NASA Johnson Space Center
Oral History Project
Edited Oral History Transcript
Interviewed by Jennifer Ross-Nazzal
28 March 2007
Ross-Nazzal: Today is March 28th, 2007. This oral history with Dick
Covey is being conducted for the Johnson Space Center Oral History
Project in Houston, Texas. Jennifer Ross-Nazzal is the interviewer,
and she is assisted by Sandra Johnson. This is our fourth session
with Colonel Covey.
During the last session we ended by talking about training for STS-61,
and you also talked about Story Musgrave’s injury in the vacuum
chamber and attempts to remove him from the crew. I thought we’d
begin today with launch and then sort of work our way through the
mission and some of the awards that you won for the flight and things.
Okay, great. Well, let’s see. Because we were going to rendezvous
with the Hubble Space Telescope, then our launch window was determined
by the orbit of the telescope, and it just so happened that in the
time frame that we were supposed to launch it was crossing over Kennedy
Space Center [Florida] at night, and so therefore we launched at night.
I had night launches on my previous mission and then close to one
on my first mission, so launching at night was not a big deal to me.
It’s always a big deal for people watching, because it’s
pretty spectacular and that.
But launch and ascent were very nominal. By my fourth time I pretty
much knew what to expect and would have to say that there was not
anything unusual about it that I recall, which was nice. Basically,
the great thing for us about the whole mission was that we didn’t
have any significant problems with the Orbiter at all. That allowed
us then to concentrate on the very complex mission that we had and
the operational tasks without having to worry about an Orbiter that
had problems and how do you change your plans to go and accommodate
So as I recall we launched relatively late in our crew day, and so
our first day on orbit wasn’t very long, which was planned that
way. Kind of got on orbit, got squared away, knew we were on a good
track for a rendezvous, knew we had flight day two to do a lot of
the checkout of the RMS [Remote Manipulator System] and the spacesuits
and things like that in preparation for the work that we would have.
One of the things that was very interesting is this was the first
time I had flown with a crew of seven. Not only were there seven of
us, but we had four spacesuits plus assorted parts. So that made the
flight deck and the middeck area extremely crowded. Everybody was
always looking for a little bit of their own space, but we gave up
a lot of our middeck space to be able to accommodate loose stowage,
I’d say, because of all of the supporting gear and tools and
things for the EVAs [Extravehicular Activities] we were going to do.
So overall during the course of the mission what I found was seven
people is a lot harder than five people, but there’s also plenty
of room for seven people. You just have to know how to deal with having
a lot of folks around, and we did that. Other people had flown with
seven, were used to that; I wasn’t. It was a little bit different
for me, and just managing your time, you know, more people getting
through the limited resources like the bathroom, and the ability to
when do you go and clean up, and when do you brush your teeth, and
when do you—you know, all those things, which are serial to
a large degree, just are more complex.
So the first day, pretty uneventful. We got on orbit without any real
concerns. Second day, went in and primarily focused a lot on checking
out the RMS and having the EVA crew members starting to pull out all
their gear and tools and stuff and get them configured and check them
out and being ready for the things we would have to do on subsequent
Flight day three was our rendezvous day. As I think I told you earlier,
I had planned on flying the rendezvous and I did that, supported by
“Sox” [Kenneth D. Bowersox] and Claude Nicollier. One
thing about having seven people is that when you’re doing a
rendezvous, you get an awful lot of help. [Laughs]
A lot of backseat drivers? [Laughs]
A lot of people taking pictures and trying to look out the windows
and see what’s there and stuff, but that was okay. The rendezvous
went very much like we expected it to. At that time the Hubble Space
Telescope was the largest structure that we had flown the Shuttle
up to, and that was not a big deal; it wasn’t anticipated to
be a big deal. We were nervous about things like the solar arrays,
which we knew had some problems to start with. We were going to be
replacing the existing ones, and you’re always concerned about
making sure that you don’t inadvertently or even in the course
of nominal operations have the reaction control jet plumes impinge
upon the solar arrays and the spacecraft.
But it was a beautiful sight when we finally could really see the
Hubble, and it is as bright as anything you can imagine because of
the silver-colored insulation, and the gold of the solar arrays just
made it spectacular when it first came into visual range, in sight,
and tracked on in.
Now, one thing that I’ll talk about because it happened during
the rendezvous, and this gets back into our training, and maybe I
mentioned it; I can’t remember it. But our training team was—I
think of the five people that were full-time on the training team,
three of them were Aggies, Texas Aggies. So we had a lot of give and
take during the training. At that time my daughter was being recruited
by a Texas A&M [University, College Station, Texas] volleyball
coach, and they knew that, and so they were always giving me grief
and bumper stickers and things; “My daughter goes to A&M,”
and things like that. They’d given me a hat, a Texas A&M
hat, and I thought, well, in recognition of the contributions that
the Aggies made to our flight, I would take that hat with me in my
crew clothing, and I wore it.
The main reason I took it was because it wasn’t just for looks.
It’s very functional when you’re doing a rendezvous with
the Sun and everything, and actually doing anything where you’re
looking outside and you want to be able to shade yourself from the
Sun. Just like going outside; it’s practical, too. So I was
wearing my Aggie hat during the rendezvous, and someone took a digital
picture, and later in the mission or sometime in the mission that
digital picture got downloaded and it came back down, and it wound
up in the newspaper here in Texas during the flight. There it was
Well, everybody thought I was an Aggie, and I got a bunch of mail,
including one from John David Crow, who said, “Wow, congratulations.
You’re really doing the school wonders.” [Laughter] I
hated to break his heart and write back and tell him I wasn’t
really an Aggie, but I was honoring Aggies.
So that was just a little thing that took place there. People still
see me occasionally with my Aggie hat and say, “What’s
that all about?” So that’s the story there.
So the rendezvous went well, very nominal from the performance standpoint
of getting in position. Claude captured the telescope, and we got
it put away in the back of the payload bay, and that pretty much was
our flight day three activities, and positioned us then to be able
to move into the five spacewalks that we had, which we did over the
next five days.
Now, one of the things that we had known beforehand was that there
was concern about one of the solar arrays on the telescope, and that
there was concern that it may not retract correctly. So in doing that
and in showing us, there was a concern that if the bistem, which provides
the support but also is what rolls up, if it was kinked like they
thought, then it might not retract normally, and they were concerned
that if we continued to try to force a retraction that things would
break off of the solar panel and be debris around this telescope,
which you don’t want to have any junk around.
So the solution was our call on the retraction. If we saw something
that looked like it was starting to jam, just to call it off, and
instead of retracting the solar array, we would jettison it. Okay,
so that was the game plan. We were briefed to do that and we were
very much in a mode of being very conservative relative to our call
on whether it was retracting normally and starting to jam, because
we had been told the big fear was all this stuff coming off, and so
we didn’t want to be the ones that polluted the telescope environment
by doing something dumb.
