Interview: Carl Walz
International Space Station Expedition Four Crew Interviews with
Flight Engineer Carl Walz.
Crew Interviews with Carl Walz, Flight Engineer 1 on the fourth
expeditionary crew to the International Space Station. Carl, as
you prepare to take off on a five-month-long spaceflight, tell me
how you see the mission-what are you and your crewmates being sent
to orbit to accomplish?
A: Well we're
going to go and fly for a really long time, and then on the plan
we have some science activities that we'll be doing, kicking those
off pretty much right away-logistics activities where we're going
to stow the items that come up during the UF-1 flight, during the
Progress that'll arrive, and then we have checkout activities that
we'll be doing with the new software that we'll get prior to the
8A flight, so we'll be checking out a complete new set of command
and control software…be the test engineers, if you will, for
that. Also test engineers for how that affects the robotic arm,
and then construction engineers as we install the S0 truss that
comes up on the 8A flight. And then finishing that up we have the
UF-2 flight that will arrive and we'll assist in the installation
of the Mobile Base System…that'll attach to the Mobile Transporter.
So we have a lot of activities-science, engineering, tests-and oh,
it'll keep us pretty busy, I think, during the five months.
do you see yourself on this mission-are you a scientist, or a space
explorer, or something else entirely?
Well I see
myself somewhere between a test engineer and a maintenance man,
I guess. We'll spend a lot of time testing out systems making sure
that they're working right; we'll be using those systems during
the flight, and then the other thing that I failed to mention previously
is that we're going to be maintaining systems on board the station,
upgrading, we're going to install new solid-state memory units in
all the command and control MDMs, and we'll be reconditioning the
TVIS, the treadmill that we use for exercise, we'll be replacing
six of the electrical outlets on the space station, so we just,
we have a lot of different items that we'll be doing on board.
a range of different kinds of work that you've got to do…different
qualifications that you and your crewmates have to have to pull
it off. How did you get to be a person that had that sort of background?
What did you do to become a guy who was "astronaut material"?
Well, you know…I
think I started off when I was very young watching the Mercury and
the Gemini flights, and, of course, the Apollo flights and you know,
people, I grew up in Ohio, so John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, you know, were big heroes for me because not only were they astronauts they
were Ohioans. And then I got involved in the Air Force and in the
flight test business where a lot of our flight test engineers-El
Onizuka, Jerry Ross-came out of the Air Force from the flight test
engineering field. And so, I sort of have tried to follow in their
footsteps. And then through the missions I've developed, in my previous
missions developed a lot of skills, and then through five, almost
five years of training for this flight, of course, developed a whole
new set of skills ranging from language to operating, you know,
Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
Air Force career began after you graduated from college, right?
You were not an ROTC student or…
you were? Tell me about it.
I was an ROTC
student but then after I was commissioned after the end of my, when
I got my bachelor's degree, I took a two-year delay and got my master's
degree and then came on active duty. So there's a little bit of
time when I was inactive reserve and then I've been on active duty
ever since, since 1979.
touched on this a moment ago; I'll ask you expand. You talked about
John Glenn and Neil Armstrong being heroes. Why did you want to be an astronaut?
Well, I think
the astronaut business is sort of a…it combines engineering,
it combines science, and it combines operations in this new and
exciting frontier of space. And, so back when I was in college,
you know, I was thinking about that and that sort of drove me into
a science major and it also drove me into the Air Force, and then
looking out at the Air Force and who was being selected for space
shuttle crews sort of led me into the test engineering. So it's
a, sort of been an iterative process, but it's worked out.
you, for you, then, it's something that really got started for you
when you were in college?
Well, I think
college was an enabler; you know, it's given me the background necessary
to be selected. But I think I really found the path once I was in
the Air Force and started looking around and meeting people who
had come to JSC for selection interviews, and trying to follow in
some of those the people that you look and, at your own past and
say that they're the significant influences on your life?
