Space Center Oral History Project
Edited Oral History Transcript
Interviewed by Sandra Johnson
Houston, Texas – 14 January 2003
Today is January 14th, 2003. This oral history with Steve Hawley is
being conducted for the Johnson Space Center Oral History Project
in Houston, Texas. Sandra Johnson is the interviewer, and is assisted
by Rebecca Wright and Jennifer Ross-Nazzal.
I want to thank you again for coming back for your third interview.
At the last time where we left off, you were talking to us about [NASA]
Ames [Research Center, Moffett Field, California] and your time out
there. I’d like to pick it up when you returned to JSC. How
did that come about that you got a chance to come back to JSC?
Well, I think when I went out to Ames, I wasn’t sure what I
wanted to do long term. I wasn’t sure where my interests were.
I was excited about the chance of doing something different, of getting
involved in the management of science, and I always kind of had a
plan in my mind that I would do Ames on the order of a couple of years
and then make a decision about what I wanted to do long term, stay
or do something else.
When I decided that I really liked operations and I wasn’t ready
yet to get out of operations, I started basically calling the people
that I used to work with here and at Kennedy [Kennedy Space Center,
Florida], and looked for opportunities. There were opportunities at
[NASA] Headquarters [Washington, D. C.], but I didn’t really
want to go to Headquarters. There were opportunities at Kennedy, and
that was kind of interesting. I remember talking to Aaron Cohen, JSC
Director then, about some opportunities back here. It turned out that
it worked out nicely that he thought I might be a good fit in the
Deputy Director of Flight Crew Operations spot. So when I had an opportunity
to come back and basically join my old organization again in a management
role, I thought that would be kind of fun. So, somewhat reluctantly
left Ames, but had enjoyed the experience and learned a lot and was
glad to get a chance to get back into operations.
Shortly after you got back into that, you were asked to fill in as
the Acting Director when [Donald R.] Don Puddy left.
Don Puddy was Director when I came back. He was actually Director
when I went to Ames. In fact, he had done a rotation at Ames, I think,
as Deputy Center Director, if I remember right, sometime in the eighties.
So he was kind of interested in the opportunity that I had to go to
Ames, because that was kind of what he did. When I came back, I was
his Deputy for a brief period of time, and then he got a new assignment
until they hired [David C.] Dave Leestma to be the Director. I got
to serve for probably about three months as Acting Director.
Is there anything that stands out in your mind during that time that
I just remember being real glad that they finally got around to hiring
the Director. [Laughs] That was a lot of work, at least for me at
the time, to do pretty much by myself. As the Deputy, I became the
Acting Director, but for a while I didn’t have anybody to sort
of be Acting Deputy. As I recall, I may have managed to twist [Richard
O.] Dick Covey’s arm into coming up and being Deputy Director
for a while. Somewhere in all of that, he got assigned to the first
Hubble [Space Telescope] servicing mission as commander, so he left
to go do that. So I just remember it being a time when I felt kind
of by myself.
Was there ever a chance or an opportunity that you may take over that
position at that time?
I was one of the candidates interviewed at the time that Dave was
selected. Frankly, I didn’t think I had enough experience yet,
really, to be as good a Director as I would’ve wanted to be.
So I was quite content to continue to do the Deputy job. I had learned
a lot about budget and personnel and procurement and just institutional
kinds of things at Ames. This was a chance to now take that knowledge
and marry it with the knowledge of the technical job that we had to
do in FCOD [Flight Crew Operations Directorate]. So I felt that it
would be useful for me to spend a few years kind of putting all the
pieces together and really understanding in detail how an organization
like that works. That was what I wanted to do, so I was happy to get
a chance to do that as Dave’s Deputy.
Is there anything that stands out in your mind during that period
of about, well, I guess, around five years before your next flight,
that you’d like to talk about? Any specific issues or anything
you dealt with during that time?
Gosh, I’m not sure I remember. That was the period of time,
as I recall, where we were flying frequently and very successfully.
I remember specifically we had the first Hubble servicing mission
which was considered to be, by some at least, the most important mission
NASA was to undertake since Apollo 11. Having deployed Hubble, and
then having returned as FCOD Deputy during that time, and being involved
in a lot of the meetings about how this was all to work and all that
was at stake, that was memorable when we finally launched in December
of ’93, as I recall.
Normally, the Director represents Flight Crew Operations at the launch
site and is in the control center for launch. For whatever reason,
maybe just because I was familiar with Hubble, but I don’t remember,
but whatever reason, he didn’t go that time, and I got to go.
So I was the one that was in the launch control center and got to
be there for Hubble’s launch and the Hubble servicing mission.
That was special.
I also remember, for whatever reason, I don’t remember when
it took place, but I do remember being there on another occasion as
FCOD representative in the control center for a launch that was supposed
to happen at three in the morning, or something like that. I remember
being tired, and I’d probably been up all day, and now we were
up all night, and this could have even been the second or third day
of trying to launch, because I don’t remember the circumstances.
But I do remember for an instant sitting there thinking, “Jeez,
I’m tired. Here it is three in the morning,” and in the
next instant, remembered thinking, “This is really amazing,
though, that of all the people in the country or the world, there’s
about ten or fifteen of us that are allowed to sit here in this room
at this time and do this thing.” And suddenly the fact that
it was three in the morning and I’d been up all day didn’t
seem very important. It was the fact that I was privileged to get
to be a part of this, and that was really nice, and that was one of
the things that I remember from that time.