So the first day was Story Musgrave and Jeff [Jeffrey A.] Hoffman’s.
They were—and I may have told you this before, but we had four
EVA crew members, Jeff and Story were EVAs one, three, and five, and
Tom [Thomas D.] Akers and Kathy [Kathryn C.] Thornton were EVAs two
and four. So we called Jeff and Story the “odd couple,”
EVAs one, three, and five; Kathy and Tom the “even couple.”
There probably was other reasons we could have called Jeff and Story
the odd couple, but nevertheless they were our odd couple because
they had the odd EVAs.
They went out the first day. I probably could have been better prepared
for this by reminding myself of what we did on each of the EVA days,
but I don’t recall the specifics of each day, other than the
first day the primary concern was the gyroscopes on the telescope
had been failing, and so in case we had to redeploy the telescope,
they wanted to make sure we got the gyroscopes replaced. So a lot
of focus was down on getting the gyroscopes done and then preparing
for the retraction of the solar arrays, which actually was all commanded
from inside the Shuttle without any EVA crew involvement in the actual
So as I recall, everything went very nominally. The crew was ahead,
pretty much on time, everything they needed to do the first day. At
the end of that period we were to retract the solar arrays. The first
one, it retracted nominally and was fine. The second one, however,
which was the one that we suspected had the problem, as it was coming
in, got to a point where the bistem kinked up, and slack went into
the solar array, and I called a halt to the retraction which was controlled
from inside the crew module. Claude or Kathy or Tom, whoever was doing
that, stopped it, and at that point the decision was made that we’re
not going to try to retract it again now. That changed the EVA timeline
for the second day. We would have to jettison that solar array.
Now, the interesting thing was that the very people who had given
us all these concerns about the debris and what might happen and to
be conservative relative if it looks like it’s not retracting
normally and stopping, after the mission were critical of us for not
having continued the retraction. [Laughs] It sort of was a funny story.
I mean, not that they needed to get that solar array back, because
we did bring one back, and they got to extend it on their water table,
and we got to actually see it after the mission. They got that. They
didn’t really need that other one, other than to try to understand
the failure mechanism of it.
But, you know, it was always interesting that people take one position.
There’s a theme here in some of my other stories, where they
have one position, and then you follow them, and then they say, “Well,
you know, you probably could have done something different.”
So, “Okay, yeah. Well, we didn’t.” But that was
So we got through the first-day EVAs, and like I say, the biggest
deal was the failure of the solar array to retract completely. We
went into our planning on the next day, which basically was for us
to go out, and for Tom and Kathy to disconnect the solar array while
it was still partially extended and then to have Kathy stay on the
end of the RMS and hold the solar array, and then we positioned her
up over high above the payload bay, well clear of the telescope. Once
she was there then we had her release it, and then Sox flew the Orbiter
away from the solar array.
Well, the neat thing about it was this same thing about hitting it
with the plumes. It wasn’t a big a deal now, because we weren’t
going to have to reuse it. But the separation maneuver had us fire
the jets for a while, so Sox did that, and as it drifted away, then
fire them again. Boy, after the solar array got out about forty or
fifty feet or so, whenever we had fired the jets, the solar array
just looked like a bird flying, because it would start wagging its
wings. Then we watched it go on, and it eventually reentered the atmosphere
somewhere and probably not too long after our mission, I suspect.
It’s pretty high drag and low weight, or low mass, so it will
come down pretty fast.
So that was the way we started that one. Tom and Kathy then went about
the business of their EVA, and on flight day two I think their primary
focus was getting the new solar arrays in place. So jettison one,
took the other one, took a new one and put it on, took the other one
off, put the other new one on, and by the end of the day, along with
some of the other tasks that they had, we had the two new solar arrays
in place, ready to be extended. We didn’t extend them until
the end of the mission, primarily because of the other work that we
had to do and we didn’t want to have them hanging out there
during that time period.
So by the end of day two we were feeling pretty good, again, our EVA
two still accomplishing everything that we needed to. Everybody was
staying very much up ahead of the timeline, and we were getting better
and better. Our learning curve on orbit was extraordinary.
Normally when you would get up each day there’s a time period
that’s called post sleep, from the time that the alarm goes
off to when your first activity is scheduled. Because of the EVAs
the first activity we always had scheduled was the EVA prep, basically.
What we started doing, even on the first day, was before the beginning
of the official time the EVA crew members would start getting ready
to go. I mean, they weren’t waiting around. So by the third
day we were getting really good at that, and actually getting out
the door a lot sooner than was planned in the timeline.
Well, that was good, because, one, it built margin into the end of
the day; but it also provided the opportunity to have a longer EVA
if needed. Each day the crews just got better and better at it, so
it was a real steep learning curve. By the time Story and Jeff got
around to their third EVA of the mission they’d wake up, do
their stuff, and man, they’d be ready to go. I’m sitting
there still brushing my teeth, saying, “What do you mean you’re
going outside?” [Laughs]
The division of duties is probably important here, and I’ll
go back then, because on all of the EVAs this is pretty much the division
of duties. There was five of us inside, five of us on the flight deck,
so it provides a lot of support. It’s crowded, too. My main
job was stay out of the way, I think, most of the time. But Claude
Nicollier was our primary RMS operator. Ken Bowersox was our secondary
So, you know, the EVA crew members then on their non-EVA day when
they were IVA, they did the IVA, the intravehicle activities type
of thing. They would be the one that would go through the checklists
and follow everything. They’d be the ones that did the commanding
to the telescope through the control panels.
So they were very much coordinated. It was such a coordinated effort
between the people inside and the EVA crew members outside that really
was required to facilitate the complexity of the mission, and the
interaction between the things that may have had to have been commanded
to the telescope and the things that were actually physically being
That’s not unlike what happens today on every one of these missions
that we fly to the Space Station, where we’re doing these complex
EVAs. But at the time it was relatively new, particularly for the
number of EVAs that we had.
Everybody worried about that. Now it’s accepted as you can do
that plus more, and that’s great. We’ve continued to expand
the capabilities and the utility of the Space Shuttle and its crew
members over the last twenty-something years as we’ve learned
more about it. With what we do now, I don’t think anybody really
envisioned being able to do as much as we do on a single mission with
the crew. So that was good stuff, and we were starting to break some
new ground back in 1993. It’s paying off big-time now in both
the way that people look at it and their ability to go off and plan
We had a lot of maneuvers, and I’d make sure that the Orbiter
was in the right attitude at the right time to protect either the
telescope or to protect the crew members from the worst environments
that they might see relative to thermally or exposure to micrometeorites
or whatever, and we would do all that by programming in and executing
maneuvers at the appropriate time, making sure the systems were all
Then during those days, one of my jobs was to be the IMAX photographer.
