"10 day Mission." Our mission is to activate this
new part of the space station and make it a working, living part
of what'll eventually be a half million pounds of metal orbiting
the earth every 90 minutes." The focus of Mission of
Mission STS-98 is the delivery of the U.S. Laboratory Module
"Destiny" (what Curbeam calls the 'big, silver tin can.') "With
both medical and scientific technology moving ahead at light speed,
any new research has endless possibilities.
You never know where the next great idea's going to come from.
And I'm just hoping that something that we do, some kind of research
that we perform, helps open one of those new doors," said Curbeam.
Linked to Space
"It's really important to keep things attached
to the station, including myself," said Curbeam. These spacewalks,
or extravehicular activities
(EVAs), will be his first. He'll help install the lab by connecting
plumbing, electrical power and data umbilicals. To combat microgravity,
tethers and foot restraints hold astronauts in place while they
work with special tools (cordless tools were invented to go into
in frigid darkness or scorching sunlight. Backpacks regulate spacesuit
temperature and feature a built-in propulsion system in case of
emergency. Challenging, yes--but the view is spectacular.
Big Blue Pool
To train for spacewalks in outer space, astronauts
go underwater. At the Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas,
the Natural Buoyancy Lab (NBL) is impressive. Measuring 100 feet
by 200 feet by 40 feet deep, it's large enough to hold full-sized
space station mock-ups.The
average spacewalk takes over six hours so astronauts practice
the actual tasks they'll be doing the same amount of time
wearing full spacesuits. On Earth, these weigh 300 pounds.
Even Astronauts go to School
"Every day is different," said Curbeam, who has
been training for 1 1/2 years in Houston. Besides pool time, one
day he could be flying T 38s all day, just to get some hours.
Or he could be in the simulator practicing a critical phase of
an upcoming flight. Maybe it's a full day of classes or a mix
of all of these. "The great thing about it," according to Curbeam,
"is you know every day is just kind of narrowing your focus into
that one day when you're going to get to ride the rocket. You've
been well trained by the people here on the ground, everybody
knows the plan, we know we can execute this plan, and now we want
to get on with it." He'll be more than ready. "I'm going to be
probably one of the most excited people in the world on that day--except
for probably the other four people on