When did you begin training for the next flight, for STS-82?
It was February of ’96, as I recall.
How did you get assigned to that flight, and what was the progression?
As I recall it, Dave had a chance one day—I was sitting in his
office. I don’t remember if he called me in specifically to
discuss this, and he asked me if I wanted to fly again and wanted
to fly on the Hubble servicing mission as the arm operator. I guess,
to make a short story long, when I left to go to Ames, I expected
that I would never fly again, and when I came back from Ames, I expected
I would never fly again, except knowing that I was back, and back
in FCOD, I thought, well, you know, there could be some chance that
there’d be that opportunity if the right situation came along.
But I remember thinking that it’s not the sort of thing that
it’s appropriate for me in this job to lobby for. I thought
if the circumstances were right and other people thought, “Hey,
you know, Steve would be the right guy to do this,” that I would
entertain that. But it wasn’t something that I sought, at least
not that I remember seeking.
But it did come up. The circumstance was right, hopefully, for them
to need an experienced robotic arm operator with some Hubble knowledge.
The servicing missions were very high profile then, as they are now.
As an experienced astronaut, I hope they decided that I was the right
person for the flight. But for whatever reason, they asked me to do
it, and I think I said, “Well, let me go ask my wife.”
I think I said, “Yes, I’d like to do it, but before I
commit, I’d better go ask her what she thinks.” So the
next day I told them it was okay. So that’s how I got assigned.
That was about a year, as it turned out, a little less than a year
before we actually launched.
While you were training for that, did you still keep up your duties
as the Deputy Director, or was it something that they had a temporary
No, they had a temporary person. I probably did it for a little while
subsequent to the announcement, while we brought a new person over.
I don’t honestly remember who it was. We had several acting
deputies during the time that I was on [STS-]82 or [STS-]93. Linda
[M.] Godwin did it for a while. [Curtis L.] Curt Brown [Jr.] did it
for a while. I think [Robert L.] Hoot [Gibson] did it for a while.
[Robert D.] Bob Cabana did it for a while. It may have been Linda
that did it initially, at the time of STS-82, but I don’t remember.
But it wasn’t too long. If I was assigned in February, it may
have been early April that I went into full-time training. I’d
like to think that I continued to consult from my other office, even
while I wasn’t official Deputy. But typically, they would leave
me alone to prepare for the flight.
Tell us about that training. How was it similar to the first time
you trained for Hubble? Just compare some of the training for us.
The training was really excellent. I think it helped some that our
flight was a lot of people that had Hubble experience in one form
or another. Of course, I’d been on the deployment flight. [Kenneth
D.] Ken Bowersox, who was the commander, had been on the first servicing
mission as the pilot. Both Mark [C.] Lee and [Gregory J.] Greg Harbaugh
had worked Hubble EVA [Extravehicular Activity] tasks previously.
Greg was the backup EVA crewmember for the first Hubble servicing
mission. Mark had worked Hubble tasks even, I think, back before we
deployed Hubble in the first place. So we had a lot of experience.
I think the models in the simulators were better.
This was the first opportunity I had had to train in an integrated
way with an EVA crewmember and the robotic arm. We were the last flight
that trained heavily up in the [NASA] Marshall [Space Flight Center]
tank. Right before we went to fly, I think in January of ’97,
we opened the NBL [Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory], and we got to move
the training here. But for most of our training, we were going up
to Marshall and using their tank. But that was probably as good a
training for anything as I’ve ever had, because it’s very
realistic training. You actually had the real space-suited crewmember
on a real arm. It’s under water, but you can actually maneuver
him around. That experience, I thought, was extremely valuable to
learn the task that he had to do and the task that I had to do, and
learn how to communicate back and forth. I just remember that being
just fantastic training.
The NBL was the same way, although I didn’t get that much time
in the NBL just because we only had about a month before we launched.
But they were very sophisticated by then, having been through both
the Hubble original deployment mission and one servicing mission,
so the training is excellent. The Hubble team is well experienced.
The [NASA] Goddard [Space Flight Center] folks and the Lockheed [Martin
Corporation] folks that worked the Hubble servicing missions know
what they’re doing, and that’s just really, really a phenomenal
team to be part of.
So were you able to go through the entire missions at the NBL or at
Yes, we really were. You really could do that. In fact, we got to
where you could run each EVA day pretty much end to end, as it would
really work, with quite high fidelity. Of course, that gives you a
lot of confidence, going into the flight, that you really have thought
through the things you need to do, to do the tasks. So you can’t
Most of the arm training I had done prior to the deployment mission
had been in simulators where the arm and the Hubble were computer
images. So this is really the first opportunity to do something with
a real Hubble mockup and a real EVA crewmember and a real arm. We
had the MDF [Manipulator Development Facility] for training for the
Hubble deploy with the balloon, but I didn’t think that training
was very realistic because of the dynamics of the balloon and the
way it moved around in Building 9. But this was very realistic, and
we were able to do each EVA day just pretty much exactly as we did
it in flight.
So the launch, was this the one that went off without any delay?
Yes, in fact, we launched two days early, for whatever reason. I don’t
actually now remember. I think when we were assigned, our original
launch date was February 13th, and they ended up moving it up to February
11th, and we actually launched on February the 11th. It was the most
No delays, yes.
After you launched, and I think it was Day Three when you actually
prepared to capture the Hubble, can you describe that for us and walk
us through that?
