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STS-113 Mission and Expedition Crew
Question and Answer Board

Joanna from Boca Raton
The upcoming launch 11-11-02 is scheduled for the "middle of the night" launch. If I understand correctly, I think the astronauts are "prepared" many hours before the liftoff. When do you get that day's sleep in?
That's a great question. "Sleep shifting" is what we call it when we adjust our sleep hours to fit the launch time. And there's a good team of doctors at NASA who figure out how you should go about doing that sleep shifting. But it basically involves, when the crew goes into quarantine about a week before launch, then there's therapy involved with bright lights so that your biorhythms get adjusted. If you have a launch that is really far off, which could be almost 12 hours from your normal sleep time, you might start sleep shifting a week before you go into quarantine. The commander might schedule the last week of training so that you start sleep shifting early. For example, if you need to get up at 3:00 in the afternoon, it wouldn't make any sense to schedule a simulator at 9:00 in the morning if on launch day you're getting up at 3:00 in the afternoon. So they try to work your schedule to get you adjusted to it. Sleep shifting is not different from jet lag. It's the same phenomenon if you travel to Europe or Russia, it takes a while to get your body clock adjusted.
Mark from Herington
How much more dramatic are the spacewalks from the P1 than the typical ISS spacewalks, pertaining especially to the views?
Right. Of course, I didn't get to do a spacewalk, I was training to do one and the guys stayed healthy and they got the mission done, that's the main thing. I think the views on the spacewalks are phenomenal, especially now that they have the helmet-mounted camera on the space walkers, you can just kind of enjoy what they see out there. It's very spectacular. Not just from the P1 truss, but some of the arm rides that the crew has taken over the lab and stuff is some beautiful views. So it's just spectacular.
Sarah from Antioch
Do you get along together easily?
Well it's really neat being involved with a crew, and you definitely get to know each other very well, we're in training together for about a year. And during that time it gets pretty hard to hide your true self, and so they get to know your strengths and weaknesses, and how your personality is. And you get to know each other so well that you can kind of tell what the other person is thinking without them even opening their mouth. So that's a neat part of being on a crew. Another part of that question is how the crews operate, you know you've got that shuttle crew, which may be a visiting crew, bringing up a piece of hardware and stuff, and then you've got a resident crew living on the space station already. It's kind of like you're going to their house; you don't want to mess anything up, you want to be careful when you're there, but the crews that I've been associated with have been very gracious hosts and they've invited us to make ourselves at home and get the job done.
Abby from Atlanta
How is the training different for the two different kinds of crews? And how does Russian training fit in?
Good question. The difference in training for short duration -- a 12-day shuttle flight -- and training for a six-month space station long duration flight it's different in that the station crews do a lot more skills-based training -- they may not specifically train every task they're going to do for the whole six months because it would take years to do all that, especially when some of the tasks, you need to train several times to make sure you understand it completely. So they have skills-based training more based on their knowledge, and how to operate certain pieces of equipment, and they're up there for the long haul. Of course they have the same kind of emergency procedures training that a shuttle crew would have, only for their vehicle. So that's kind of the difference. The Russian segment training of course is conducted over in Star City, near Moscow, and usually the crew takes trips over there for several weeks at a time to do Russian segment training. The training over there is very good, I've been through that training for my first flight, we went over there and trained on the FGB, which is what we mated the Node to on STS-88, and the Russian training was very good, it seemed to be very well thought out, and they had good mock-ups and excellent instructors.
Host: Is there a psychological element in a short version versus a long mission?
Astronaut: There is. Like we've already mentioned, it's more of a sprint on a shuttle flight. You're getting up there and you have this hectic pace to get everything done you can possibly get done in 12 days. You'd kill yourself if you tried to do that for six months. Station crews, I don't think they have an easy life up there, but they need to be very careful that they get all their exercise, and get plenty of sleep, and maintain not a surge operation but more of a continuous, long duration kind of outlook to what they're doing up there. There's also the mental aspect, you asked about the psychology, the mental aspect with any long-term deployment it's like we do in the military, I've been gone for seven months from my family, and eight months another time, and so there's separation feeling also fits in there. Fortunately NASA has provided good communications facilities so you can talk to your family back on planet Earth and keep in touch with what's going on.

Host: I understand also that fresh food is something special.
Astronaut: Right. Fresh food, the guys are very happy when the shuttle comes up with some fresh food. It's a real treat for them. They also have Progress vehicles coming up from Kazakhstan that bring fresh food items.
Marcus from Kingston
Are any of the crew members expected to be bilingual? If the crew member has a hard time learning Russian or English, are they taken off the crew?
There are a surprising number of bilingual astronauts. I've been very impressed since I've been in NASA with the level of education of the astronaut office. I'm certainly not bilingual but I'm just kind of overwhelmed by all the talents that the folks do have. Some of them speak three or four languages. Of course all the international astronauts have to speak a certain amount of English just to operate while they're in Houston and get their training. If they have a hard time learning Russian, for example, say it was a long-duration crew member assigned with a Russian, the solution to that would be just a little more training, and maybe spending more time with their Russian counterpart. There hasn't been too much of a difficulty. I've had some Russian training, but fortunately the Russian I had on my STS-88 crew with me, he spoke excellent English, so we were able to communicate very well.
Elline from Montreal
This is weird but how do you cut your hair in space? On a long trip like on ISS? Do you let it all grow out or do you cut it somehow?
