NASA Johnson Space Center
Oral History Project
Edited Oral History Transcript
Interviewed by Jennifer Ross-Nazzal
Houston, Texas – 20 January 2005
Today is January 20th, 2005. This oral history with Dr. Bonnie Dunbar
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.
Thanks for joining us again today. We really appreciate it.
I’d like to begin by talking about your first mission, which
we had started talking about previously. I’m wondering if you
can talk to us about that launch day, if you could sort of walk us
through that day from your perspective.
Well, let’s see. What I do remember? Of course, being in October,
it was very nice at the Cape [Canaveral, Florida]. We called it “banker’s
hours,” because we launched, I think, about twelve noon. It
was two shift operations, but it was banker for me, because I was
on what was called the blue shift, so I had the best day. I got up
at eight, lunched at noon, worked into my evening, went to bed at
a normal time, and proceeded on. Of course, the red shift had to go
to bed immediately after launch, and then we went twenty-four hours.
But it was actually a picture-perfect countdown and launch, and considering
that that launch date, I think, had been set about nine months before
launch, was quite nice and especially good for the Germans as well,
since they bought and paid for that flight.
Do you remember what was going on as you were getting ready to launch?
What were you talking about in the crew cabin in those first few minutes
before you got into orbit?
It’s pretty standard. It doesn’t change. There’s
a timeline from the time you get up, have breakfast, to go in and
check out your emergency systems. Of course, we didn’t have
launch and entry suits on that first flight in ’85, and I was
on Challenger then. We had blue flight suits, and we had the helmets,
and we did a helmet pressure check. Then you go out to the van. You
proceed to the launch site. You start ingressing the vehicle. You
get hooked up to your air, the seat belts, and everything else that
goes with it, the harnesses.
Then the countdown clock proceeds. There’s a little bit of banter,
but not deep conversation. We’re listening on our headsets to
the Launch Control Center first before launch. We know what’s
supposed to be coming. We’ve got the timeline in our checklist.
Of course, on that flight, we had eight up and eight down. We had
five NASA crew members and three payload specialists, one from Holland
and the other two from Germany. So there were actually four on the
middeck, and so that made it kind of busy, but very comfortable. It
wasn’t that crowded at all. Then time went down to zero, and
Any special memories from that first day, given the fact that you
Well, I was on the flight deck for launch, and what I remember—Jim
[James F.] Buchli was MS [Mission Specialist]-2, or the center seat
engineer—is that when the main engines quit and just as we were
getting ready for the external tank separation, and because he had
flown before, in order to demonstrate to me that it was now zero gravity,
he put a pencil in front of me, and then he let go, and, of course,
it’s just floating there.
Then my next step was to fold up my seat, because we had Spacelab.
We had a seven-day Spacelaboratory flight, microgravity research,
all from Europe pretty much. We had a couple of MIT [Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts] experiments in
there—covering all disciplines, human health to fluid physics,
even protein crystal growth on that flight. We had a glovebox. We
had frogs. We had a little centrifuge that we were looking at the
development of embryonic frogs as well, so about a hundred different
experiments. So we had to activate the laboratory, and I was Spacelab
activator, but it was my first flight as well, so I was moving very
I thought, “If I can fold the seat up and get it down, take
it down to the flight deck, do it slowly, methodically, and not provoke
my vestibular system, then I’ll probably be okay for the rest
of the flight.” So I started very slowly, and then I felt fine.
I gained a little more confidence, and I said, “This is going
to be great.” Didn’t have any symptoms. Got that stuff
stowed away. We got on the checklist of the flight plan and started
activating, and everything else went like clockwork the rest of the
Can you tell us what it was like working those two shifts? Well, you
were on one shift, but there were two shifts for the whole flight.
What was that like?
First of all, when you have four people spread across two shifts,
it’s really two and a half shifts, because Wubbo [J.] Ockels
kind of had a bridge function. Since it was a German flight, they
determined who they wanted to do what. But Wubbo actually, I think,
started on one shift, went to another shift. But, in any case, you’ve
got at least three people sleeping while the rest are working, and
it was very roomy. Either Hank [Henry W.] Hartsfield [Jr.] or Steve
[Steven R.] Nagel were on the flight deck, in general, but if only
one was on the flight deck, because they were in opposite shifts,
and everybody else was back in the lab [laboratory], they got a little
lonely. They had a whole flight deck to themselves; their crew members
were asleep down on the middeck.
So what I remember is it being very roomy, very comfortable, really
very rewarding to be able to do the research on orbit and communicate
with your counterparts on the ground, and in this case, we had a Mission
Control Center for the payloads, called the Payload Operations Control
Center, in Oberpfaffenhofen in southern [West] Germany, so that’s
where we talked. Back in the lab, we didn’t say, “Houston,
Challenger,” we said, “Munich,” or “München,”
in the German phraseology. Then we would talk to their engineers when
we were operating the payloads, or we would talk to their researchers
if they were enabled.
If we wanted to talk about Spacelab systems, then we’d talk
back to Houston, or the Shuttle systems. So I did both. On my shift,
I was responsible for Spacelab systems, and so I would talk to both
Houston and to München.
Did you ever talk to anyone in German, or was that in English?
We had a pretty strict protocol when we started out. In the interest
of safety, we had a common language, and it’s English. It was
actually a filtering criterion on the part of the Germans and the
Europeans that the crew members they sent to us spoke quite good English.
English is also a kind of a scientific language as well, and they
were all physicists. I think they were almost all physicists, so they
spoke perfect English.
We, in our protocol, provided, though, that we could talk to the investigators
if we needed to, and the protocol said that if an investigator from
any one of the countries participating wanted to speak in their home
language, that it had to be precoordinated on the ground, and we had
to allow for translation, because we didn’t want to get in a
situation where there was a discussion on an experiment that interfaced
with a system, and a switch was thrown that we weren’t aware
of. So it wasn’t a control issue, it was a safety issue, to
make sure everybody understood everyone else all the time.
And did that ever happen on board the Spacelab, do you recall?
We did have investigators who spoke to the payload specialists in
a different language, and it worked out fine. They were enabled; we
had translation. For me, since I needed to be responsible for the
Spacelab systems, I needed to know what was being discussed, and so
although we’d studied German, I wasn’t conversationally
fluent in German, particularly technical German. But if it was in
German with another crew member, one of the other crew members would
tell me pretty much what was going on, or I could sort of follow if
I had good com [communication].