I think that, you know, certainly those people were tremendous influences…that
sort of pointed me in the right direction but, you know, if you
go back even farther again to people that really made a difference,
of course…my parents, who really helped enable me to do well
in school, provided the opportunities, the good, stable home life;
my high school teachers, you know, especially my physics teacher,
Mr. Eich, who made science really interesting and, you know, sparked
my curiosity; my physics professors in college, of course, you know,
were very supportive and helped; and, then of course my family,
too, has, my wife [and] my kids have been big supporters here, keeping
me going, especially this last five years that have been, you know,
a tremendous challenge for us.
talk about that. You and Dan Bursch each have three previous flights
to your credit, which gives you a combined experience of about two
months in space, but now you're looking at a flight that's going
to keep you in orbit for five months. What are the big differences
in the way you've gone about preparing yourself for such a different
kind of mission?
Well, of course,
you know, the training has…sort of, the amount of training
has tripled, maybe quadrupled as we've not only had to worry about
the traditional things that we've done on our previous missions
plus add on the Russian segment station, the Soyuz, and then all
the other Russian EVA stuff, and that adds on to our U.S. EVA activities
that we've been learning about, and the SSRMS and Canada. So it's
been a tremendous volume of work, and, you know, we've tried to
really compartmentalize but we've had a lot of time also. So, we've
been training for a long time and trying to keep track of all these
systems. I think the other thing that we've prepared for, we spent
more time thinking about how best to psychologically prepare not
only for ourselves but for our families. One thing that's helped
us is that we've traveled so much during this training whereas in
the past we haven't done a lot of traveling during our training
flow, and so it's two weeks of a typical spaceflight seems like
a lot, you know, we're usually gone five, six, up to eight weeks
at a time for training in Russia, and so it's like a mini-flight.
And so we've kind of been doing this all along. And so now we just
have to take a little bit more care because we know it's going to
be a little bit longer.
the question of how long you've been at this, I don't know if it's…you
may be the longest-training crew in the history of American spaceflight
by the time you fly. Do you think that gives you an advantage in,
for the three of you, once you arrive in orbit, for having spent
that much time together getting prepared?
I think it
will be an advantage because, you know, we'll know each other really
well, and, you know…we'll know pretty much what each other
is thinking because we've been at this so long together. So I'd
say we have a tremendous history, we have a great relationship,
and so I think it'll help our activities to go much more smoothly,
during the flight.
talk about your flight. Flight Engineer 1 is your title-tell me
what you're going to be doing while you're in space. What are your
responsibilities as a member of this crew?
Well, as a
member of this crew, you know, we pretty much share responsibilities;
about the only thing where I have a specific location on the space
station is the left seat of the Soyuz where I'm the Flight Engineer,
and my training is specific for if we would ever have to do a reentry
in a Soyuz, I'm responsible for the Soyuz computers and the reentry
system, the engines and the docking system. So those are, so that's
where we've really specialized. I think for the rest of the station
systems we've been fairly evenly trained, so as far as robotics,
as far as EVA, we've pretty much all received about the equal training.
flight's going to begin in the shuttle Endeavour when Dom Gorie
and his crew deliver you to the space station. The first time station
crews were swapped out it was done one at a time over several days;
in August, the Expedition Three crewmembers all moved onto the station
all on the same day. How's the exchange going to be handled between
Expedition Three and you, and what's the rationale for selecting
one method or the other?
Well, the first
crew exchange was driven due to their flight program: they were
doing a number of EVAs out of the shuttle airlock and the upcoming
station crew was involved in those EVAs. And so they couldn't transfer
early, and so they had that staged handover, which, you know, was
I think a relatively difficult thing to do. With Expedition Two
to Three they did it all pretty much on the same day-we're going
to be doing the same thing. And that way what you do is you get
a clear delineation of who are the station residents versus who
are the returning crew, and so you don't have sort of a mixture.
But it was the Expedition Two way of doing, way of transferring
crewmembers was really driven by the requirements of their flight
once you're on board it's scheduled to take four, five days to unload
the supplies that are coming to the station in the cargo carrier
Raffaello, as well as other supplies in the shuttle middeck. Can
you describe for us what the kinds of supplies and logistics that
are going to be involved, and what you'll be doing as all this material
is delivered onto the station.