The IMAX, of course, is a large-format movie camera that has become
almost synonymous with some Space Shuttle activities and Space Station
activities now. But we had two IMAX cameras on board. One of them
was hard-mounted in the payload bay so that, like on our approach
to the telescope and for those things that took place, it was back
there and we could record those activities. It was set up, and whatever
it got, it got. We could turn it on and off, and that was about it.
Then we had a handheld one, which was internal, and of course we unstowed
it, and then each day then I would bring it up and strap it into the
commander’s seat, because I wasn’t ever going to sit there,
and it was a good place. It was kind of out of the way. But we had
three different lenses, and these lenses go anywhere from being eighteen
inches long to being six inches long; they’re all about six
inches to eight inches in diameter. The camera box itself weighs forty
pounds, and the film canister weighs forty pounds.
So we had to be able to go and preconfigure the canisters, the film
canisters and stuff, and get it there and put it together and have
it ready so that—and we didn’t have any specific targeted
“get this” or “get that” type deal. It was
pretty much, “Gee, does the lighting look good? Are they’re
doing something neat? Can I get the camera to a window, guys?”
You know, spread them apart. “Everybody get away from the windows.
Can I get this big camera up to the window and take some movies?”
I had intentionally made sure that not all the crew members spent
their time getting trained on it. Basically for most of the IMAX photography
inside, if I got it, they were going to get it. If I didn’t
get it, then it wasn’t going to get done. Because our crew members
had too many other things to train on. I didn’t want to have
to worry about training to use this very unique, complex camera; it
had manual settings, light meters, all this stuff, and do all that.
I said, “I’ll learn how to do that, because I’m
just the commander, and during the high-intensity EVA operations,
I’m mostly standing back watching for trouble, anyway. So I
can make the judgments on when we can get the camera up in the window.”
But it turned out to be a lot of fun, actually, doing that, and it
was fun as much as anything because some of my most vivid memories
of that mission were from the IMAX footage that I shot. That’s
because usually if I saw something, I said, “Oh, we need to
get that,” and I tried to get the camera in the window. So it
worked out pretty well from that standpoint.
But it was one of those things, every day bring all this stuff up;
strap the camera into the commander’s seat; Velcro the lenses
all over the place. And then be prepared to yank this eighty-pound
mass up and get it in the window with the right lens and start making
settings and shoot stuff. Not incredibly complex, but just a lot of
overhead to get that done.
It was similar every day for all of our other imaging capabilities.
I mean, Hasselblad cameras, 35-millimeter cameras, the video cameras,
everything was all positioned around where people could grab it and
take pictures as they had an opportunity to during the course of the
activities. That’s not unlike most Shuttle missions, whereas
any type of complex operations, those cameras area always around.
You’ve always got to make sure they’re positioned right,
and everybody knows where they are. Fortunately, every crew member
is trained to use those and can pick most of them up in a short period
of time and get some good images, and there we go.
So in addition to the IMAX photography and making sure that the ship
was running well and pointed in the right directions, my role was
more supervisory. The specifics of the integrated operations resided
with the RMS operator and the IV [Intravehicular] crew members, and
then the coordinating with the others. So it was a five- to six-member
show most of the time there, because if there was RMS operations going
on, and Claude was flying the arm, then Sox was sitting there backing
him up, checking, and making sure Kathy and Tom were working the procedures
with each of the crew members and the payload stuff. Or Story and
Jeff were, if they were inside and Kathy and Tom were outside.
So you start with the crew getting into the airlock, and you go through
the EVA until they get out of the airlock, get it closed back up,
and repressurized. Nominally it’s ten hours; could be up to
ten hours, maybe somewhat less than that. The time outside was set
to be six hours, but with the front end and the back end, it’s
a lot of time. During that six hours, six or seven hours, when they
were actually outside, very intense; hard for people to break away.
So, lots of times— somebody has to eat. I’ll go down and
fix their meal for them and bring them their sandwich or whatever.
So that was another chore that I could help in in making sure that
the crews were all set up and able to do their job.
But that was pretty much it, all five days, the way we did things.
Everybody was on the flight there. There wasn’t anybody that
was chilling down on the middeck. Everybody was up top working. There
was concern about whether we could sustain that tempo. You know, they
were trying to figure out when do we get a day off or a half a day
off or something, and we had asked to have the flexibility to figure
out when that was.
As it turned out, we went five days straight doing EVAs, and that
was the right answer. Everybody felt good about that. Nobody was getting
excessively fatigued. The EVA crew members, because they were getting
a day off in between were okay with that, and so that facilitated
us pressing on with five straight days of spacewalks.
The third day was the “odd couple” went back out, and
their primary task on that day was to replace the Wide Field/Planetary
Camera. The Wide Field/Planetary Camera was able to, because we were
putting a new instrument in, was able to have its own corrective optics
for the telescope. So getting it in was a big deal. So it was the
Wide Field, the WFPC, the Wide Field/Planetary Camera 2, replacing
the Wide Field/Planetary Camera 1. That was basically a pretty straightforward
This thing’s about the size of a baby grand piano. It was in
its own storage container, and that storage container also could take
the one that was coming out and bring it back. So we were able to
take the—I think the way it went is they take the new one out,
and they stashed it and stored it over on the side in a fixture. Took
the old one out, slid it into the storage container, took the new
one, slid it in, get everything tightened down wound up, and there
it was. It was installed. That was the primary activity on that day.
Let’s see. I think on that day, also, there were some concerns
about—no, that would be after the next one, after the fourth
EVA, yes. I was thinking back; there were some concerns about some
of the insulation on some of the instrumentation. I think it might
have been some of the sensors that are up near the top of the telescope.
After having some close-up looks at it, there was a decision that
was made to bring in some of the multi-layer insulation, the MLI,
from out in the payload bay, the support equipment; to bring that
in and have us fabricate some covers that, on the fifth EVA, that
Story and Jeff would install on the sensors.
They had known for several days in the control center that this was
needed, so they went off and worked up, saying, “Okay, if they
bring this piece of MLI and it’s like this, if they cut it this
size and this size, and then they fold it this way and that way and
do these things, then we can attach it just like this.” So they
basically built them on the ground and then developed the instructions
for us to build them on the Shuttle, and we did that. Actually, the
people that built them were Sox and Claude Nicollier. I supervised,
but they were the ones that actually made them, fabricated them and
put them all together, and then we put them down in the airlock so
that the guys could take them out the next day.