Well as she can see, I don't have too much to worry about in the hair department! On a two-week trip, for a 12-day mission, I just let it grow. But if I was up there for six months, I would have to, being the good Marine that I am, I'd try and get a haircut once a week whether I need it or not. They do give each other haircuts up there, and of course they have to be very careful with the hair, you wouldn't want it floating around loose, I know they go to a certain place in the space station where there are air filters, and they can cut their hair in front of those filters, and I think they also use a vacuum to kind of make sure that no hair gets loose and could damage some of the equipment.
Gwen from Houston
How are the ISS Expedition crews chosen? Do the astronauts request to be considered for a position?
I think they do. I think all the astronauts flying long duration flights pretty much volunteer for that, they're interested in living in space a long time. You know, we've talked about some of the hardships of long duration flight, but you know one of the benefits in my mind would be just the time to kind of enjoy the experience of living in space. The Shuttle missions are enjoyable from the aspect of you get a lot accomplished, and you're up there doing a job, it's certainly not a lot of free time to look out the window or take pictures or just kind of study the geography of the planet that we live on. So I think one of the appeals for an astronaut of the long duration flight is the opportunity to do some of those things. And just experience living in space for a longer time. There are also some size restrictions right now, we're using the Soyuz capsules currently for lifeboats, and not all of the astronauts fit in the Soyuz. So they are chosen based on size also, the ones that fit have a chance to go.
Leonard from Oceanside
What happens if a crew member gets sick?
That's a great question because that's something that we have to consider very carefully. And when we're planning the shuttle missions, we always have to have, for every critical task, we have to have two crew members trained on a task so that if one of them does get sick the other crew member can take over and make sure the mission still gets accomplished. Aboard the shuttle we carry a good supply of medicine, different bandages, medical type hardware, and we always have a flight surgeon on console down in Mission Control Center in Houston. And if a medical emergency were to happen, then we could have a private medical conference with the doctor, and he'll tell us which drugs to administer. There's a couple of crew members on each shuttle crew trained to administer, give shots, basic medical stuff. And they would do whatever the doctor instructs. On the International Space Station, they have the same equipment, better training -- all the members of the crew are EMTs, mostly medical technicians -- and if there's a really bad problem they might have to get in the lifeboat and come back to planet Earth. If it was severe enough. They'll try to treat it in space, though.
Evan from Des Moines
When an astronaut is on the station for several months, who takes care of their families on Earth?
That's a great question. Just like we were talking about a military deployment, it's kind of the same problem. When I went over to Japan for six months, and Korea, and the Philippines, my wife stayed behind in South Carolina, and there's a family support network. Each astronaut is assigned a crew support astronaut which is another member of the astronaut office who checks on their families, helps their spouses come up to the Mission Control Center if there's going to be a private family conference, helps out with what they can getting the kids inside and whatever needs to be taken care of. So we have a very strong support program at NASA to make sure that the astronauts that are living on the space station don't have to worry about whether their families are being cared for. They can focus on doing their mission. On a shuttle mission, it's usually once or maybe twice a mission that you get a chance to do that. On the station there's kind of a couple different ways to gather in addition to calling them, there's also talking to them by radio, you can send e-mail back and forth, that sort of thing, so I think it's just as much as the schedule allows to talk to their families.
Greg from Omaha
It seems that astronauts used to be pilots or career military officers. Now we are seeing astronauts that have varied backgrounds and training. With this in mind, is there any way for a person to become trained or educated so that they can maximize their opportunities to become a member of the crew on a shuttle mission either in the short-term or long-term future?
That's a great question! I of course am a career military officer but many of my friends, astronauts I serve with, have come through different routes. If he really wanted an idea, he could go of course to the NASA Web site and look at their biographies and kind of see some of the other things that folks have done besides been a military test pilot. I will tell you that education is number one with NASA, they're looking for advanced degrees hopefully, and the other part of that is experience. They want professional experience, engineering, science, medicine, and that sort of thing. So those are some of the other things they're looking for. And the interview process is a chance for folks to describe other experiences that they've had, and I'll just tell you that there's a wide variety and probably those biographies are a good reference for Greg to look at and see what other people have done. A lot of the commanders and pilots are career military, but also the mission specialist, for example on STS-113, the two guys that are going to be doing the spacewalks are also career military pilots. So it just kind of depends.
Mark from Lincoln Park, Michigan
Is it possible to view a launch from the ISS?
It is and I think they have some good pictures and maybe we’ll able to throw one up of what it looks like when the space station goes over head. Of course it has to go over head very close to the ground track to come over Florida so the viewing is possible.
Marylou from Dubuque
Can the crew steer the space station to avoid being hit by space debris or meteors?
They can, that’s a great question, and of course the space debris is being tracked by the folks in Colorado Springs and if they see that there is a possibility of collision they will boost the station just slightly to change its orbit to avoid the collision.
James Kelley from Cananduagia
Can you tell me about the on-orbit software?
The software we use is pretty similar to the software that people use at their desks at work. There is some unique software for the rendezvous and some of the robotics work we do up there. Most of the other software is pretty standard.
Ken from Bristol, United Kingdom
While in orbit, does the shuttle and space station always stay the correct way up?
Great question and of course that depends on your idea of the correct way up. Especially from the U.K. where they drive on the wrong side of the road you know...a little humor there. The traditional airplane, what we call the local vertical horizontal airplane mode of flying around is not the attitude that we normally maintain. The attitudes are selected for the station based on charging the batteries, formal considerations and also thermal considerations on shuttle.
Charlie from Walden, New York
I see pictures that show laptop computers in use during flights. What type of laptops do the crew use, and what is the operating system. Are either products "out of the box," or are the modified for NASA use?
We talked a little about this already. They use Windows up there, and they are out-of-box computers. Some of the computers we use are adapted to fit into a docking station but basically are off the shelf computers.
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center