Yes. Boy, a lot of thoughts there. It may be a little bit different
now with [International Space] Station assembly, but at least back
then for a robot arm operator, there’s probably no greater task,
no more rewarding task than to do what we call a track and capture.
When I deployed Hubble, that’s what I did. I lifted it up, and
it wasn’t moving, and picked it up out of the payload bay and
let it go. It’s a little different to go capture a free-floating
object, and then to berth it and to move EVA guys around on the end
of the arm. So that’s about as challenging as it gets in the
robot arm world.
So I thought about that a lot and was looking forward to it. I was
also wondering what it would be like to see Hubble again. It was about
almost seven years later after the original deployment mission, and
I thought, “You know, that’s really going to be something
when we actually get to see it,” me for the second time, Sox
[Kenneth D. Bowersox] for the second time. You know, I guess maybe
some of the same thoughts you had going through your brain back in
the original deployment mission, which is, you know “Don’t
screw it up.”
I mean, we did talk about it on the crew that the first servicing
mission crew had it easy, because everybody thought Hubble was broken,
even though Hubble actually was still a pretty good telescope. So
we joked that they really didn’t have anything to lose. Now
here we come, several years later, and Hubble’s working great,
and the science is phenomenal, and now here we go with an opportunity
to really break it. So we thought about that, talked about that some.
But also, frankly, because of the training, I really felt that we
were very well prepared to go do this, and I think, having been through
dealing with Hubble once before and knowing the dynamics of the big
telescope on the end of the arm, knowing what to expect once you capture
it, all that was helpful. So maybe I didn’t feel as intimidated
as I might have had that been my first experience with a large payload
The actual capture, did that go smoothly?
It went great, yes. In fact, I told my wife when I got back that it
was the best one I’d ever done, counting training and everything.
Of course, a lot of things, when they go right, make it almost easier.
The visuals, of course, are real good in the real flight environment
compared to the simulator. Sox was a great pilot, and it was very,
very stable, and Hubble was exactly where it was supposed to be in
terms of attitude, and the arm worked perfectly, so all those things
made it relatively easy.
I had developed a technique. I developed it for me. I don’t
know, other people may have developed it for themselves, too, of how
to fly it. One of the things that the arm will do is, it will begin
to oscillate if you start and stop it too much, particularly if you’re
using relatively lower rates. So the technique that I found that works
well for the task of tracking and capturing something like a Hubble
is to put small inputs in and leave them in. Don’t be driving
it and then stopping it and then starting it up again, because you’ll
get these oscillations which will make it a little more difficult
to align properly. If you put in small inputs and just leave them
in and make little corrections as you go in, it’s a lot easier
to control. I thought that worked great when we did it for real. So
I think I came back and told people it was a good thing to do.
But I remember being real pleased with how it went, and the subsequent
maneuver to berth it over the cradle worked well, and the capture
all worked like it was supposed to. You know, you have nightmares
about capturing the thing but somehow not being able to get it properly
grappled into the cradle at the back of the payload bay, but that
all worked okay.
Went smooth, which enabled the EVAs to take place, which was, of course,
the point of the thing.
Tell us a little bit about those EVAs. In my notes I found that the
first one was delayed slightly because of some movement in the Hubble
Yes. That was one of the more memorable things from the flight, I
guess. We coincidentally were trained to recognize an uncommanded
slew of the solar arrays. If for some reason the solar array drive
motor should fail in some manner, and they’ll start to drive,
you’re trained to recognize that. In fact, you can send a command
that will disable the motor so the solar arrays don’t drive
into something. So it’s something in the back of your mind you
have been trained to look for, the solar arrays slewing on their own.
So [Joseph R.] Joe Tanner and I were on the flight deck. Mark and
[Steven L.] Steve [Smith] were in the airlock ready to go out, and
I think Sox and [Scott J.] Doc Horowitz were on the mid-deck helping
get them ready and closing out the airlock. So they began to depress
the airlock to get down to a vacuum to go egress. This was the first
flight of Discovery after they had installed the exterior airlock.
There was actually an interior airlock that had been removed, and
they had replumbed the way the air is evacuated from the airlock volume.
As luck would have it, the way the air exited was through a pipe that
came out under the HST [Hubble Space Telescope]. We didn’t know
it at the time, but what people on the ground figured out was the
air from the venting of the airlock impinged on the solar arrays and
started them moving.
I remember seeing it out the window, seeing the solar arrays starting
to drive, and my first thought was, “They can’t drive
that fast.” Your first thought is, “That’s uncommanded
motion,” but it was far more rapid than uncommanded motion is
supposed to be. So we were very confused as to what was going on.
I remember saying something to Joe like, “Hey, Joe, do you see
that?” [Laughs] And we both looked and saw it. Fortunately,
or—well, I guess maybe fortunately, I had the cameras targeted
on the hatch so that we could film the guys as they egressed from
the airlock, because there wasn’t anything supposed to be happening
on Hubble. So there was no video of what was taking place. I think
on the ground the space telescope guys could probably see the position
of the solar arrays, and I’m sure they saw something that confused
them. But there was no video showing how the arrays moved, so ground
wasn’t watching at the time, and we didn’t have anything
to show them in replay.
I say that’s fortunate, because I always thought that had they
seen it, they might have been so concerned about it, they would never
have let us go EVA, but since they didn’t get to see it, they
didn’t have that much data to go on. So it might have scared
them if they’d have seen it. But I remember saying to Joe, “Well,
you want to tell them, or should I tell them?” I realized he
was holding the microphone, so I said, “Well, you tell them.”