There was one discussion, I think in Dutch—I’d have to
look back—that Wubbo had, and of course, he translated to me,
and then I got a confirmation, I think, through the ground. I have
to think back on that; that was back in ’85, so that’s
twenty years ago. But I recall from the flight that we had no adverse
events from the protocol that we operated.
Since you were working on Spacelab systems, did you participate at
all in working on the experiments themselves?
Oh yes. Yes, it was a dual role, because once the Spacelab is up and
running, it’s pretty transparent, so our twelve-hour shifts
were dedicated to the research. But if there were a problem, a malfunction,
an in-flight maintenance procedure, then I would have conducted that
on my shift, and on the other side of it, Guy [Guion S.] Bluford [Jr.],
who ran the red shift. He was the mission specialist in charge of
the lab on the opposite shift.
Can you talk to us about the handovers? When the other team would
come in, how much time would you spend with Bluford, telling him what
was going on in the lab?
We had a flight plan to follow, and we had kind of the master flight
plan that Guy and I would hand off that would have notes in it, plus
we had our notebooks, and we kept the ground informed as well. So
when we finally got to the handover, maybe it could be ten, twenty
minutes. They were actually very efficient.
I’d tell him where we were on the timeline. Because another
attribute of the way we trained back then is that it was an eighteen-month
training flow, and several months of that we trained in [West] Germany
at Bonn-Cologne, in a simulator, parts of the timeline. So we all
knew the research. We knew what the flight plan ought to look like,
and with that background knowledge, you can shorten your conversation
in handover. So I’d say, “Yeah, we’re right on schedule.
We moved nothing to your shift,” in many cases. Or, “We
weren’t able to do this particular experiment because of something.
It’s been moved into your shift.”
Then we also had teleprinter uplink messages from mission control
in both Centers, which might summarize the changes as well. So I’d
go through those notes, the teleprinter notes, the flight plan, give
him a heads-up on; and he’d do the same for me.
We had pretty efficient handovers. I don’t remember any of them
ever going over thirty minutes. That might have been the time. I’d
have to go look at the flight plan to remember, but I know that when
we eventually flew STS-50 in 1992, our handover was about fifteen,
twenty minutes, and they were right on time as well.
Was there any sort of competition between the two teams?
No. No, we were working different things. The competition is against
the clock. Time is money, and it’s not in our interest that
we look at the clock, it’s in the interest of all the investigators
on the ground.
I think we sometimes forget that we’re just a research platform,
and there are researchers and graduate students that have been working
years on this project, and the only way they are able to finally conduct
the final experiment is in the environment for which it was designed,
which is microgravity, or if it’s outside the pressurized hull,
maybe something had to be exposed to a vacuum, or Earth observing,
whatever. So their success is very much dependent upon us, how well
we’re trained, how well we understand their scientific objectives,
how we’re able to communicate with them in the method we have,
which is circling Earth at 17,500 miles per hour. So it’s very
important that you’re well trained and understand their objectives,
but we’re just part of the research team.
So we look at that. Here’s a complement of experiments that
we have timelined. Those researchers typically are all in the control
center. They’re watching TV. They’re listening to the
downlink. They’ve got data coming down, digital data, sometimes
CCD [Charge-Coupled Device] data, compressed video data, and those
are the research results, and so we’re all trying to make sure
Did you have any free time during the mission?
Yes. Well, it’s scheduled free time, but I have to tell you,
in the early part of the Shuttle Program, we weren’t probably
as disciplined about keeping that free time on those short missions.
D-1 was a seven-day mission, and you can go full speed for seven days.
We would typically try to catch up in presleep, and you really shouldn’t
be doing that, but again, we looked at time as money. I didn’t
personally want to come home and think, “Well, gee, I got to
look out the window for an hour, but I’ve got to come back and
tell this engineer or this scientist that I didn’t have time
to do something for them.” So we felt a certain amount of pride
in accomplishing everything we were supposed to do.
Now, on our flight, we also kept our discipline in making sure we
didn’t go into sleep. That was a continuing problem in the early
days of the Shuttle, though; maybe the timeline was too ambitious,
and so you had crew members taking away from their sleep, and you
don’t want to do that.
So by the time I came around to my second Spacelab flight in ’92,
we thought we’d worked the timeline quite well, and as it turned
out, we did. So we were rigorous about keeping presleep, postsleep;
we got our half-day off. That was a thirteen-day mission, and so after
ten days, you get to work a half a day off into it, so that thirteen-day
mission, we did have a half a day off for everybody, and we didn’t
erode at all into our sleep periods. So we did have time off eventually,
but not so much in the early days.
Do you remember any sort of activities that you and the crew did when
you had a moment of free time?
I remember on D-1 we had a lot of new people, including myself, and
so there were press conferences that would be blocked out in the lab,
and there would be camera setup time before that and deconfigurating
that, as well, afterwards. There was sometimes a little free time
in there, and I remember that some of the crew members—there’s
a long tunnel that connects the middeck crew compartment to the Spacelab
itself, and so crew members would sort of see if they could float
all the way down the tunnel without contacting the perimeter. Of course.
that depends on the attitude of the Shuttle as well, and trajectories
and orbital mechanics, and it was always fun to see exactly what would
Hank Hartsfield recalls that he went trick-or-treating. Do you remember
Yes, I was going to get to that part, because we were up over Halloween,
and so some of the crew members took blank—and they were blank—pages
off the back of the crew procedures book and cut out little Halloween
masks. Apparently it did create a little bit of an adverse reaction
from some people, who thought we were trivializing spaceflight, but
on the other hand, it was Halloween, and it was in our free time.
We’re having this transition of thinking that as you spend more
time up there, we also have to take care of the social needs of people
as well, if we’re going to live in that environment. So we were
sort of, I think, at one of those transition points. It was very minor
for us. We didn’t realize anybody had taken any offense to it,
and maybe one or two letters to NASA, not a general offense, about,
well, “They’re having too much fun up there.” [Laughter]
I don’t know if that’s what he said, but that was kind
That was pretty much what he said. I was just curious what you remembered.
I remember I didn’t get to make a mask. I just remember they
floated down the tunnel, and they had all these masks on.
Did you give them anything for treats?
Didn’t have any treats. [Laughter]
STS 61-A was the first mission that was sponsored by another country.
What sort of challenges, if any, did that pose for you and the crew?
Well, yes, West Germany bought and paid for the flight. I don’t
know, a little over sixty million dollars in those days, and also
the Spacelab was built in [West] Germany as well. It was a flight
that was more than just a science flight for them.