Well, I'm one
of the loadmasters. So Linda Godwin and I will be working together
to make sure that all the cargo comes off of Raffaello and then
all the cargo that's going back down gets onto Raffaello. And so
it's like moving into a house where the old occupant is moving out,
you're moving in, but you're using one truck. And so you have to
make sure that you don't get your boxes mixed up. And so we'll be
working very hard to make sure that we don't do that. And then Frank
Culbertson and his crew are going to have to help us out by getting
their pre-packed items ready to go, and so as the upcoming boxes
come off, you know, Frank's boxes will come in, and so it'll be
kind of a constant logistical activity as we make sure that everything
coming up comes up, everything going down gets stowed. The things
we're bringing up of course food, hygiene supplies, clothes for
five months for our three crewmembers, and then also things like
the solid-state memory for the command and control computers, the
outlets that we'll be installing-just a variety of pieces of equipment
that we'll be working with during our stay in orbit. And of course
science experiments: we'll be bringing up some new science experiments,
we'll be refurbishing old experiments. For example, Frank's doing
a cell biology experiment, and I'll be doing the, sort of the second
part of that, and so his samples will come on board to go home,
my samples will be coming up.
time scheduled during the docked phase of STS-108 for what is called
handover, and I'm guessing that this amounts to more than just getting
the nickel tour of the space, of the building, if you will; give
me a sense of what it is that you folks do and talk about during
this period. How does it help you get off to a good start once Culbertson
and his crew go home?
we're going to do during that handover period is to find out how
the station is really operating. You know, first we'll start off
with where things are stowed, you know because we don't really have
a comprehensive model, a mock-up, that really represents the station,
either here or in Russia. So, you know, the only unit to really
[train on] is the one that's in space. And so we will go and look
to find all the different items that we need on a day-to-day basis.
And then we'll go with each piece of equipment that we use on a
day-to-day basis, like the treadmill: you know, how does it work,
what are the idiosyncrasies to find out about; here's the SSRMS-you
know, how best to operate that. And so, we'll go system by systems
and find out, you know, what things are different than what we were
told on the ground.
like to try to see if I can get you to help us understand better
what life is like, day-to-day, for a member of the space station
crew on a long-duration mission. If there's such a thing as a normal
day on board a space station, what do you expect it will be like?
you know, we've touched on all the different things that we'll be
doing, and so I think things that are constant, that we will see
every morning, is we will wake up to the morning mail, and we'll
have our daily plan laid out for us, which we will review, and then
we will have a telecon with the Mission Control and we will discuss
this daily plan, make sure that we understand what the ground wants
us to do, and then we'll go forth and execute that. Now, included
every day will be exercise, either on the treadmill or on the exercise
bike that we have up there, or on the resistance device-it's sort
of like a Soloflex in space. But what we found out is the combination
of the treadmill, the bike, and this resistance exercise has been
very, very good for the crewmembers and the last two crews that
have come down have come down in excellent shape. So, planning,
exercise, and of course meals-you know, we'll have three meals plus
a snack-and then, you know, the work that we do…whether it
be operating the arm-and that usually every Thursday will be "arm
day"-so we'll be driving the robot arm checking it out; we
have PAO activities, I think, Tuesdays and Thursdays as well; so,
so we have those things, and, then our science experiments. Some
are front-loaded, in the beginning of the mission, some every month.
So…but it's that planning conference, exercise, food, and then
whatever work comes up.
talk about different kinds of activities during your mission, especially,
as you've just mentioned, during those first few weeks after Endeavour
leaves, your schedule calls for attention to be on station science.
How do you see the space station's scientific mission being advanced
during your five months in orbit?
continue the work that Expedition 3 started with cellular biology
experiments; we also have a plant growth experiment where we'll
actually go and harvest plants; we have some…human experiments that
we'll be participating in-these are similar to ones that Expedition
Two and Expedition Three are participating in-and so for the human
experiments, we will be increasing the number of subjects. And so
when the experimenters gather their data they'll be able to make
some better assumptions based on a, you know, bigger value of participants.