So he called them and said that we had just seen the arrays move,
and they probably said, “Stand by.” I was convinced that
we probably wouldn’t be going EVA today.
At the time, we didn’t know what had caused it, and as I recall,
they drove all the way to the stops. In fact, they probably rebounded
off of the stops, and so I was concerned that the ground would be
worried there might be damage and they’d have to do all kinds
of diagnostics to determine that things were okay or not, so we might
delay for a day or be unable to do an EVA. Frankly, I don’t
know how long it took, but my recollection is they came back fairly
quickly and said, “Go ahead and press on.” So I don’t
actually know how much we ended up delaying the start of the EVA for
that. I think it was maybe an hour or less. But we ended up getting
to do the EVA that day. I always thought it was because the ground
didn’t get to see it. If they’d have seen it, they’d
have probably never let us do it. But that was very startling.
How did you prevent it from happening for the subsequent EVAs?
I’m trying to remember what they did. Once they figured out—they
may have vented only half of the capacity at a time. There’s
a couple of vent valves. They also might have taped over the vent
valve in a way that cuts down the flow. So it would take longer to
vent the airlock, but you wouldn’t be putting out as much air
per unit time. We did something like that to just minimize the amount
of air flow that was going back there, but I honestly don’t
remember now what it was exactly. The EVA guys would remember, because
it was something they had to do. But those were the steps we took.
I don’t know if they knew for a certainty that’s what
caused it, but by the time we got to the next day’s EVA, they
were thinking that was a likely candidate; and therefore, to try to
mitigate that effect, they had us do some different things with the
way we vented the airlock. It would be good to ask Mark or Steve,
because I don’t remember. Joe may remember, because it was probably
his EVA where they had to do it first.
And during the EVAs, maybe you could describe your role, of course,
as the arm operator and what you did.
I actually think that’s a lot of fun. I mean, everybody always
wants to know, “Hey, were you one of the EVA guys?” You
go, “No, I was the arm guy.” But I always thought that
was a great job. Primarily, your job is to—let me put it this
way. The arm gives you incredible amount of capability to make the
EVAs very efficient, either by moving the crewmember to a worksite
quickly, compared to how long it would take him to go on his own,
or by being able to convey hardware to him. It’s really a fabulous
tool for supporting EVAs like the Hubble-servicing EVA.
So a lot of the job was moving the EVA crewmember around to the worksite
and having the arm operate basically as a platform for him to stand
in while he was working. We trained well enough that it really, in
most cases, became—we were almost thinking together. We had
good enough camera views that I could see what the EVA crewmember
was doing. I knew what his next step was going to be, so it was easy
for me to put him where he needed to be, could anticipate what he
wanted to do next.
One of the things we talked about a lot was the communication between
the guy on the end of the arm and the guy operating the arm. It’s
very important that you do exactly what he needs and there not be
confusion. You don’t want to go the wrong direction, particularly
if he’s close to the telescope. You also don’t want to
waste a lot of time by having to say, “What did you say? Which
way do you want to go?”
One of the things we were concerned about, frankly, was if there was
a lot of chatter between the ground and the Orbiter, would that interfere
with my ability to talk to him while he was out on the end of the
arm? If the ground is talking to the IV [Intravehicular] crewmember
about something, we needed to have a way to communicate. So we developed
some hand signals that we could use in the event that somebody else
was talking on the radio. We didn’t want to sit there and wait
for that conversation to end before we could do the next task, because
time is pretty critical when you’re out doing these things.
Those were all things we got to practice in the tank, and they worked
very well. Other crews have subsequently used those techniques. We
developed a coordinate system to communicate in. He, on the end of
the arm, could be in a variety of orientations, and so if he says,
“Hey, take me to the right,” you need to know if he means
his right, or does he mean Orbiter right? There could be some confusion
So we had a coordinate system that was based on the Orbiter, and then
there was another coordinate system that was based on your body as
you stood on the end of the arm. So we spent a lot of time practicing
being very disciplined in how we communicated. So you would say, “Take
me forward in the bay,” which is very clear. It means whatever
orientation he’s at, he wants to go towards the nose of the
Orbiter, or, “Take me port,” or, “Take me starboard.”
Then he would say, “Okay. I’m going to switch to body
coordinates now,” and you might do that if you were inside a
bay in Hubble. So maybe you’re not exactly sure where the nose
of the Orbiter is, and then you’d say, “Well, take me
head up,” or, “feet down,” or “left,”
and my job, then, would be to know with respect to his body which
way that meant he wanted to go. Maybe it sounds a little complicated,
but if you practice it, it becomes fairly easy. The nice thing about
it is it’s unambiguous.
Again, the thing you worried about, I mean, it’s a little bit
not elegant if you’re way away from the Hubble, and he says,
“Hey, I want to go left,” and you take him right, because
you were confused. I mean, that doesn’t look smooth, but it’s
not a problem. But if you happen to be right next to the telescope,
and you take him the wrong way, you could bang him into the telescope
or hit the telescope with the arm or do something like that, and you
don’t want to do that.
My recollection is that we never made a mistake the whole flight in
terms of a bad command or going the wrong direction or anything, because
we thought it was very important, and we practiced it a lot.