As it was explained to me by some of the mission management, is they
were also trying to inspire their youth, their population, to look
to the future; that there was still, they felt, a heavy burden coming
out of World War II, in terms of optimism, and overcoming that. So
this was also a symbolic flight, not just a science flight. So that
part of it, actually, we wanted to be part of that, and there was
a lot of youth interest in it. There was also a lot of Bundestag,
which is their political Congress, basically, interested as well.
We trained in Bonn-Cologne. Bonn was the capitol. It’s now moved
back to Berlin. So there was a lot of political interest in it as
well. So we felt a certain amount of responsibility in helping them
to succeed in that area.
The challenges that were there were typical of any mission in which
you’re dealing with different cultures and different languages.
They’re not insurmountable, it’s just finding the bridges.
Both Guy and I took Berlitz German so that we could live there, because
I was, altogether, out of an eighteen-month training flow, there for
seven months. So on the weekends, I was out shopping, going to the
food markets, not the other markets; they had a great outdoor market
in Bonn on Saturdays, and you wanted to be able to talk to the populace.
You wanted to be able to read the signs, and so that was a fun challenge.
The culture was something that you work through. The Germans are a
wonderful people. They’re spread in different cultures within
the same country, just as we in the United States are. In fact, the
Germans in Munich had a kind of a bond with southern Texas, if you
will. They looked at themselves as sort of almost Texan in their culture,
and in northern Germany it was a little more reserved than the Munich
area, and this is, of course, what we could see and what they were
telling us. And they were getting used to us. Guy and I were sort
of a new set of people for them to work with.
Their first astronauts were very much equivalent to our original seven,
and although I had an office there in Bonn-Cologne, I do remember
the mission manager came in one day and was very unhappy with a decision
that had been made at NASA Headquarters [Washington, D.C.] and wanted
me to call and tell them that they were unhappy, and of course, this
was my first flight. I would no more have called the NASA Administrator.
But I did call my boss, Mr. [George W.S.] Abbey, who was Director
of Flight Crew Operations, and said, “What do I do about this?”
and so got them connected, talking directly to one another. Because
they just assumed that I had the same relationship with senior management
and Congress that their folks did. [Laughter]
I became very good friends with Hans Ulrich Steimler [phonetic] and
Wolfgang Wyborny, who was their Ops [Operations] Manager, both really
outstanding people. But I learned much about the culture from them,
the decision-making processes; what was important, what wasn’t
important; how to negotiate. In fact, actually Hans Ulrich came in
one day and told me how to negotiate with them. [Laughs] I’ll
never forget this discussion. He says, “What you must understand—,”
and so we had a very good discussion about that.
Funny language stories. I was in the middle of a meeting with their
engineers, and of course, I had come originally out of Mission Operations,
so I was trying to understand their approach to operations, because
they’re going to be operating out of Oberpfaffenhofen, and there
were things—they were learning what we controlled versus what
we expected them to control, and I was using a phrase called housekeeping
data, which is downlinked data that’s about how an equipment
is operating, you know, temperature, pressures.
One of the German engineers finally looked at me, and he said, “Housekeeping
data. Is that because you’re the woman of the lab?” [Laughs]
And I thought, “That’s one of those language things they
forget about.” So I had to explain to him what we meant by that.
So it’s a lexicon of words. But, actually, English and German,
of course, had the same root basis in language, and so many of our
technical words are common. That’s one that was not, but the
technical aspects of it, generally, we didn’t have much problem
Sounds like you learned a lot, in terms of working with internationals,
especially, that you would apply later for Space Station and Shuttle-Mir.
Oh, no, I had a wonderful time. I made a lot of good friends. Actually
my maternal grandmother was German. Her father and mother had emigrated
from Germany. I was never able to trace the family; we think they
had been from East Germany originally. But I was very interested in
understanding the culture; in every town I trained in, I kept looking
for the name Staats, which was my grandmother’s maiden name.
Let me ask you a couple more things about the mission itself. A number
of crews have told us that they ate meals together. What about your
Oh, we did; we did. It wasn’t always there, I mean, but we were
a small group, and we tried to, Hank and I and Jim and—let’s
see. I had Reinhard Furrer on my shift. So there were just four of
us. We had to be quiet, though, because the rest of the crew—sometimes
we overlapped, okay? Sometimes we had dinner while they were having
breakfast on the other side. If we were up, we were a little more
But typically, we’d very quietly go in, get our—or one
person would do it—get everybody’s meals out, rehydrate,
heat up in the oven. We had meal trays, and, of course, we’re
color-coded, so we knew what everybody was going to eat in that meal.
Put it in the trays, and then we might go up to the flight deck and
eat up there. There was only four of us. We could all look out the
window, and there’s nothing that’s more entertaining in
space than looking out the window and seeing the Earth. It was really
Were there any challenges that you encountered while you were on orbit?
There’s always challenges, but by and large, the lab operated
quite well. The challenges we found were when we violated what we
historically knew were lessons learned. You know, you ought to train
like you fly and fly like you train, and in a couple of the experiment
cases, they just simply didn’t have the training hardware ready,
so when we trained in the lab, we had like wooden blocks. The procedure
would say, “Throw this switch,” and we’d pretend
Well, sure enough, we get into orbit, and here’s a piece of
hardware we’ve never seen before, and in one case we threw a
switch, thought things were on, but turned out it was almost a two-position
switch, and so there was a second detent we didn’t get past,
and the experiment was never activated. But there was also no light
feedback, no—that’s another rule. You ought to have some
kind of feedback system, let the crew know that it’s on, just
like when you turn the light switch on, the light comes on. Well there’s
power to the experiment, there ought to be a little green light out
there someplace. So that was a challenge. That was a disappointment
to come back and find out that was never activated.
Another one was, there was no integrated philosophy on panels and
switches when we flew the flight, because they had a lot of different
vendors bringing in experiment racks, and because for them it was
international. I mean, they had fluid physics from Italy. They had
a glovebox that came from ESTEC [European Space Technology Center]
in the Netherlands. So, as a result, the rack lighting, these trouble
lights and stuff, were not integrated, so when you looked down the
lab, you’d see this large array of different colored lights,
green ones, amber—they called them yellow—red.
But they didn’t always have the same function. On one particular
rack, it was one red light’s okay, two is caution, and three
is stop. Well, when you do what we call a cockpit scan, and you see
a red light, you know, and it’s down at the end, you’ve
got to—it would be nice if everything that were working were
all green, you know. Or if something was all red, then you knew it
was stopped. So that was always a challenge. Especially in a zero-G
environment, where you’re not always up straight like this.