But one of the things we did was all the crew members went in, and
we signed our names on the inside of the insulation. [Laughter] So
they put those things on there, and we say, “Okay, so our signatures
are going to be up here on the telescope for however long.”
I think they replaced them with some real covers sometime along the
way. I don’t know if they brought them back and said, “Look
what these guys did.” [Laughs] I never heard if they did. Sox,
I think, went back up to the telescope, so he may have known what
they did with those. Another—just a little—you know, another
No, those are great, great tidbits.
—stupid astronaut tricks, you know. [Laughter]
So primary purpose of the spacewalks on the third day were, like I
say, to replace the Wide Field/Planetary Camera, and then on the fourth
day Tom and Kathy went out to install the COAS, which is Corrective
I want to say COSTAR [Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement].
COSTAR. Yes, yes. Right, COSTAR, and a COSTAR—yes, COAS [Crewman
Optical Alignment Sight] is what we used for our rendezvous. COSTAR,
and that had the corrective optics for the rest of the instruments
on the telescope, those instruments that were installed actually as
opposed to radially, like the Wide Field/Planetary Camera.
So that also was a similar operation in that we had to take the COSTAR
out of its storage container, put it over on the side, go in and pull
out the instrument that it was replacing, which was the same size;
put it in the storage container, latch that all up, and then put the
COSTAR into the telescope itself. Get it in there; have the ground
or through the panel in the Orbiter, have it go through what it needs
to do to deploy all its mirrors and everything.
It was a very, very interesting concept of how they fixed that, but
basically, there was a correction for each one of the light paths,
and there it kind of flopped out into the different light paths with
a little deal.
That was, to me, it was one of the great moments in spacewalking,
because COSTAR weighed about 800 pounds, and Kathy Thornton was the
one that was moving that guy around. She was the one that had to—you
know, manually held it and took it into the telescope. Kathy was the
smallest of our spacewalkers and maybe one of the smallest spacewalkers
ever, and 800 pounds was nothing to that woman. [Laughs] She did wonderfully
with it. It just shows that zero gravity is a great equalizer for
people of all sizes, and it was kind of neat seeing her get to do
As I recall, on the fourth day we did have some complexities in one
of the replacements that we made. I believe it had to do with some
of the computing systems, and they were not originally designed to
be serviced on orbit. All the other things that we had done primarily
had been designed to be serviceable or replaceable on orbit. This
one had not, which meant that then there were real small connectors
that were not necessarily designed for easy access by an EVA crew
member. The cables and stuff were not designed to be disconnected
in zero-G. We learned all kinds of things about that.
This actually must have been—it was either EVA three or five,
because Jeff Hoffman and Story were actually doing it. What happened
was there was screws that were actually in either straps or fasteners,
and they were retained in it in one gravity. But in zero-gravity these
screws, which everybody thought would just be retained so the crew
didn’t have to worry too much about it—I mean, they unscrewed
them from what they were screwed into, but they were held by this
other thing, a strap. Then they’d just have to take it and go
back. Well, what happened was the screws on their own started in zero-gravity
got a motion going which actually caused them to back out of these
retainers, which they were screwed into, but once they were free,
it wasn’t a hard-tight retainer, and so they would back out.
Well, they were little gold screws—I can remember them—and
we saw one come out from the work area. It was kind of drifting around,
and to show you the beauty and precision of RMS operations and the
human eye and human hand, I think Jeff was on the end of the arm.
We saw this thing floating away, and Claude says, “I’ll
fly you to it.” He flies him over there, and this thing’s
drifting away. He flies him up there, and Jeff goes out and he just
grabs this screw out in the middle of space out there, and I said,
“Okay, that’s cool.”
So anyway, what we learned, that was a lesson there, which is that
even though we had devised ways, because we had high-fidelity trainers,
to break these connections that had to be broken and to remake them,
even in one-G, you know, one gravity here on Earth, you didn’t
get the dynamics that zero-gravity and the vacuum of space puts into
it. Because even in the neutral-buoyancy lab these things wouldn’t
back out, but once you got into a vacuum and once you got into true
zero-gravity, where there’s no resistance to this screw from
an atmosphere or water of any kind, it just backed on out.
So that was a lesson learned that you have to—and we get surprised.
Every time we come up with something new relative to doing it in zero-gravity,
we either resurprise ourselves or we learn something new about the
environment and the behavior of materials and objects in zero-gravity,
and that was one that we learned there.
Now, it didn’t keep us from getting everything done. We got
everything securely fastened with two out of three screws or whatever
was required, and that got checked out and was all fine, but it was
one of those things we learned. I just can’t remember, it may
have been the third day; it may have been the fifth day. I can’t
So with all of that done, then I think the last day was primarily
the last EVA—by the time we got through with the fourth EVA
all the really critical stuff had been done. We had replaced the gyroscopes.
We had put the new solar arrays on. We got that WFPC in, and we had
the COSTAR. So if you think about the major chunks—and in addition,
we had added additional memory or whatever it was to the computers.
We had replaced some other things. We had positioned some other stuff.
The fifth day, as I recall, was a shorter EVA, and it was mostly because
it was pretty much cleanup type of activity, putting those little
covers up on the top end of the telescope and then getting the telescope
ready for redeployment. Because once we had finished all the work
on it, then we sure didn’t want to keep it sitting in the payload
bay any longer than we needed to.
So as I recall, while they were still out on their EVA, we brought
the solar arrays down. I can’t remember if we extended them
while they were out, but we may have just to have them out there in
case they didn’t extend properly. But once that was all done,
they came back in, and we went through that day the last checks on
the telescope, and basically everybody was ready to go with the planned
redeployment the next day.
So from the start of the mission, that was through flight day eight,
the redeploy was like on flight day nine, and that may have been when
we got our half a day off, too, was on flight day nine. Everything
went exceptionally well. We were fortunate in that the Orbiter performed
extraordinarily well. We were fortunate in that we didn’t have
any major breaks from our planned activities, spacewalks, you know,
with the exception of having to jettison the solar array. That was
a major disconnect. The rest of them were things that we overcame
either within the course of the EVA or added on and took care of.
I don’t think anybody thought we would get through all five
EVAs with as little I’ll say grief and as little diversions
caused by either the telescope, the instruments, the EVA equipment,
which all worked really well, too. RMS worked great. All these things
facilitated us marching through and being done in a relatively short
period of time compared to the length of the planned mission. So that
was good, and we still see that today.
I look at even the last Space Shuttle flight, and the Orbiter just
was, you know, nothing. It was just cranking along. Orbiters, we know
how to fly them now, and it’s very rare that we have anything
that causes us problems in operating them, which then provides an
ability to focus on the mission and all of the complexities of the
mission operations, as opposed to trying to take care of the Orbiter.