The other thing I remember is—probably the most challenging
task was the insertion of the big instruments. These were the replacement
scientific instruments. The point of the Hubble servicing mission
that I was on was not to fix Hubble, but to improve it. By then it
was working fine, but we were now realizing the original design promise
of Hubble, as technology improved on the ground, there’d be
a way to incorporate it in the telescope on orbit and keep it state-of-the-art.
So we were installing new detectors, and these detectors were basically
boxes that were the size of refrigerators. The EVA crewman would grab
one of these boxes, and he’d be standing in the arm, so he can’t
see. All he can see is a face full of instrument. So my job was to
maneuver him around. Steve Smith always said he inserted the instrument
in the telescope, but I used to tell him, “No, I really did.
You were just holding it.” [Laughter]
But that was the most challenging task. The tolerances were very,
very tight. So that got us to have to realize—one of the techniques
that worked in the water, which we knew would work in space, in particular,
for example, Steve was on the arm holding one of these big replacement
instruments, and now Mark is free-floating in the vicinity, and he’s
telling Steve how to put this box in the bay and get it properly in
the latches, because there’s probably about a quarter of an
inch or half an inch, at most, tolerance, and so Steve’s trying
to get this—and he can’t really see, so Mark will be saying,
“Okay. Take it up a little bit.” “Take it right
a little bit.” If you’re the arm operator, you need to
make sure that he’s not talking to you, because he may be telling
Steve to move the box, and he really doesn’t want the arm to
move, but if you hear, “Hey, go right a little bit,” and
you go, “Oh, okay,” and you move the arm, that might not
be the right thing to do.
So we also had a rule that said only the guy on the end of the arm
can command the arm. So if I heard Mark’s voice, and he was
saying, “Go right,” “Go up,” then I ignored
it. I mean, I didn’t ignore it, but I knew he wasn’t talking
to me about moving the arm.
If Steve said, “Hey, take me to the right,” then I would
know he wanted to move the arm. That was a nice little technique to
keep any misunderstandings from happening. The only command that the
guy that wasn’t on the arm could give to the arm operator would
be, “Stop.” If he said, “Stop,” then you stopped,
because maybe he could see something that nobody else could. But otherwise,
if he was saying, “Go right,” “Go up,” “Go
back,” he’s talking to Steve, not Steve, which was another
problem. They’d say, “Hey, Steve.” [Laughter] But
you worked through all that, and it worked very, very well.
You say that other crews have used the same—
Yes. I don’t know today how—every crew probably does it
a little bit different, but fundamentally those are the principles
that are still used. The first servicing mission crew developed a
lot of these principles, too. I mean, we probably like to think we
refined them a little bit, but the basic principles are kind of common
sense. It’s just getting a system you’re comfortable with,
and then developing the discipline to use it.
I imagine having someone out there on the end of that arm and you’re
basically responsible not only for the Hubble and the equipment and
everything else, but a human life.
Yes, by then you’re probably so insensitive to all that stuff.
I mean, by now you’ve launched and you’ve grabbed the
Hubble. So you’re just, you know, “Whatever.” [Laughs]
Just move him around.
No, you think about that, and you think about—one of the things
I wondered, frankly, was, we’d talked about it in training a
little bit. The arm moves either in what they call vernier control
or course control, and it determines the rates you can command. You
like to use course rates if you can, particularly if you’re
just moving somebody from point A to point B, because you save time,
but that might not be comfortable for the guy on the end of the arm,
particularly if he’s holding something. In training, we weren’t
too sure how that would work. I found that in flight, in some cases,
you could use course rates, and he wouldn’t even know. That
was kind of interesting.
But yes, your job as the arm operator is to constantly be thinking
about, “What can I do to—?” He’s the guy out
there that’s actually in a space suit with his hands on Hubble,
and my job is to make his job as easy as possible. One of the things
I wanted to do was be able to do that.
Again, the training was so good, and I thought we came together so
well as a team. I remember several occasions where I’d be watching
out the window, and Greg or Joe or Steve or whoever was on the arm
would know I’d be watching, and he’d just do something
like give me a signal, like that [gesturing], and I’d take him
up, and he’d say, “Stop.” And those were the hand
signals we had practiced, but it became kind of second nature to just
use it and not have to talk if Sox was talking to the ground about
I remember one case where Greg was doing some task where he had to
do some wiring on a device, and he had to do a series of connectors,
and I could tell he was done with these connectors, and I knew he
was going to do these next, and it wasn’t very far to move him,
but I just moved him a little bit, and he didn’t even have to
ask for it because we were that familiar with it, and that was kind
of nice to train to the point where you really felt like you were
just all part of, you know, kind of one intelligence that was doing
And there were five EVAs altogether?
Five EVAs. Right. Almost had a sixth. They talked about some funny
signatures I think they had seen in an RWA, which is a Reaction Wheel
Assembly. We did have a spare on board, as I recall, and there was
some thought we might end up doing a sixth EVA to install it, but
they decided that wasn’t necessary. I think Joe and Greg might
have been disappointed a little bit, because it would’ve been
their third EVA. They got two, and Steve and Mark got three.
You were able to deploy Hubble, then, again, for a second time. At
that time it was the highest orbit.
I think that’s right, yes. I think that’s right. We did
reboost it, and that was kind of interesting, because as I remember,
we ended up doing a reboost, I think as part of a debris-avoidance
maneuver. I remember they called us one evening and told us that they
were predicting that we were going to have a near miss with some sort
of orbital debris, so we did an avoidance maneuver that we ended up
turning into a reboost maneuver in addition to the other reboost maneuvers
we were doing. I think on STS-82, as I remember, we did eighty-two
minutes of reboost and got Hubble, I guess, as high as it had been.