You have to read the nomenclature on the light and the switch, make
sure everything’s in the appropriate position. So that added
a little bit of time overhead.
These are all minor challenges, but something that we—you know,
lessons learned that we keep reinventing, but hopefully as we start
exploring, we’ll adapt all this human factors data that we’ve
learned over the last thirty years and put them in our new vehicles.
Are there any other anecdotes from the mission that you recall?
Okay. Well, let’s see. I’m thinking. Seven days.
A personal moment. When you first have an opportunity to look at Earth,
there’s no IMAX film that really even does it justice. There
was one point where I decided to mentally snapshot a picture, and
it just really was striking. We were tail down to the Earth, but our
overhead windows were in the velocity vector. So you have these big,
square windows that you are looking out in the direction that you
are moving, so it’s like being on a platform, and the Earth
limbs out there. I kept thinking, this must be what Captain Kirk was
thinking on the Enterprise, you know. [Laughter] Because you’re
actually laying on the ceiling, but of course it’s your own
vertical—feet down to the Earth, looking out.
We were at the transition of day to night towards the South Pole,
and the South Pole was dark, and as a result, we could see the southern
lights from above, which just looks like little fire flames. It’s
very dynamic, and we must have had a lot of activity, solar activity,
at that time; nothing dangerous, but enough to make it pretty spectacular.
So as we’re just very silently drifting around the planet and
going close to the South Pole, or fifty-seven degrees inclination,
so we’re pretty far south, more so than a lot of missions, and
to see that sight was just really spectacular. I was eating at the
window, and I thought, “Well, I’m just going to memorize
this,” and that’s one of those moments that I kept with
The other one I can remember—actually maybe Steve Nagel talked
about this—I was back in the lab. It might have been a shift
handover; no, as I recall now, Steve and Hank were both up on my shift,
and Jim Buchli was on the red shift. I heard something over the intercom
that’s sort of “Holy heck,”—or something like
that—“what’s that?” So I thought, “Well,
I better float on up there and see what’s going on.” Or
maybe they called my name.
We’re looking out the front windows, and it looks like little
fireflies out in the distance, and we thought—at first you’d
think they were stars, and then you noticed that there’s some
relative motion. They’re actually coming towards us. And I thought,
“Well, maybe it’s—you know, what’s reflection
off of it.” And then not only did it come towards us, it went
by the windows, floated by the payload bay, and hit the OMS [Orbital
Maneuvering System] pod and bounced off. This is real stuff, and some
of it did hit the forward windows and left these whitish streaks,
which may have been just scraping off some of—we had some ascent
kind of fogging that would occur, maybe some paint or waterproofing
that came off.
There was a lot of discussion about whether or not we discuss it with
the ground and how we discuss it with the ground. Because it was obvious
that it wasn’t penetrating, or we certainly couldn’t see,
and the relative speed was very, very slow. This stuff would just
float by and just hit and bounce off. I don’t remember if Hank
did say something to the ground. I just kind of watched it, and I
said, “Well, everything okay? I’m going to go back to
I thought, “This is weird.” I think they did talk about
it, and talked about that there was some evidence of the streaking
on the windows, and then we debriefed it after the flight. I’ve
heard a lot of speculation about what it might have been. It might
have been one of our prior dumps, water dumps, but it didn’t
look quite like that. We heard that it might have been a Russian dump.
I guess, ’85, it might have been Mir, or Salut, I’m not
sure at that time, so I’m not quite sure, but it was interesting.
It did show, though, that you can—it was in orbit, so we were
actually recontacting it.
Interesting. What are your memories of landing? Were you on the middeck
for landing as well?
I was on the middeck for landing. What I remember is that the vehicles,
of course, are just pressure vessels, and they’re not perfectly
cylindrical, and so when you come back into Earth’s atmosphere,
there’s some deformations. You can hear the little creaks and
groans. It’s a double-hulled vehicle, though, so there’s
no concern about losing pressure, and, of course, we’ve got
makeup gasses and stuff, but you—especially as you come through
At that time we had four on the middeck, and I sat right to the right
of the waste management system, right by the ladder. I could look
up and see Jim Buchli, MS-2; Guy was on the other side of him. I had
a camera in my lap, because I could look to the left out the hatch
window, middeck hatch window, and we wanted to get some pictures of
the entry plasma and the color flows, which we did, by the way. But
all of a sudden there’s a big bang, and what happened is that
the Orbiter actually deformed a little bit, and the door to the waste
management system came unlatched and flung open against my seat. And
I looked at it, and I heard Hank say, “What’s that?”
I looked, and I says, “That’s the WCS [Waste Collection
System] doors. I think everything’s okay.” But then I
had to hold it back with one hand so I could take the pictures out
the window, and I actually held it back with one hand all the way
through entry. I just didn’t want us to be in a position that
if anything did happen, and we had to get through that hatch, that
the door was going to be open. So it was kind of like that, and so
finally we landed, and they came and got us, and we were able to latch
it again after we got out of our seat.
Was your family there when you landed the first time?
Oh yes. Yes.
What are your memories of that?
Well, it’s great. I remember getting out of the vehicle. In
those days, I think I went seven days without washing my hair, because
I hadn’t thought about a technique for it, and I was pretty
grungy. [Laughs] So I remember walking out of the vehicle thinking,
“I really need a shower.” Took a shower, did some medical
tests, and then went out and saw my family and my future brother-in-law.
My sister was dating this young Navy pilot, so I was giving him the
third degree, but it was very fun seeing that. That was all out at
Edwards [Air Force Base, California].
Now, as I understand it, you and the other mission and payload specialists
actually went back to Kennedy Space Center [Florida], where you participated
in a two-week study of the human body.
Yes, and it had to do with the fact that it’s part of baseline
data collection. If you’re going to study the human body, you
have to have something to compare the spaceflight data to. You have
to understand the changes before flight, if there are any variations,
versus going to flight, and then readaptation after the flight. So
we actually had crew members who were participating in that, and I
did. I actually gave my blood at Edwards, but the vestibular sled
stuff and some of the other types of things we did were all back at
Kennedy, and the reason for that is that the Germans had flown that
all in, I think via C-5A, and they’d flown it into Kennedy so
that we could—they had the medical lab set up there. They really
weren’t equipped out at Edwards to be able to do that.