That is a big deal, and it’s one of the reasons that I worry
that we are going to stop flying the Space Shuttle now that we have
demonstrated and proven what a terribly capable platform it is for
space work. It really is, so it’s a tribute to the maturity
of the system and doing that.
So to redeploy, Sox got to fly the redeploy; very nominal there, nothing
unusual. A little nostalgic seeing the old telescope go over the horizon,
but also a tremendous sense of pride and relief in having been able
to do all those things and, at least without seeing the proof through
the testing that they had to do over the next couple of months, knowing
that when it left our place that everything was working the way it
was supposed to, and that we had done everything we needed to do.
The real proof would be were these guys as smart as they thought they
were on the ground to come up with the corrective optics and the way
to deploy them into the light stream and be able to make the instruments
perform to the level that they were expected to. Of course, we found
out within months that yes, they did, and then for years now it has
continued to provide extraordinary science, enabled by the ability
of Space Shuttle crew members to go and service and repair the telescope.
Of all of the programs that I have been associated with, it’s
the one that was best planned and has been best executed, in terms
of using astronauts and crewed vehicles to be able to support, enable,
and enhance the scientific mission of space. I mean, there’s
just not anything—we hope someday we can say that about Space
Station, but I doubt that it will ever prove to be the true marriage
of human spaceflight and scientific spaceflight as the Hubble Space
Telescope has been, so that’s a very unique thing about this
mission, and we all realized it at that time, basically.
If the Hubble Space Telescope had been deployed from an expendable
launch vehicle never designed to be serviced or repaired, and it got
on orbit and they found out it had this aberration in its mirror,
it would have been, “Well, let’s go built the next one.”
And that never would have happened, because it would have been too
expensive. I mean, it would have been years. I mean, we’re still
trying to get the follow-on up there, but it would have been years
to do it, and so the ability to come up with a plan and go and instead
of having to build a new one, go and fix it three years later, and
then be able to continue to service it and find the extraordinary
science we have. It wouldn’t have happened, so it was a unique
program from that standpoint. That’s Dick Covey’s perspective;
I’m sticking to it. [Laughs]
Were you happy when Mike [Michael] Griffin reversed Sean O’Keefe’s
decision to go to Hubble?
Yes. One last time. I’m all for it. The reasons that I think—I
have a personal concern that we have gotten too conservative in our
Space Shuttle operations now with this idea that if you go to anywhere
other than Station, then you put the crew at extraordinary risk. I
don’t think that’s the case, and I think the merits of
particularly going to Hubble far exceed the marginal risk that’s
associated with not flying to the Space Station on a Shuttle mission.
I’ve felt that all along, so I still feel that today about the
semi-official requirement to have a rescue capability. I think the
cost of that exceeds the risk that really exists. Shuttle crew members
are willing to take risks. They wouldn’t be doing what they
did if they didn’t, so we don’t have to eliminate all
So we got our half-day off; took a lot of pictures; got ready to come
back. One of the things, we were, if not the first crew, one of the
first crews to take a new landing training device on board. I think
they called it PILOT [Portable Inflight Landing Operations Trainer],
but it was a supersized laptop computer that had basically a simulation
of the Space Shuttle, the landing simulation of the Space Shuttle
on board, so that after ten days in space, I could hook up a control
stick to this thing, sit in the pilot’s seat, and put this thing
up there and fly a landing. It was a computer game, basically, but
it at least got us the sight picture and got to see the dynamics of
it. We could simulate a night landing, and we were going to do a night
landing, and we could fly it. So we practiced on that thing.
Now, the interesting thing was that this was at a time when computing
capabilities, as they continue to do, are just always evolving. So
the whole idea that you could even get a complete simulation, an accurate
simulation of the Space Shuttle landing phase, on board the Shuttle
was phenomenal, and it was because more and more capabilities were
becoming available in laptop, so you finally got there.
I don’t know if they even still use that thing or not, but if
we had as capable a computing machines as we should on board the Space
Shuttle, that simulation would be resident on the onboard computers,
and you could run the simulation with the commander sitting there
looking at all the real instruments and everything. But we’re
not there. Those computers are really, really limited, and so you
have to do it on the side with a laptop, and I suspect they may do
that. They were still on an evolutionary path relative to the development
of rendezvous and proximity operations tools, and we utilized some
of those new ones.
One was a laser range finder, which was relatively new in its application.
There were some new computer programs that allowed you to take data
and enter it into another laptop that would then compute closing rate
and trajectory and give a little display of it to you that the basic
Shuttle had no capability of doing. If I think back about the first
rendezvous that Joe [H.] Engle and I flew back in 1985 even, even
there, in order to do range finding we were using little parallax
scopes and stuff where you have one lens that looked out one overhead
window and the other one out the other one, and that two feet of distance
between them would go out and would help you get some ranging so you
By the time we flew—and this was primarily ranging when you
can’t use the rendezvous radar anymore—but when we got
out there on this mission, we had laser range finder. We had some
other range finders that we were using. So we had all kinds of data
that we didn’t—plus this little display kind of show you
what was happening, and you could say, “Well, what if I give
it three pops in this direction on the RCS [Reaction Control System]?”
and it would show you what happens to your trajectory, and it was
Those tools, I know, have continued to evolve even over the last fourteen
years where now you can hook them into different systems, and it’s
all automatic, where we might have had to enter data manually. It’s
very sophisticated now and a much better tool than we had.
But again that goes to the whole thing of the evolution of the Shuttle
from where it was, and the supporting equipment, to where it is today.
It’s been an extraordinary evolution. I suspect that people
that train for rendezvous now, if they went back and said, “Okay,
this is all you had in 1985?” they would be very concerned about
their lack of data. So that’s another interesting evolution
that has occurred that has enabled the ability of the Shuttle to do
So that gets us to landing day. We were planned to land at night,
and we did at the Kennedy Space Center. My recollection, I don’t
remember where we actually went into the dark on entry, but I know
that when we came across Mexico City [Mexico] it was at night, because
it was like, you know, the horizon-horizon lights. I suspect we put
on a pretty good show for them that night, because we were right at
our maximum, maximum heating, going over Mexico City. The Orbiter
was fully enveloped in the ionization plume, and in fact, one of the
things that I found very interesting was as we banked up into a left
bank coming over Mexico City and the windows were white because of
the plume, I could look out and I could still see all the lights through
the plume. It was not washed out at all; it was very bright through
that. So we had to be giving them a great show.
Landing went pretty much as expected, not anything terribly unusual.
A right-hand approach—yes, a right-hand approach to Runway 33.
The weather was great. The landing was wonderful, and we finished.
But not anything; entry was not anything unusual; I don’t remember
anything unusual about our preparation for it at all. Pretty much
with flown people, everybody was ready, other than drinking too much
water and stuff like that.