How long after you redeployed did you get to see the differences with
the instrumentation that your crew had installed?
I don’t remember. It was probably about a month. Typically,
it’s three or four—well, they usually will tell you it’s
five or six weeks to check out a new instrument. They know it’s
really three or four. I think it was about a month that we got to
see some preliminary results. We had heard, I think, before we saw
anything, that they were very pleased with what they were getting
out of the new instruments, and that was really neat.
There was some discussion in the community, before the mission, whether
it was worth taking the risk to improve Hubble. Of course, that had
always been the plan, and that was what, of course, everyone decided
to do. But that was characteristic of some of the thinking that was
going on. “Hey, this is working great. Maybe we shouldn’t
mess with it.” But the point was to be able to mess with it
so that you could continue to make it a modern telescope. So we were
happy to be able to show you could really do that.
The other thing we did during the flight, which I didn’t have
much to do with, but I do remember it because it was part of my thinking,
how would Hubble be different from what I remember? Preferentially,
one side of Hubble faces the sun all the time, and that side, we discovered—and
the ground could see it, too, on the TV images—looked kind of
worn. The silver thermal blankets had cracked, and some of them had
peeled up. So we actually—we, the crew; it was really mostly
Scott Horowitz that did it—used some materials that we were
flying on board and created some not quite replacement thermal blankets,
because they didn’t really replace the ones that were there,
but they went on top of them, to provide additional protection for
the telescope. He created those on the mid-deck one day, and then
I think it was Mark and Steve went out and installed them on the last
EVA. And that was interesting to see how it had actually almost looked
weathered over the seven years it had been in orbit on that one side
They actually were concerned enough about it, I think, on the next
servicing mission they actually replaced some of the insulation with
new insulation, and I think we signed the insulation we installed.
I don’t know if it’s still there, but there’s—the
STS-82 crew autographs at least at that time were flying on Hubble.
After this mission, you came back, and did you assume your Deputy
Director position again?
How long was it after you came back before you got the assignment
Seems like it was about a year. I don’t remember exactly, but,
yes, it seems like it was about a year. Maybe not quite a year.
Do you remember why you got this assignment, or why you were chosen
for this flight? Or was it because it was another observatory mission?
I think that was part of it. I think they also were looking for an
experienced person for that mission. The pilot was a rookie. One of
the other MS’s [Mission Specialist] was a rookie. On Shuttle,
Michel [Tognini] had flown on Mir previously. I think [Catherine G.]
Cady [Coleman] had flown once, and this was Eileen’s [M. Collins]
first command, so it was a relatively junior crew. I think they were
looking for somebody experienced to add to the mix of relatively less
Truthfully, I told them “no” when they asked me to do
it, merely because I thought I really hadn’t been back in my
real job that long yet, and I didn’t think that it was appropriate
for me to step aside and fly again that soon. But they pestered me,
and so I did it, finally. But I honestly told them that I didn’t
think that was the right thing to do.
What changed your mind?
My boss told me to do it: [Laughs] He thought it was the right thing
to do. So I said, “Yes, sir.”
Do what your boss says. Well, I imagine there was some interest in
this flight, mainly because of Eileen Collins, the first time for
a female commander.
Did that affect the training at all, or do you have any memories of
Well, it certainly had the potential to affect the training some.
She was very good about being very focused on training and protecting
the crew as best she could from the publicity associated with her
role as the first female commander. She was actually, on that basis,
certainly a very good choice to be the first female commander. She
was certainly dedicated to not letting that interfere with—and
the system was pretty good about protecting us as best it could. Again,
we understood it was important, and we also understand that we had
a certain obligation to meet some of the demands of the attendant
publicity associated with her being the commander, but I think we
were also able to kind of keep it in perspective, and I thought she
handled it very well.
It helped, also, probably, that the flight ended up with some delay.
So the time we had to train was longer than we would have had, had
we launched on the original schedule, and that was kind of good, because
it allowed us to do both more training and more of the PR [public
relations] stuff before the launch.
Can you describe some of the training that you did for this flight?
This was actually very similar to the way we used to fly back in the
early days of Shuttle, and less similar to how we had been flying
more recently. That is, we had a satellite to deploy, and it was a
Day One deploy. Anymore, including on the Hubble servicing missions
we launch and basically go to bed, and then get up the next day and
do some checkouts, and then the third day we either grab Hubble or
the third day we rendezvous with the Station, and then begin the tasks
that are to follow, usually EVAs. In the case of Station, it could
be EVAs and transfers.
This was a flight where you launched and you deployed a satellite
on the very first day, and then basically the mission was over. That’s
a different way of thinking, frankly, about how to approach a mission
than is typical of how we do it today. In fact, I remember there was
some talk that didn’t really go anywhere, about maybe we should
move the deploy to Day Two or Day Three since there was really no
compelling reason to launch on the first day. We always did that in
the early days of the Shuttle, because I think before the Shuttle
ever flew when we were designing these missions, there was this concern
that the Shuttle could suffer some catastrophic failure and need to
come home. So if you were a satellite, you wanted to get out as soon
as you reached orbit. Of course, while that’s possible, it’s
not very likely, but what is almost certain is that the crew will
become more and more efficient as the mission progresses. I mean,
you’re least efficient on the first day; and if you’re
doing the most important task on the first day, you would think you
ought to have a good reason for doing it that way.