Also, we had all the investigators there at Kennedy for some of the
biological stuff, because in the case of the Biorack, which had a
number of biological investigations, I don’t activate some of
those until we’re actually on orbit, and so they run the ground
truth. Let’s say you’re hatching frog eggs, which is one
of the things we did, is they have different ages of frog eggs, but
they don’t start the experiment till we’re actually in
orbit so they have something in parallel, and then they can look at—when
we did a procedure, they did it on the ground, so that things happened
in the same sequence as well. It reduces the number of research variables
that you’re dealing with. So, yes, we went back and participated
Can you tell us about your PR [Public Relations] trips that you took?
We did our PR, our postflight for that, in January of ’8
just before the Challenger accident, if I recall correctly. It was
a great trip. I remember that we spoke to a lot of universities. We
met with a large number of the German Bundestag. We went to MBB-ERNO
[Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm-Entwicklungts Ring Nord Organization,
Spacelab contractors]. We rode on one of the inaugural rides of one
of the bullet trains that they had put—I think it was even a
Lufthansa train, if I’m not mistaken. And it was a great trip.
One of the things I do remember, we were at Lake Constance at a hotel
there, and typical of a lot of the hotels, it was an old castle. It
had a little restaurant and a pub there, and we were eating and just
visiting, and the crew members had their spouses there, and there
was another group of older men sitting at another table. Finally one
of them walked up to us, and he had seen a picture of the crew in
the paper, and he asked if that’s who we were.
He introduced himself, and he said that he had been a World War II
German pilot, and he and Hank started talking, and Steve, because
flight is a commonality, you know. The war was a long time ago, and
Hank was, I think, very interested in what he’d flown and where,
and it turned out that towards the end of the war, they were recruiting
very young boys to fly, and he was very young, maybe sixteen, seventeen,
trained and sent to North Africa. I think he was shot down, and then
the war ended shortly after. We had a really interesting discussion.
Then he went home, and he brought back a scrapbook and a few other
little things, and they started looking at the scrapbook of things
that he had flown and so forth. Then he gave us each a little memento,
and he gave me a little paperweight, which I still have, which has
a little gold eagle on it. So that was very special.
Any other special memories from that trip?
Oh, there’s always special memories. I’d have to go back
to my pictures. I still have that eagle, so I think about that every
once in a while. Let’s see. It was a very hectic trip, as our
postflights are. We had postflights set up for our hometowns later
in February. We cancelled all those shortly after the Challenger accident,
so that really was the only postflight trip we had.
Let’s talk about the Challenger accident. Where were you when
the accident occurred?
I came back from this mission and was assigned to be a CapCom [Capsule
Communicator], so I was actually OJT [On-the-Job Training] for the
planning shift. So for the mission, I had been on console, I think,
from maybe ten the night before to I don’t know what time. It
might have been four, five, six a.m.; I don’t remember exactly.
Then I went home, and I got up to watch the launch, which was in the
morning. So I’d only had a couple hours’ sleep, maybe
less, and I’d thought about going back and watching it in mission
control, but I was pretty tired. I thought, “Well, I’ll
watch it on TV.” So I saw it at home; it didn’t take very
much thought to know something was wrong, so as soon as I heard the
air-to-ground discussion, I finished getting dressed and went in to
What did you do after the accident?
I walked into Building 4, and the first person I saw was Dr. Carolyn
[L.] Huntoon, and she was on her way to the Astronaut Office as well,
and I went up. People were starting to congregate. The chief of the
office was John [W.] Young. We were in the process of doing a postaccident
assignment of support, and so I went to my office and waited to be
told what I should do.
What tasks were you given by John Young?
I didn’t have an immediate one. I didn’t deploy out to
the launch site. I was eventually sent to Headquarters to be part
of the—it was called the Action Center that Admiral [Richard
H.] Truly set up to track the accident and all the material that would
go back and forth to the Rogers Commission. The room itself had actually
been set up by Bryan [D.] O’Connor. He was the point person
there. It was everything from maps on the wall, where the debris was
being found, to logs of all the requests from the Rogers Commission.
Of course, it took a little while to get that in place. And then there
were three of us assigned to rotate up there and support that room.
Sid [Sidney M.] Gutierrez and Frank [L.] Culbertson [Jr.] and I were
the three that rotated after Bryan set up the Action Center.
How long was the Action Center in place?
Gosh, it had to be there at least—well, it was there until just
after the Rogers Commission finished their work, so it seems to me
it was there most of the rest of the year. I think I sort of phased
out of it; I’m thinking September, but I’d have to look
at my notes. Maybe a little earlier than that.
Now, no Shuttle missions flew again until ’88, when STS-26 flew.
But in the meantime you served as the Chairman of the NASA Microgravity
Materials Science Assessment Task Force. Can you tell me about that
Well, yes. I came back from this really outstanding flight, that D-1
Spacelab flight. Talked to a lot of researchers in Europe and the
U.K. [United Kingdom], which was part of this flight as well, the
MIT folks, and at the time, in ’84 we had announced an international
cooperation for the Space Station Freedom. So I’m a materials
engineer, and one of the things I found fascinating on the D-1 flight
was all this materials research that they were doing, microgravity
materials research. MAN Technologies, which is a well-known—mostly
metals, but a materials company in Germany, had sponsored some experiments.
I think it was directional solidification or binary alloys that you
could not produce in 1-G, due to convective flow.
Some of it was very fundamental research that would allow them insights
into their, like for instance, turbine blade processes; you know,
that you weren’t actually going to produce something in space,
but gravity really obstructs our ability to understand some processes,
because it produces convection and turbulent flow. So I got very interested
in the theory behind it, and I started asking some questions. One
of those question is, “Well, what are we building for this Space
Station Freedom in the way of furnaces or materials research capabilities?”
The answer I got back was, is that, well, we had two lab flights planned
on the Shuttle to do life sciences, SLS [Spacelab Life Sciences]-1
and SLS-2, and we were participating in IML-1, which is International
Microgravity Lab [Laboratory] flight, but that we really weren’t
building any facilities for Station. All we had were middeck-level
small things, and so I said, “Well, that won’t allow us
to really utilize Station or to do this leading research.”
One of the reasons I questioned that is because we really helped forge
that area back in Skylab. We did metals directional solidification.
We were looking at eutectic points, all the stuff where we were showing
that microgravity, or the lack of the acceleration due to gravity,
does have an effect on how materials perform and react, heat transfer,
the whole bit. It seemed that it was a real loss of our investment
and scientific discoveries of the future if we didn’t build
facilities for Station.