There were a few things that I wanted to talk about, some interesting
things. Your crew won the Collier Trophy. How did you find out about
To be clear, it wasn’t just our crew. It was the Hubble—I
think they called it the Hubble team, and the actual named people
on it were folks like Randy [H.] Brinkley, who was the Mission Director,
and Brewster [H.] Shaw—he may have been the Shuttle Program
Manager at that time—the guys from Goddard [Space Flight Center,
Greenbelt, Maryland]; the Hubble Telescope folks from Goddard; Milt
[J. Milton] Heflin, who was our Lead Flight Director; plus the seven
crew members. So I think all in all there may have been thirteen of
us. So I always like to make that clear it wasn’t just the crew.
The crew was part of the team that was recognized.
I don’t remember how we found out about that. It was in the
spring of ’94, as I recall, that they actually made the presentation.
We went to the ceremony for it. That type of recognition is always
nice, but it’s an artifact of the fact that a whole lot of people
put you in a position to go off and do neat things, and you get recognized
for it, it’s really recognition for the whole team.
Okay. Same thing with the Goddard Trophy as well?
The Goddard Trophy—well, I do remember the Goddard Trophy. That
was an interesting one. Now, that was an award to the crew. In fact,
this last Friday night I was at this year’s Goddard Memorial
Dinner. This was their fiftieth anniversary, and they were re-recognizing
all of the people who had received it previously, and I got to represent
the STS-61 crew in that.
But in 1994, I think about a month before the dinner, we got word
that the crew was going to be recognized with the Goddard Trophy.
Well, it also happened to be spring break week for the Clear Lake
[Texas] schools, and all of the crew members, and of course, we also
had just finished all our post flight reporting. Everybody was going
to the seven winds. The only person that was available and would go
to the dinner was Tom Akers, so Tom actually went and accepted the
trophy for the crew.
We didn’t even think about it. You know, it wasn’t even—so
they said, “Hey, you know, you need to send some someone to
the Goddard dinner,” or, “You all need to go to the Goddard
dinner to accept your award.” [Laughs]
Everybody was saying, “I don’t think so. I’m going
to be skiing.” We were going to be in Hawaii.
I said, “Sorry, you know, my family’s been planning on
this.” So we all went on our vacations. I think Tom was just
going to be back, and he flew up on the Friday and got the award and
came back, and that was it.
But that was, again, nice recognition; probably not appropriate for
the crew to get it alone. There were too many people that were involved
in successfully making that mission what it was, and they deserved
all the recognition. The crew didn’t, but in the meantime, you
know, it’s the STS-61 crew, so that’s like the space club
of Ellington [Field, Houston, Texas]. [Laughs]
One of the other things we found out was that after you had flown
this mission you were invited to Home Improvement. Can you tell us
about how you were invited and what that entailed?
Well, actually, it started, … [when Stephen S. Gauvain began]
listening to a lot of our stuff about the tools, all the tools that
we were going to have, 150 tools or whatever, and the power tools
and the special tools. So he made the connection with Tim Allen and
Home Improvement, and he actually wanted to see if Tim Allen would
do something on the show relative to the mission before we flew. Well,
there wasn’t time, and it didn’t happen, but what did
happen was as we were going into crew quarters in quarantine, he got
a copy of a Tim Allen standup routine called Tim Allen Rewires America.
It is adult-rated, definitely. [Laughs] But we took it into crew quarters
with us, and we watched it. Most of us had not seen much of Home Improvement,
okay; not familiar with it. But we watched Tim Allen in this, you
know, he “rewires America,” and we just loved it.
So during the mission there were several occasions where we’d
be out there and be working, and Tom would say something like, “Yep,
guess we got to rewire it,” and this was all from this tape,
okay? Then at least one time we decided, “Hey, we’ve got
to give the Tim Allen grunt, you know.” So somebody was saying,
“Yeah, that probably deserves it,” you know, and the whole
crew, the EVA crew members and us on our mikes, are all sitting there
going, “Arrh, arrh, arrh, arrh [imitates Allen],” you
know. We did that, and it got captured on video somewhere. But we
were just having fun with it.
Well, then when we got back, there was an invitation from Disney Studios
for us to come be guests on Home Improvement, and specifically as
they wrote the script was to be guests on Tool Time. So that’s
how it came about.
We went out in early I want to say April, because we were all going
to go, but Kathy Thornton didn’t go, because when she went on
her ski trip, her spring vacation, the first day one of her daughters
broke her leg and was in a half-body cast, and so Kathy said, “I
can’t go.” So Kathy didn’t go, but the other six
of us did. We went out and spent three days at Disney Studios with
the Home Improvement gang, a great experience. They loved having us
The theme of Tool Time that week was basically, hey, these are tools
that you won’t find in your neighborhood whatever, you know.
We were in the second segment. They opened with a segment of Tool
Time, and then we came in the second segment of Tool Time, and the
premise was not only won’t find—these are tools from out
of this world or whatever. They had sent a bunch of tools out, and
we brought them out and went through a little bit of a dialogue with
him about the mission and with Al [Borland]. Then the tools disappear.
One of the tools is missing, and we’re all trying to find it.
It was in Tim’s locker, and he’s all embarrassed and stuff.
That was kind of the script on it.
But that’s how it came about. I mean, it was very ad hoc and,
again, not anything that we expected. Now—Stephen Gauvain. Steven
was killed in an automobile accident five or six years ago.
He was—you know, when the Ford Explorers were having their rollovers,
he was coming back from an assignment up north of town, and one of
the tires blew, and he was killed in the rollover. …
But anyway, he was really the one that kind of got it started. Now,
Sox wound up going out there twice more, I think.
Did he really.
Yes, after every mission. He developed a real relationship with Tim
Allen, and so every time after his flights Tim would have him back
out there, and he’d do another segment on Tool Time. A funny
thing is how often this segment of Home Improvement gets played and
I have a great story. A guy that worked for me at Boeing retired about
three years ago, and he and his wife were in Poland over Christmas
holidays. He said, “Yeah, Dick, we came back to our room, and
we turned it on, and there you were on Home Improvement.” He
says, “I didn’t know you could speak Polish.” [Laughter]
So it’s worldwide now. Anyway, that was that story.
That’s great. Yes. No, I wanted to ask about it. I thought that
just sounded like a really unique story.
It was a wonderful experience. It’s interesting to see how they
do that. I said, “You know, this is lot like doing a Space Shuttle
mission, in that everybody’s got to do the right thing at the
right time.” They’ve got a very structured sequence of
how they prepare for dress rehearsal and go into the actual final
production and stuff, and it’s very structured.
Was it filmed live?