In the case of STS-93, by the time we were assigned and even began
to think of these questions, the mission had pretty much been designed,
so it would’ve been a significant hit to the way the mission
had been designed, to some extent the way the satellite had been designed,
were we to do it different. So we just accepted it and did it the
way it was planned to be. But for me, it was very familiar because,
again, my first two flights were just like that. I think for everybody
else, it was kind of new and different from how we had been doing
We know how to train for that kind of stuff. We’ve been doing
that for a long time. The IUS [Inertial Upper Stage] is a well-understood
payload, although interestingly, having said that, we were delayed
several months because of an IUS problem that the Air Force had in
a satellite they launched prior to our mission, and they needed to
understand what happened before NASA was comfortable committing Chandra
[X-Ray Observatory] to launch on an IUS. But again, the training for
IUS is well established. The models are well established. The drawings
have been in place for a long time. So I don’t know how many
people were left that actually knew how to train us for IUS, but I
had trained for IUS myself back in the good old days, so that all
felt very familiar.
The launch itself had a glitch right after—
Yes, two, actually. One we could see, and one we didn’t know
about at the time. Right at liftoff, I could see a flash on the caution
and warning panel, and a light came on and went off, and I knew what
the light was, because even though it wasn’t still on, I knew
what position in the matrix had illuminated. So it looked like we
had an electrical problem of some kind, to me. It was only, it seems
like, a few seconds later that the ground called and confirmed that
we had an electrical problem.
The other problem we had that we didn’t know about was that
we had a leak in one of the main engines, so we were leaking fuel
through the nozzle. We didn’t know about that. I don’t
know if the ground knew about that right away, either. I could tell
something had happened, because when we got to main engine cutoff,
the orbit that we were in was not—it comes up on one of the
displays that tells you what trajectory the computer thinks the Shuttle’s
in at this point, and it was different from what it would normally
have been. It was off by several miles. Seven miles, I think.
So the two thoughts I had were that that’s interesting. But
I also knew it was high enough that we could deploy Chandra, because
we’d just been, several weeks before, through another exercise,
trying to figure out what was the minimum altitude we needed to be
at before we could deploy Chandra, and we had come to some number.
I don’t remember today what it was, but the number I saw on
the screen was higher than that. So I knew we were able to go ahead
and deploy, without having to subsequently raise the orbit before
we could deploy, which would put it in a different kind of contingency
We found out later that they put pins in some of the main combustion
chamber ports as a matter of standard practice when they become old,
and one of these pins had been ejected when the engine started, and
had hit the nozzle, and it’d broken some of the tubes, and that
had led to the leak.
The electrical short turned out to be a real electrical short, and
that, of course, put the program basically on hold for a while after
we got back, while they went and inspected all the wires and made
the repairs that they needed to make.
We knew we were flying with a loss of redundancy on two engines, which
meant that a second failure would put us potentially in some sort
of an abort with a very heavy payload, the Chandra and the IUS was
I remember thinking, though, that—I know the Orbiter is well
built. In the sim [simulation], it’d be a lead-pipe cinch that
the next thing that was going to happen is that you’re going
to lose one of these other main engine controllers, and you’re
going to end up doing an abort, but in real life I didn’t feel
that way. In real life, I felt this was going to work. The controllers
are well built and the engines are well designed, so I wasn’t
particularly worried about loss of the next level of capability.
It surprised me a little bit how much confidence I had, that it really
didn’t bother me. It was pretty much like a sim, except I knew
it wasn’t going to be as bad as a sim. Eileen had kind of the
same reaction. She always said that it felt just like a sim, so you
get into your sim mode and behave accordingly. And that’s certainly
true, and part of the reason, I think, that we train the way we do—some
people say we over-train, but I think it’s important to train
to the point of saturation. When you really fly, it’s a strange
environment you’re in, and it doesn’t take quite as many
failures to saturate you as it might sitting in Building 5.
One of the things you develop, I’ve always thought, is an instinct
to do the right thing, and; you know, your instinct needs to be to
do the right thing when you have a real problem in flight. Sometimes
the right thing might be to do nothing. Sometimes the right thing
to do is to throw the switch or know the right procedure to go to.
I don’t mean by instinctively doing the right thing that you
just react, but I mean by having enough training to know what you
should do in this case, whether it’s to do nothing or to know
exactly what procedure to go execute and know what the steps are in
that procedure, and you can just do it and have it be very natural
rather than see something and suddenly get all confused and wonder
what’s going on.
So the fact that we get many times more failures in the sim than you’d
ever expect to get in real life has a purpose, and the purpose is
to teach you how to deal with when your brain is on the edge of calling
it quits for the day.
The actual deployment of the satellite, did you do that?
I did not do that. Cady, actually, I think, threw the switch that
deployed it. Of course, anything like that’s a team effort,
but she and Michel were primarily responsible for the satellite and
throwing the switches that put the stage and the satellite in the
proper configuration ultimately for launch.
And everything went smoothly?
Everything went very well, yes. Worked just like it was supposed to.
Quite a powerful satellite to be a part of, I imagine.
One of the things we talked about was—you play the “what
if” game a lot, and we were worried that if we couldn’t
deploy Chandra for some reason that it couldn’t come back, that
it would get too cold, and there was some concern on the part of the
safety guys that it could break if you’d brought it back and
had to land with it. So we began to look at what sort of extreme procedures
could we execute to get this thing deployed. You could always jettison
it, but if you could get it a mission, you wanted to do that.