So after I got back from the accident, I was in a couple of meetings,
and one of them was a safety meeting for payloads for Space Station
Freedom that was conducted at Marshall [Space Flight Center, Huntsville,
Alabama], and just various things I was sent to, and we started having
a discussion about this. At the same time Dr. Sally [K.] Ride was
asked to lead an Exploration Strategic Plan for the Administrator
of NASA, and we were talking, and I talked specifically about what
I thought was a gap in our ability to utilize the Station we were
going to build.
And she said, “Well, why don’t you lead a task force reporting
back up to me on this very subject,” because we both saw a link
between our ability to build facilities operated in microgravity and
exploration onto the Moon and Mars, which are in fractional gravity,
and as a materials person, it was pretty evident to me, if you don’t
understand what’s happening at zero—let’s say you’re
going to do in situ resource utilization, even—if you don’t
understand what’s happening at zero, how are you going to extrapolate
to one-third and one-sixth? I can’t just put a mining operation
up on the Moon and expect I would get the same chemical reactions,
heat transfers, times; it’s just not going to work that way.
So she tasked me via memo, which either was signed by Dr. [James C.]
Fletcher or it was initialed off by him, to proceed with this task
force. It was a Microgravity—I don’t even remember the
full name—Research Task Force, and we had representation from
all the Centers. We had representation from the commercial sector.
We met at—I think most of the Centers. We held panel meetings
over the course of a year, and we came up with a set of recommendations.
Among those recommendations, besides the facilities, was to fly Spacelab
flights; to design them, test them, and mature them before they went
up to Space Station permanently, because once you’ve got them
on Station, you couldn’t tweak them as readily. We’ve
already seen that. The Spacelab flights are wonderful as a test bed.
You can take them up for a week, two weeks; find out what needs to
be corrected, if you have to; whether they’ll function properly;
and then bring them back to get the hardware back.
Out of that, within five years—we published that report in ’87.
We flew USML-1, United States Microgravity Lab-1 flight in 1992 with
all new facilities that were destined for the International Space
Station, including a new set of furnaces. What was thrilling for me
was to be asked to be Payload Commander of that flight, and so in
five years I had an opportunity to see it go from a concept in a report
to an actual flight of brand-new equipment and hardware; a thirteen-day
flight, and everything worked perfectly. It was just wonderful.
Before we talk about this flight, I wanted to talk to you about the
Astronaut Science Support Group that you also became a member of.
Yes. Actually, there was several of us that started it through a discussion,
George [D.] “Pinky” Nelson, Franklin [R.] Chang[-Diaz],
myself, [Margaret] Rhea Seddon, and I think we had a couple of others
on it. But we were sort of the core that said, “Okay, now we’ve
seen what works on the middeck and what doesn’t, and what works
in the lab and not. We have this corporate knowledge of microgravity
that’s not in a textbook anywhere.”
Now, there’s an engineering side to that. You know, how does
heat transfer work when you don’t have natural convection and
so forth, and how do you provide for EMI [Electromagnetic Interference]
and so forth. But there’s an operational side to that as well.
What should you automate and what shouldn’t you automate? What
information should you give the crew if you want to optimize your
scientific output? There was no place an investigator or a hardware
designer could go for that. So we thought, “What we’ll
do, is rather than wait till they’ve designed the hardware and
it’s too late to change it—,” which is what was
happening. The crew would see the hardware in training, and by that
time, you say, “Oh, that’s not going to work,” and
they didn’t have the funds to change it.
So we started the Science Support Group, and we asked to be able to
talk to the investigator and the hardware designers as soon as they
put what was called, I think, a 1628, request for launch, or phase
zero safety paper in, and we would give them the benefit of our operational
experience, research experience. We started doing that, and it worked
out very well. We’d get an investigator in, building a piece
of hardware, and they would present to us, and we’d ask questions.
We’d explain what our experience base had been like on similar
hardware; what things they could do that they maybe didn’t think
about. They didn’t realize, for example, maybe they could get
TV down; that it didn’t just belong to the Orbiter. That we
could put downlink; they could actually see something. That they could
depend upon us to help optimize their research results.
Many of them had been told that the crew didn’t want to do research,
that the crew didn’t have enough time to do research, and that
was kind of the word they were getting. That’s not the word
we wanted out there, because the experiments that came in with no
crew input usually failed, and you couldn’t fix them when they
did. So there was no opportunity to do in-flight maintenance. So what
we set down was mission-success-oriented corporate knowledge for them,
and that was the Science Support Group.
Do you recall any of the companies that you worked with or any of
the projects that you worked on?
Oh, I was chief of that for a while. I had file cabinets. I mean,
I think I had one whole file cabinet—it’s probably archived
someplace—of folders of the people either had sent information
to us and I’d sent back some written stuff, or meetings we’d
participate in, small working groups we’d put together, or even
whole office seminars. We set up a seminar series. In fact, I can
tell you some of our early seminar presenters were [Ching-Wu] Paul
Chu, who eventually got the Nobel Prize in superconductivity; Alex
Ignatiev with the Wake Shield Facility; 3M Corporation was doing vapor
deposition; Larry [Lawrence J.] DeLucas, protein crystal growth, and
Charlie [Charles E.] Bugg, who was actually his predecessor in that
whole project, were all presenters at our seminar series.
Why don’t we go ahead and take a break here for a second.
Let’s talk about STS-32. Can you talk about the training that
you underwent for this mission?
Yes. This mission was a training flow of about a year. It’s
the Long Duration Exposure Facility [LDEF] retrieval mission, plus
we launched a SYNCOM-IV. LDEF had been launched about five years prior
to this mission in 1990. Originally we were supposed to launch in
December of ’89 and be up over Christmas. We even had Christmas
photos made, but then we slipped over into January. LDEF was launched
as a passive satellite to test the effects of Low Earth Orbit, LEO,
on different materials in particular, and so it had a constant attitude
around the Earth. It had witness plates that were looking for distribution
of orbital debris, among other things, but it also had wiring harnesses
of different cladding material; look at how ultraviolet light affected
it as well. Those were just a few of the experiments.
The accident occurred, and we didn’t get it, and its orbit was
decaying. It did not have an active attitude control system. It had
sort of a damping system that allowed it to stay in one attitude,
but it couldn’t de-orbit itself, so we couldn’t actually
put it down someplace. And we needed the data. It was meant to be
brought back on the Shuttle. We didn’t have anything equivalent
in terms of looking at orbital debris or those environments. So the
flight was put together, and there were five of us on it. I got to
operate the robotic arm. That was a fun training flow, because we
did a lot of development in it, in terms of models on the simulator
and attitudes that we’d use the Shuttle for.