And so, I think the culmination of our participation plus Expedition
Two, Three, Four, Five, will allow us to really make some headway
and get some answers to some of the scientific questions.
are you seeing your scientific mission as an extension, or an expansion,
of what's come before you?
I think it'll
be an expansion. I think we'll have some additional work that we'll
be doing on orbit plus a continuation of the human experiments and
the cell biology. But it'll just keep getting a little bit bigger
me about some of the investigations. You've got nearly thirty different
ones, I think, during your whole time on board-what different areas
of science are going to be represented in the research program here?
Well, we have
the cellular biology which is a local program here at JSC, and so
we'll be growing different cell lines in space; I think I'll have
up to twenty-four different samples that we'll be growing during
a, I think about a fourteen-day period at the beginning of the mission.
And this is an experiment similar to what Frank's doing now. And
we hope to improve our understanding of how cells grow in space,
and understand also more about the cellular structure because, in
space, these cells actually grow in three dimensions, where on the
ground they grow in a plane. And so, when they grow in three dimensions
the cells can get, they can build little structures and be more
representative of cells in the body. And so it's an exciting program,
and we're looking forward to that. And then also we have our human
experiments-we're going to be looking at renal stone formation-or,
hopefully, no renal stone formation-but the things that we might
use as countermeasures further down the line. That pulmonary function
in space, and also pulmonary function before and after EVAs to see
if there's an effect of working at a much lower pressure when we
work in our spacesuits and see how that affects our, you know, our
pulmonary function. So, it's sort of a smorgasbord of activities.
do you feel about being the lab rat?
Well, I think
that's something that, you know, that…we've been human subjects
since we started as astronauts, and so this is just a continuation
of that with different experiments, and I guess the difference is,
of course, these experiments extend for six months before the flight,
during the flight, and then, of course, afterwards.
a healthy portion of your time on board spent working on these scientific
experiments each week. Apart from being the subject of the experiment,
what is it that you actually do on board to conduct these other
experiments and investigations? What does your job entail?
like a lab technician: we'll be performing media exchanges for samples,
we'll be checking to ensure that the samples are growing as planned,
we'll report to the ground if there're any anomalies, we have status
checks to perform every day. So, it's just, once we get things started,
to make sure everything progresses per the timeline, and then at
the end to make sure that we terminate the experiment properly so
that when we bring the samples home, the scientists'll be able to
make the proper evaluations.
part of your training for this mission you're also training for
a spacewalk, to be conducted along with your Commander, out of the
station's Docking Compartment. You have spacewalk experience, about
seven hours worth of spacewalking experience, from your first shuttle
flight; are there some serious challenges involved in transferring
the experience that you have-shuttle spacewalking-into space station
Well, I think,
you know, we'll be doing these our first two spacewalks in the Orlan
spacesuit, which is the Russian spacesuit, which is an excellent
spacesuit, and we've received tremendous training on that spacesuit
in Russia. I think that we'll be working at a little bit higher
pressure in the Orlan suit, and so it'll be a little bit stiffer,
and so that'll be a physical challenge. But once we get out and
begin our work, it's very similar to the work that we've done in
the EMU. So, and we train in the same kind of environment, under
water, so a lot of the things we do in the EMU is easily transferred
to working in the Orlan.
talk about the spacewalk. Describe the jobs that are on the schedule
for you and Yuri during your spacewalk.
Well, the spacewalk
that Yuri and I will do is to move the first Strela cargo boom,
which came up during the 2A.2a flight, and we're going to move that
from the PMA to the Docking Compartment. And so, we will use the
Strela that comes up in the Docking Compartment to drive us over
from the Docking Compartment to the PMA, sort of lash the second
Strela on, and then bring it over. So it should be a very visually
interesting EVA because I'll be hanging at the end of the Strela,
sort of being transferred in free space, with this other large structure.
So I think it's going to be very exciting. And then once that's
complete we'll be doing a sample change-out…we also have science
outside of the ISS. And so we'll be changing out one of those samples.
It's called a Komplast.
a week or so Yuri is going to make another spacewalk, this time
with Dan. Tell me what they're going to be doing during that spacewalk,
and what do you do inside while they're working outside?