It was. In fact, the audience, the live audience for the Tool Time
segment, did not know we were going to be guests on it when we showed
up, so for them, I mean, their reaction was just outstanding. It was
Yes, I can imagine. Did they all stick around wanting to get autographs
or anything after the show?
When did you start thinking about retiring from NASA, at what point?
Was that before the mission, after?
Actually, I had gone through a—after my third flight, had gone
through a process of looking at whether I was going to leave NASA
or not, and decided at the time not to. Some of that had to do with
the opportunities that I was afforded in management in between the
two flights, and not even knowing that I was necessarily going to
fly that other flight. But I knew that once I had made the decision
that I was going to leave management, go back and fly as a commander,
that when I came back I was going to be leaving pretty much.
My wife confirmed that, because I read where she had talked to a reporter
and was quoted, when asked, “Is your husband going to fly another
Her response was, “Not with this wife.” [Laughter]
I said, “Okay, I get it.”
One of the things that I saw was each flight that I had, and I think
it’s probably true for every crew member, it’s harder
on the families each time. It was harder on my wife the last time
than it was. Now it was eleven days in orbit, too, so before I was
up and down in three or four or five days. But it was still harder,
and that was very obvious to me. So I had reinitiated some of the
activities that I had, looking for what I might do after the flight.
I started doing that, and even got approached about running for Congress
in Florida, and came within ten minutes of getting on an airplane
and flying to Florida to file before I said, “Boy, that’s
probably really dumb.” [Laughs] It was my hometown, and they
wanted me to come back and do that.
But decided that the right thing was to stay here in the Houston area
where my wife had a business, so I narrowed my search to look for
aerospace opportunities primarily here within the local community.
Decided that, knew that before the flight; worked it after the flight;
and left in June of ’94.
And you started working for Calspan?
Yes. Actually, it was Calspan for a very short period of time. We
were involved in a competitive procurement, and we lost. So when we
lost, then I went over to one of the teammate companies, which was
Unisys at the time, as Deputy Program Manager supporting the space
operations contract. Unisys was a subcontractor to Rockwell, who was
the space operations contract prime, and we had a group that provided
software and sustaining engineering support to Rockwell.
Then you went on to work for McDonnell Douglas?
I did that for two years, one of the few jobs in my life that I absolutely
hated. So it didn’t take me long to start being receptive to
and even looking for other alternatives. Given the chance to go and
lead the Houston division of McDonnell Douglas, I left in August of
’96 and went on to McDonnell Douglas, which became Boeing a
year later through the merger. And have been with them up until January
of this year or February of this year when I transitioned over to
USA [United Space Alliance] on behalf of Boeing.
Tell us about that transition and why you decided to—you were
in Colorado before this, correct?
That’s right. You know, in 2000 I basically left the NASA business
world and went off for Boeing and was working in the Department of
Defense, the intelligence community, and some commercial space work.
That was fascinating. I really liked that. I actually needed a break
from working with NASA. It was okay. And had assumed that I probably
would not come back to being part of the NASA contractor community;
did not expect that I would get asked by Boeing to come back and join
the United Space Alliance in a leadership position.
So when that opportunity was offered to me, I had to look at it closely.
And decided that I felt it would be a great opportunity to get back
into the Space Shuttle business, primarily, but also to come back
and work with a company that is trying to become something other than
a Shuttle contractor. There’s some real challenges in that,
and I thought that my background and experience off in another part
of the government contracting world but not with NASA might help in
that. So that was a large part of the decision.
You serve as the Executive Vice President and the COO [Chief Operating
What does that entail?
That’s basically a Deputy to the CEO [Chief Executive Officer].
So I’m the Deputy. I’m Mike [Michael J.] McCulley’s
Deputy at this point, and the way that we’re structured and
the way that we operate, it’s pretty much just along that line.
You mentioned that you’re moving away from just focusing on
the Space Shuttle Program. What are you moving toward?
Well, sure. Sure, you know, we have been sustained by the spaceflight
operations contract and now the space programs operation contract,
but that ends when the Shuttle stops flying in 2010. Eighty percent
of our work is supporting the Shuttle, so how do we become relevant
and how do we play into the Constellation world, the human-rated systems
of the future, the plan, train, and fly aspects of the JSC operations
for Constellation as well as for Shuttle and Station? How do we become
relevant and make sure that we can participate in those activities
as they replace the Shuttle and those systems replace the Shuttle
as the focus of NASA’s human spaceflight activities? So that’s
primarily what we’re doing.
Yes, very interesting. I wanted to ask you about your work with the
Return to Flight Task Group. When were you appointed to that group?
Let’s see. The Return to Flight Task Group was formed up in
the summer of 2003, and our direct task on the behalf of the Administrator
was to make an independent assessment of the actions that Space Shuttle
Program—actually, that the agency was making in response to
the recommendations made by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board.
So, you know, the CAIB said you ought to go consider doing these things,
and they had like fifteen of them. They said, “You ought to
do these things before you fly again.”
Our charter was to go and say, “Okay, these are fifteen things
that the CAIB said NASA should do. What’s NASA doing and how
well are they doing in responding to each of those?” So at the
time we thought that was going to be a one-year type of job. It turned
out to actually go two years. It largely was a group of people who
were assigned before I became the Co-Chair. I was able to add a few
people that I thought had appropriate backgrounds and technical experiences
that we needed to do some of the assessments we were going to do,
but largely it was a group of people that were predetermined and kind
of—here they are. [Laughs]
Fortunately, General Tom [Thomas P.] Stafford, who was the Co-Chair
with me, had some say in who those people were, but not all of them.
So that made for an interesting management task, because when you
have a lot of people with diverse backgrounds, which is good, and
a lot of very senior and strong-willed people, then trying to keep
them all focused and headed in the same direction was a different
task for me.
So we, over the course of the two years, I think gained the respect
of the Congress, who also called upon us to provide them with insight
as to what was happening relative to the implementation of the CAIB’s
recommendations and with the Administrator. There was a change of
administration, NASA administration, during that time period. Even
though we started under Sean O’Keefe, Mike Griffin heartily
endorsed our activity and supported us in doing that.
It is a type of activity that I used to cringe when I’d hear
people say it was being established, you know, for something I was
involved in, an activity I was involved in, because it always meant
more work for the NASA folks to be able to respond to us as well as
to themselves and their own management and leadership relative to
the things that were going on. Our demands kind of came in on top
of that. It added work, and I always worried that we weren’t
necessarily adding value, because when you’re just doing an
assessment, that means you’re really just looking at what somebody
You’re not doing any—I mean, and so is there value in
trying to say, “Well, I don’t think they did as well as
I might have done it,” you know, or somebody else might have
done it? That’s counterproductive. It wasn’t the purpose
that we had, but there were some people on the committee that felt
that that was their job was to not necessarily just say, “Hey,
they did this, and this is how successful they were or weren’t,”
but to put it in light of how they thought they might have done it,
basically. That was the shortcoming of the committee.