In fact, we did something unique on this flight. Because we were also
looking at atomic oxygen, which is in the ram direction of flow, we
were concerned, the investigators were concerned, that as we came
down to pick up LDEF, and we did what was called an R-bar approach,
which is we came down from the top, which was the first time we’d
done an over-the-head R-bar approach, is that as I grappled it and
then moved it around to put in the payload bay, they were afraid that
they would expose different surfaces to the ram direction that hadn’t
been exposed before.
So what we did, and Jim [James D.] Wetherbee and Dan [Daniel C.] Brandenstein
were doing the flying, is that we actually used the Shuttle as a shield.
So we put it in the ram direction and used it like a Wake Shield and
therefore deflected the atomic oxygen flow away from LDEF while we
then took pictures of all the surfaces and then put it in the payload
The reason that we took pictures of all the surfaces was—how
much did it weigh—it’s almost—well, a little more
than half a payload bay long, and I think around 23,000 pounds. The
payload bay is fifteen feet in diameter. I think this is fourteen
feet in diameter. It had four latch points and a keel, and there was
concern that maybe we wouldn’t be able to get it latched down,
and we’d have to maybe take it up to a higher orbit and leave
it. So we wanted to at least get the pictorial data.
So we had different positions to put it in so we could take the seventy-millimeter
photos out of the aft windows, and Marsha [S.] Ivins was in charge
of that and did a really great job capturing each one of these panels.
We also put video down to the ground. That took several hours, but
we were able to do that and then got it latched and brought it back.
It was a ten-day mission.
It was also the first mission we called Extended Duration Orbiter,
which we had a large number of medical tests that had been put into
place to determine really how long that we could keep pilots in orbit
without having any adverse effects on landing. Because they came down
sitting up, so we were concerned about fainting or an orthostatic
intolerance. We flew the Lower Body Negative Pressure Device, which
had not been flown since Skylab, but was also a technique that the
Russians routinely used as well.
When you draw a slight vacuum on the lower body, about sixty millimeters
of mercury pressure, it causes the fluids to go back into the legs,
and you drink a lot of liquids, and this rehydrates you, because you
have the opposite effect after launch. After about two or three days,
you’ve lost a liter of fluid, and you’ve lost the mass
in your legs, so as gravity starts to pull back on your fluid system,
your heart has to start beating faster and harder to keep blood in
your brain. So we’re trying to find ways to really rehydrate
and bring the human system back up to an Earth level. So the Lower
Body Negative Pressure Device was something we tested on this flight,
a new design. Actually, it’s been around about a hundred years,
I found out later.
Oh, has it?
It’s been used, yes, for a lot of cardiac studies for over a
hundred years. So I was one of the subjects for that. I had an echocardiograph
for imaging the heart. Oh, what else did we have? We had a lot of
other middeck experiments as well, and then the Navy SYNCOM-IV satellite.
Can you talk about actually using that Lower Body Negative Pressure
unit, being that subject?
Yes, well, [G.] David Low and I were the two subjects. So when one
of us was a subject, the other was the operator. It was basically
a big can that sealed around the waist, and it hooked into the vacuum
system. Of course, it had a controller on it so you didn’t get
too much vacuum. There was a sequence of steps down to the lowest
vacuum level, and then you would dwell at that length of time—let’s
say four hours—and you drink thirty-two ounces of water, and
you really could tell that your system was reabsorbing that liquid,
and you’re getting your skin color back in your legs, so it
was bringing fluids back into the system. I felt, since I used it
on two flights, that it really did give me some protection from entry.
We also had some exercise protocols. We had a treadmill on board,
and Jim Wetherbee and David Low were those two subjects as well. I
remember both of them, I think, ran around the world; they ran on
it for ninety minutes. And it was a lab, so just in the crew compartment,
five of us. We were single-shift, but that didn’t seem that
crowded. We ate together, and, of course, you’d usually have
a couple of people or maybe most people up on the flight deck. A lot
of middeck experiments, so we kept very busy.
The most exciting thing that happened in that flight is that we had
a fairly young mission controller. I think he was an INCO, must have
been an INCO, Integrated Communications Officer, who sent up a completed
command that put us into a spin during our sleep shift, and the ground
called us. Dan woke up, and he said the Moon was rapidly moving through
the window or something to that effect, so he disengaged the autopilot,
basically, and gained attitude control. [Laughter]
When you launched for this mission, were you on the middeck or were
you on the flight deck?
I have to think about where I was for this mission. Let’s see.
You get a choice if you’re going to be—I was MS-1, and
because it was my second flight, I let G. David launch on the flight
deck. I always liked entry better. For me, entry was not any longer,
but because I’d worked on the Shuttle tiles, it was always interesting
for me to see the plasma environment, and so I didn’t mind sitting
on the middeck for launch. It’s over in eight minutes.
Can you tell us about the deployment of the SYNCOM satellite?
It happened on day one, and G. David Low was in charge of that, and
I was his counterpart on some of the switches and the backup, and
that went very well. It spins frisbee-style out of the payload bay,
and then we back away from it, and it does a spin out. We watch it
while it does its full spin up and then deploys its antennas. Then
we back away from it, because it has an upper stage that it fires.
But it went well.
You’ve given us a sense of some of the differences between your
first mission and this mission, but what were some of the other differences
that you noticed?
Well, let’s see. Besides the fact that it was single shift versus
dual shift, it was a rendezvous and proximity ops and grapple with
the RMS [Remote Manipulator System], which we didn’t have on
the first flight. There were a lot of commonalities in some of the
research areas, although this was an EDO flight, so it was dedicated
towards Extended Duration Orbiter medical. And some of that was preflight
and postflight as well, not all of it on orbit. I think we had a little
more time looking out the window. We did a DTO [Detailed Test Objective]
with the RMS, and we practiced inspecting the Orbiter with different
positions. Of course, you can’t get all the way around to the
belly, but we looked, verified the fields of views, and the lighting
conditions that you could see with different positions, and then we
did that over a couple of days so all three of the mission specialists
will get experience in that area. I don’t remember all of it.
One of the things I do remember that was really pretty interesting
is that because there was so much running on the treadmill, it was
almost always in use during the day. I looked out the aft flight deck
windows one day, and I realized that the running tempo, which was
about one RPM [Rate Per Minute], was almost the resonant frequency
of the vehicle, because the EVA [Extravehicular Activity] guy wires,
there along the payload bay, were oscillating in tempo with the treadmill.