Well, Dan and
Yuri will be installing some gas deflector units onto the engines
of the Service Module, and these are to try to keep the gaseous
by-products from those engines from getting on the exterior of the
Service Module. If you remember pictures of the Mir station, there
were like deposits, kind of looked orangy-browny on the outside,
and we're trying to keep that from happening. So we have these gas
deflectors. We're also, Dan's going to, and Yuri, are going to install
ham radio antennas so we have four of those around the circumference
of the Service Module. And then we also have some, let's see, they're
again, external science experiments that will be installed on the
way back in. So it's quite a bit of outfitting that they'll be doing,
and then on the inside I'll be helping them to get into their spacesuits,
I'll be closing hatches, making sure that all the hatches are sealed
and ready, and then probably try to sneak a peek at what they're
doing using some of our external cameras on the SSRMS.
understand that at the time that we're talking there's still some
discussion about adding another spacewalk or two later on in your
mission, after the S0 truss arrives, and those would be EVAs done
in the American spacesuits out of the new airlock. What would be
on the agenda for those EVAs?
Well, as you
know, the S0 truss is a huge piece of truss work-it's the first
piece of the external truss that will be attached to the U.S. Lab,
and it's sort of the foundation from which that external truss will
grow. And there's a tremendous amount of work that has to be done.
And so the shuttle crew will be performing a number of those activities
and if they run out of time to complete those, we will go out-Dan
and I, or Yuri and I-will go out and we'll complete the outfitting
of the S0. Things like there's a CETA spur which connects the airlock
to the S0 to allow easy translation; you know, we would be installing
that [and] some other things…there's an external charged particle
detector we would install that also put it in its operating position.
So these kind of things, we would just do just to help the shuttle
crew out, I guess.
turn our attention to that shuttle visit you'll receive during your
mission. The station assembly mission 8A delivers the S0 truss and
the Mobile Transporter. For starters, can you describe what those
components are, and explain their importance in the assembly and
operation of the station.
Well, the S0
is sort of the switching hub for all the electricity that will come
from the external solar arrays once the complete truss structure
is assembled. And so, and it also is the hub of the U.S. guidance
and nav equipment. And so, right now we've been relying for the
most part on Russian navigation systems, so we'll have a complete
U.S. set once the S0 arrives. So, the S0 is a, you know, has a tremendous
functionality and it needs its own updated software. Our job in
this to start with, will be for robotics to take the S0 out of the
payload bay of the shuttle and then install it onto the U.S. Lab.
We'll then use the SSRMS to support the EVA activities: we'll have
an EVA astronaut on the end of the SSRMS, and it'll probably [be]
the first time that that occurs, and so we'll be manipulating that
crewmember around to help him install and activate the S0. In addition,
we'll also of course be helping the shuttle crewmembers get dressed
and to get in and out of the station airlock, because they'll be
working on our station airlock. And so we'll be getting [them] dressed,
getting [them] out the door, bringing [them] back in, changing the
suits, because we have two teams of EVA crewmembers, so we'll constantly
be changing those suits as well.
you could give us a…four spacewalks is a lot of material to
cover, but a thumbnail sketch of what's going to be done during
those spacewalks, and apart from helping them get dressed in the
airlock, what you and your station crewmates will be doing inside
the station while the shuttle astronauts are working outside.
the shuttle crews are outside, Dan and I, and Ellen Ochoa from the
shuttle crew, will be operating the SSRMS. And normally, because
the station arm is so big and the viewing is not as direct as we
have for the shuttle arm, we typically have two people-one running
cameras and then one actually flying. So we'll be working together
on that; the other crewmember will be working generally in the airlock,
and then the other thing is, because we're doing some power-downs
the S0 truss, being that it is sort of an electrical hub, we'll
have to mate several electrical connectors during this flight and
so we have to make sure that all the electrical inhibits are in
place prior to the EVA crews mating or demating cables to make sure
that they're safe to be handled. And so that's another thing that
we'll be doing is to make sure that those inhibits are in place.