In the end it was interesting, because our final report and our observations
were that they did not comply completely with the recommendations
of the CAIB, mostly because it was not technically possible. But that
was not an easy decision to come to, and not everybody agreed with
it, although they supported it and they all signed a report that said
that. Some people felt that if it wasn’t technically possible,
then the intent of the CAIB had been met. Others felt, “Hey,
we don’t have to try to make those judgments.”
But that was a role I will always question of whether we were any
value or not, or just more work. In the end maybe it was better having
people like Tom Stafford and me leading that than someone else. As
much of a pain in the rear as we were, somebody else might have been
more, and from that standpoint maybe we did serve a purpose.
Had you worked with Stafford before this time?
Well, I worked for him. [Laughs] I actually worked for General Stafford
before I became an astronaut. My last Air Force assignment, he was
technically my boss, and so I’d worked with him. I knew him
through other things, but we hadn’t worked in this particular
type of environment before.
How did you determine if the recommendations had been met? Did you
tour the facilities, or did you just simply interview the Program
It was a combination. We understood a lot by physical presence. We
participated either as observers of some of the technical interchanges
or some of the decision-making processes where much of the data were
presented, and we asked for specific presentations and then were able
to question those things ourselves to get a feel for, you know, is
this just the story or is it real, and if it’s real, to what
extent does it meet the intent of the recommendations.
So it was a multifaceted approach. We were broken into teams. We had
subteams. Everybody had a set of recommendations that they were responsible
for, each of the three teams. One was ops [operations], one was technical,
and one was management, so it revolved around those types of focus.
We divided and tried to conquer that way.
What impact did your STS-26 crew experience have upon your involvement
with the Return to Flight Task Group?
Actually, if anything, it was probably more sympathy than it was any
real technical value that came out of it. Having been a part of the
process from the NASA standpoint, I understood what they were going
through relative to trying to work through the issues, trying to overcome
the rigid conservatism that was a knee-jerk reaction to an accident.
In both cases that reaction, that overconservatism, made it so it
took longer to get back to flight, because now you’re got to
get it perfect, and proving that it’s perfect is hard. Very
few people are willing to take any measure of risk that they think
they can overcome by doing something else a little bit longer, and
so those two things were resident in that.
There were activities that were taking place that were, in most cases,
parallel, but in my mind were not necessarily required in order to
accomplish their goal of getting back to flight, okay? So they took
time and effort of people, and they were not adding the capabilities
that were really going to be required to fly with a measurable amount
of risk, trying to drive that measurable amount down to something
that was nothing, and so both times there were those types of activities.
Early on when I heard that they were going to consider having this
contingency Shuttle crew system survival or whatever capability, an
ability to launch a rescue Shuttle and stuff, I warned them that they
were going down a path that once they had set, even if they said,
“We’re just going to do this for a couple of flights,”
that eventually they will decide they have to do it for every flight.
They did, and it’s an incredible overhead to go and do that.
Now, they’ll say it’s not, but that’s just because
they’ve built it in.
But, you know, if they didn’t have to do that, it would, one,
it would have made flying to Hubble a whole lot easier decision. But
again, a lot of activity that paralleled the real activity that added
marginal value to the real task of returning to flight and doing the
things you had to do to be safe to go fly. That’s the thing
that I see, kind of a real parallel.
Did you have any contact at all with the crew and give them any sort
of recommendations from your experience for RTF [Return to Flight]?
Yes, every once in a while we would meet with them and tell them what
we thought we were seeing. Then they would tell us the things they
were concerned about, which weren’t necessarily artifacts of
recommendations but some of the things that they observed and the
things that they were being subjected to that bothered them. So we’d
find out some things there and factor that into the questions we asked
and the way that we conducted our assessment.
Were there any similarities between your return to flight and their
return to flight after the Columbia accident that you noticed? Anything
Well, yes, of course there is. After a team has sat down for two and
a half years, it’s a ratchety start back up. Processes have
changed, because they were deemed to be inadequate before, so now
the new processes are there, and trying to—so everything that
leads up to the decision that, yes, we’re going to go fly and
launch is harder than it used to be, and I saw that. I saw that. The
idea they’d go to two-day flight readiness reviews, two-day
long, and I mean, that was very much like after STS-26, in that the
conservatism built in required that you listen to a lot of things
that may not really have to and could have been dispositioned outside
of a formal agency-level activity but weren’t, because we want
to make sure we all talk about this, not just, you know.
Before we close today we have two questions that we just like to ask
everyone. What do you think was your most challenging milestone while
working for the space agency, or today perhaps?
Challenging—well, in my mind there’s no doubt that preparing
for STS-61 was the most challenging thing.
Why is that?
Because of the complexity of what we wanted to do and gaining a constituency
that believed that the crew could go and do all those things that
had never been done before. You know, expanding from three spacewalks
max [maximum] on a mission where two was nominal and three was exceptional,
and going to five; the number of complex operations that we had. It
wasn’t that there was resistance. It’s just that we were
pushing the bounds, and so the way you have to demonstrate, prove,
that you’re ready to go do that, not just the crew but the agency,
was, I thought, a major accomplishment.
Conversely, what do you think was your most significant accomplishment?
Conversely—now, maybe I answered that one wrong. [Laughter]
Overcoming challenge sometimes is the most significant accomplishment.
There’s no doubt that having commanded STS-61 and what we did
on that mission was the greatest accomplishment that I was able to
make and contribution I was able to make to the agency and our nation.
No question about it.
One of the proudest moments of your career.
Oh yes. Yes, still is. It’s way up there.
I can imagine.
Other than babies and grandbabies. [Laughter] Getting married and
things like that.
It’s funny, that you mention it, I think Bob [Robert A.R.] Parker
told me something like that. You know, getting to be an astronaut,
you know, pretty good; but getting married, having a kid, you know,
a little higher.
Yes, you’ve got to balance those things. If you put them all
together, you’re going to fault over to the family stuff, there’s
no question about it.
Well, I’d like to ask Sandra if she had any questions for you.
No? Do you feel like there’s anything that we may have overlooked
that you want to talk about? We have a little less than a half an
hour if there’s anything that you think we might have—.
I’ll be honest with you. I can’t think of anything right
now. I’m trying to think if there’s anything I could add
that would be of value, but outside of the context of just what we
talked about today or earlier, I’m probably done. [Laughter]
Well, we thank you for your time. We’ve really enjoyed all the
Sure. Well, I’m glad we finally got through it all.