Then I looked at LDEF, and you remember, LDEF is massive, and it’s
held down with latches, but there were little foils. Part of the atomic
oxygen effect had been to delaminate some spoils, and they’re
sitting there bouncing like they’re flapping in the wind. So
the whole vehicle is responding to this treadmill on the middeck.
It was very interesting.
Any other anecdotes or stories about the crew or the flight?
Well, I was the principal investigator on a small experiment called
the Fluid Experiment Apparatus [FEA], which was meant to show that
crew exercise could, in fact, affect some crystal research. So we
had an Indium alloy, directionally solidified, that we intentionally—it’s
a low temperature melting thing, so we had a glass interface to it,
and we had a camera over it—and so we had intentionally operated
it while the crew was on the treadmill, and then we had some accelerometers
in it so we could measure the disturbances. Now, we matched those
with the accelerometers back in the payload bay in what was called
the Orbiter Experiments Package, OEX, part of the ASIP [phonetic]
package, and we published several papers on that. Don [Donald A.]
Thomas, who’s now an astronaut, was an engineer then, and he
was the co-investigator on that. Then Rockwell [International Corporation]
built the actual FEA, it was called, the device.
It was pretty dramatic. You could watch this molten part of the field
sit there and bounce as well, and so I think we made our point, because
there was some discussion as to whether or not crew exercise might
even affect some of the research.
Once you actually landed, you helped to down-process the LDEF?
Well, I didn’t help down-process it. I went back to Langley
[Research Center, Hampton, Virginia] and had a chance to look at it.
They asked me about certain things. They had the pictures, but they
were also interested in knowing whether I thought certain panels looked
the same as I remembered seeing them in orbit, and I didn’t
see any changes. I actually had a chance to learn a whole lot more
about what we found on LDEF. I think it was really interesting.
It was five years in orbit, and they’d put these bicycle reflectors
on it to help with retrieval, and I had trained that way. I said,
“You know, it’s not a generating light, but there were
supposed to have been these reflectors that helped me get an orientation,
and I couldn’t see them.” And remember, in those days
we didn’t have GPS [Global Positioning System]; we didn’t
have laser range finders. We were doing triangulation with cameras,
and the cameras, if they got very much sunlight in them, also bloomed,
which would completely occlude your view. So I was trying to look
out the window for these reflectors, and I couldn’t see them.
Well, the atomic oxygen had pretty much eroded every one of them on
the ram end, and even some of the other ones. So it was very interesting.
The orbital debris environment, in those five years there was nothing
catastrophic that went through the structure, but we took a snapshot,
basically at, you know, eighty-five to ninety, and that snapshot has
changed, I’m sure, in the last fifteen years. We really ought
to be putting more of these vehicles in orbit and bringing them back,
just to see how that orbital debris environment matches our models.
Did you have any other involvement with the LDEF once you left Langley?
No. They very graciously sent me CDs of the data and the proceedings.
I believe it was Boeing [Airplane Company] that pulled all that data
together in a database so that we could access it for future vehicle
Did you have any PR trips following this trip?
Oh yes. You’re going to ask me to remember what they are, aren’t
you? Let’s see. That was January of 1990. I’m sure I must
have done a couple of hometowners; that’s pretty standard. But
I don’t remember—and Langley; we went to visit the people
in Langley. Nothing international. I think that was kind of a limited
postflight on that flight.
You mentioned that you had done a couple of hometown PR trips. Can
you tell us about those?
Well, usually it’s kind of home state, some things in Washington.
But in my early flights, hometown meant going back to Sunnyside, Washington,
which was actually the nearest town to where I grew up. I grew up
on a ranch in Outlook, but that post office is about five miles away,
and it’s just a post office and the church. They used to have
a fire station, but they don’t have it anymore. But I went to
high school in Sunnyside. So after my first couple of flights, they
had some very nice receptions there, and once they had a parade. So
I got to ride in the hometown parade.
What other things did you do across the state of Washington?
I talked to a lot of schools and civic groups and professional groups
and the universities. I still do that. We maintain an affiliation
with our home states not just as kind of an informal, nice to do,
but that’s kept in a database in the Astronaut Appearances Office,
and so when requests come in from those states, then very often if
it’s from Washington state, they’ll contact me and say,
“We have a request,” because there’s a link there.
Sure. Well, I think we can stop for today, unless there’s something
else that you’d like to talk about.
No. I’ll go back and look at my pictures from STS-32. Oh, there
are a couple of things I remember now we’ll talk about.
Okay. Well, we have a few minutes, if you’d like.
Okay. Just a couple more things. We did some unusual in-flight maintenance
procedures on STS-32. We had a leak in the humidity separator under
the floor, and we verified that by putting the burrow scope camera
down in a little crack on the middeck floor and saw this big water
bubble around part of the pump sep [separator]. I guess the ground
had figured they weren’t seeing all the water they needed to
see in one of the tanks. So we had to go clean it up with towels,
and the only way you could get down there was to pull out what was
called the big LiOH [Lithium Hydroxide] canister in the floor. It
was a storage area, but it was also a can. So every day we had to
pull this out, move it across the floor, go down and clean up the
water so we could stay the full mission, and then put the LiOH big
box back in.
I do remember one thing that was very interesting to me. We had set
up cameras so the ground could see this procedure as well, and so
they could check what we were doing against what they had sent to
us, but also just to see what it entailed. It was interesting. I remember
doing that procedure, and I thought, “Boy, we’re really
moving fast. We’re getting this all down. It’s very efficient.”
Then I saw the video after the flight, and it looked like we were
moving in slow motion, and I remember thinking, “Now, why was
my perception of time so different than what I’m seeing on the
I think that has something to do with everything we do in zero gravity,
and that is that on the Earth, you’re not always thinking about
holding on to something so you don’t float away, or where you
put your feet. You know, it’s automatic. But in orbit, that’s
all part of the process. “Well, I can’t do this unless
I make sure I’m anchored somehow.” And we start integrating
all that information, and our sense of time is a little different.
It’s the opposite—well, it’s probably a time compression,
in a way. So it goes by very fast, but it’s because there’s
just so much there. So I always, from that flight on, sort of tried
to accommodate that in everything else we timelined in the future,
remembering that when I do something in 1-G, it’s going to take
longer in zero-G.
Any other stories or memories?
Not right now. I’m fine. My mouth’s getting dry.
Okay. Let’s go ahead and stop for today.
Thanks for coming.