So we have a lot going on, and, of course, you know, all the other
things that we have to do on the space station as well.
does the addition of the S0 truss and its new components, how does
it change or improve the functionality of the station for the remainder
of your time there?
Well, the addition
of the S0 truss plus the new command and control software that will
come up about a month earlier will allow the U.S. to have a full
guidance and navigation capability equivalent to what we have on
the Russian segment. So we'll have GPS antennas and also we have
the rate gyro assemblies, and so we will have data from both the
U.S. and the Russian segment. And it'll just make the station a
more reliable station, because if one source of data for some reason
cuts out, we have this equivalent data on the other side. So it's
just a more robust station.
the end of your flight, you'll be on hand on the station to greet
a taxi crew with a new Soyuz spacecraft. Tell me what activities
occur on board the station during the time that taxi crew is there.
Do they bring their own science? Do they help you with yours?
Well, I think
that, you know, that the primary job of the taxi crew is to bring
the new Soyuz. The Soyuzes can stay on orbit for about six months,
you know, plus or minus a month; they have some limited-life components,
and so we trade these Soyuzes out. And so the first order of business
will be to take the seat liners from the old Soyuz that belong to
our Expedition crew, move those to the new Soyuz, and then the seat
liners from the new Soyuz, move those to the old Soyuz. And so we
have to do that swap. And then, I'm not sure if they have their
own science agenda; I suspect that they will and so they will probably
go and begin their science program.
your ride home and your replacements arrive at the station next
spring, at that point you'll be working with your third shuttle
crew and second other station crew of your mission. What is it like
to have to train with, to have that many different elements of the
mission, that many different groups of people? Is that hard to keep
it all straight?
Well, it is
very difficult to keep it all straight and just…if you add
to that the fact that we were the backup crew for Expedition 2,
so we had to do the training with all the crews that they worked
with also, so, I mean, in one hand, it's very difficult to keep
it all straight; on the other hand, it gives us a tremendous advantage
in seeing all the different operations that have occurred and to
train significantly on each of those. So we have a tremendous amount
of SSRMS experience, for example, and from an EVA perspective we've
seen lots of different configurations, so we're very familiar with
the exterior of the space station from our EVA training. But it
is a challenge, but what we've done is…typically our training
for space shuttle has been very task-specific, because the tasks
are well-defined and they're limited in scope. With so many tasks,
we've really relied on more skill training so that we know how to
do categories of tasks. And so this new category comes up, for example,
the installation of the Mobile Base System; you know, it is another
SSRMS task and we approach it that way. And you know, it differs
a little bit from the S0, it's not as massive but, you know, we
follow our procedures, the procedures are similar, the types of
things that we do, the types of things that we look at. And so,
in that way, we can handle this massive amount of activity.
the time you, Yuri, and Dan leave the International Space Station,
what in your opinion will have had to have occurred for you to consider
Expedition 4 to have been a success?
Well, I think
that you know, of course that you know, we come down in, we return
in good physical shape-I think that's one of the most important
things-and that we leave the station in better shape than we got
it. That it will be a bigger station, a more robust station, and
then that we have completed successfully our scientific program.
this point it's been about one year since the first permanent residents
of the ISS arrived on orbit. Now we're at a point where we're pretty
routinely swapping out crews and delivering supplies and conducting
science on a station that's virtually self-sufficient. Finally,
Carl, give me your perspective: what are your thoughts on where
you see the International Space Station program taking us in the
short term and in the long term?
Well, in the
short term, of course, we will continue the assembly of the space
station, and I think we'll continue to build out that external truss,
to provide the power that we need then for the additional modules
that will be coming from Japan and from Europe, and then additional
modules perhaps, on the Russian segment as well. So that activity
will continue. And I think at some point we'll expand the crew to
probably six people so that we can have a more robust science activity
as we have these additional laboratories available. So, short term,
I guess continue the building, and then long term a bigger crew.
I also see that we'll begin more commercial activities on board
the station as well as the, as we can finish building and then we
get into a more mature operation, we'll see more commercial ventures
coming on board. And that'll be, I think, a tremendous challenge.
to get started?