. What activities occur on board the station while the taxi crew is there, other than swapping seat liners so that they can take the old one home?
Right. A lot of it depends upon when they come up. If they come up during a time when we have other things scheduled, I think generally what they'll try to do is, we'll have the taxi crew, will most likely have their own schedule or list of tasks that they want to do themselves; some of the things we'll be doing together. Certainly it'll be great having another crew visiting and we'll be able to share stories, share meals together. And so they will probably have a, some of the timeline we'll be doing things together, but most of the timeline they will probably have some of their own events that they need, that they want to accomplish because they've trained on some experiments, usually in addition to whatever experiments that will already be ongoing. And we'll be continuing to do the experiments that we already have on board space station.
It's a very busy time for the three of you during your time up there. As we talk about that today, it's been roughly a year since the first permanent residents of the ISS arrived on orbit. An awful lot has happened in that year, and now we've gotten to the point where we're swapping out crews without any trouble, conducting science on board the station, and the station itself has been built up to be virtually self-sufficient. Finally, Dan, give me your perspective, your thoughts on where it is that you see the International Space Station program taking us in the future-in the short term of your mission and beyond, as well as in the long term.
I think I touched on this in the beginning a little bit but to me, my personal feeling is that a lot of the progress that we're making has, we're accomplishing just working together with all the other countries building space station. To have a permanent presence in space of humans in space, is very important-it's going to be the only way that we can get back to the moon and on to Mars. And on the other side, the international side, the International Space Station, you know, to me the fact that "international" is the first word in ISS is no coincidence. I think that, to me, is one of the most important aspects of this whole venture is learning to work together. There's so many cultural differences that we have, and to me it's just, it's so important that we continue to work together because as we've seen with space station, I mean, there were a lot of doubts many years ago whether we'd be able, ever be able to pull this off. I remember before the launch of the FGB there [were] doubts of when it would launch, and then it was the Service Module, when it will launch, and now in the past year the rate has just been incredible-it almost, it's almost like the floodgates have opened as far as putting space station up there. And it's not to say that we're not going to have challenges in the future-I think we're going to have big challenges on just about every mission. When you look at every mission coming up, there's something new that we're going to be doing, and some aspect that's going to be new about space station. So, and as we do that we continue to learn, we continue to grow, and as, and as well as all the experiments that we do on space station itself. So, to me, personally, the international aspect of the International Space Station is truly the most important in where it's continue, we're going to continue to learn how to work together.