The reason I mention it now is, we were talking about, typically,
the IUS and the Chandra are launched together just lying in the payload
bay, and to launch it, you have to elevate it on a tilt table, and
it raises to about 60 degrees above the payload bay, and then you
launch it. We had looked at, well, what if we can’t get to sixty?
What if we only get to fifty? What if we only get to forty? Could
we really still get it out? One of the questions was how close would
it come to the cabin? Of course, we got it to where it was normally
supposed to be, and it seemed like it came pretty close to the cabin.
I know that clearance was exactly what people had predicted it would
be, but I remember inside looking up the overhead windows. You had
a pretty good view of it as it went over the top, but it really worked
just like it was supposed to. Again, it was probably maybe a month
or so after the mission that we knew things were working.
It needed to fire the IUS properly to get it in its orbit, which actually
takes it a third of the way to the Moon. It didn’t go into a
geosynchronous orbit like a lot of the satellites we’ve deployed.
Of course, the Air Force had had a problem. So the first thing, the
IUS needs to work, and it did.
There’s an instrument door cover that failed during testing
kind of close to flight, and if that cover didn’t open, then
the instrument wouldn’t work. It needed to be there to protect
the instrument during launch, but after that, it needed to get out
of the way. If it didn’t, the instrument wouldn’t work.
So we were kind of crossing our fingers to hope that would work, and
it did. You know, you get past these hurdles one at a time, and eventually
it gets in the right orbit, and everything checks out, and it starts
sending back pictures and doing all the things just like Hubble that
the scientists had spent basically whole careers preparing for. So
it’s very rewarding to see them now finally achieve that dream
of having a sophisticated imaging x-ray telescope in space.
I imagine with your background, too, to be a part of two different
deploys of that magnitude—
Yes, for an astronomer, I don’t know that it gets any better
than that, you know. If I ever actually got to use Hubble or Chandra,
maybe that would cap it all off, but to be able to participate in
the deployment on orbit of two of the four great observatories, I
mean, that’s really special.
Were there any other experiments on that flight that you have any
Yes. The one that I spent a lot of time on, it was actually a second
telescope. It was an ultraviolet telescope that attached to the side
hatch window, which is an ultraviolet transmitting window. We used
it to examine some of the solar system planets, which was kind of
fun. It was almost like doing real astronomy.
That was a very time-consuming experiment. I worked on it for, I think,
four days after we launched Chandra. Eileen used to joke that—the
window is right by the WCS [Waste Collection System], right by the
toilet, so she would joke that for four days she never saw me leave
the toilet, because that’s where I was. I was stationed by the
window with this telescope in the rat’s nest of cables.
But it was fun to do some almost real observing and see what the planets
looked like through a little telescope from space. So that was kind
of memorable. I remember that being challenging. It was very, very
time-consuming, but it was also kind of fun because it was real astronomy.
Did you have anything to do with SAREX-II [Space Amateur Radio Experiment],
the ham radio?
No, I really didn’t. I believe that I did talk to my wife once
on it. As a happy consequence of flying the hardware, they’ll
generally try to set up an opportunity for you to talk to your family,
and that actually worked out. So we got to do that. That was kind
But I think Eileen and Michel were the two that were primarily responsible
for SAREX. SAREX is kind of a neat capability, though, because one
of the things we use it for is to get to talk to schools. It has a
capability to get tied in, and I think that’s kind of fun for
the students to actually get to talk to some astronauts who are at
that moment flying in the Shuttle. But I didn’t get to do that
Are there any other memories about that flight that you’d like
Well, nothing that is really major. We did have the treadmill that
is actually on the Station as a demonstration. That was kind of fun,
because several of us on the crew like to run. So to get to try out
the treadmill was interesting.
The thing I remember about it, though, is that the way they had it
stored, they had it stored below the mid-deck floor in a stowage volume
that’s kind of back in under the forward lockers. And I was
absolutely convinced that we would never, ever be able to get it back
in there. And [Jeffrey S.] Jeff Ashby did it. I don’t know how,
but he did it. I remember even telling the ground, “Hey, when
we disassemble it, there is no way we’re going to be able to
get it stowed back in here.” And he did. Somehow he managed
to get it in there. So that was kind of interesting.
After this flight, you resumed your duties as the Deputy Director,
and then were promoted to Director in October of 2001. Is that correct?
Yes. [James D.] Jim Wetherbee got to go fly again, and so Mr. [Roy
S.] Estess asked me if I’d be Director.
Anything about that position that you’d like to share?
Seemed like it was about the same job I’d been doing. Actually,
when I was Deputy, I don’t remember exactly, it may’ve
been ’98 when Dave left and Jim came in and took over. He
flew once or twice, anyway, while he and I were working together,
so I felt I had a lot of experience being the Director. So it really
wasn’t that big a thing to have the title officially.
What were some of the duties or responsibilities that you had during
Well, I suppose they divide themselves into a couple of different
categories. One is, in that role you’re really the chief spokesman
for the crew as appropriate for all the technical issues that come
up and all the programs, whether Station or Shuttle or SLI [Spacelab
Integration and Test] or whatever that’s interesting and challenging.
There were some difficult issues about crew size, increment duration,
crew workloads that we had to deal with.
As the Director, you’re really responsible for the budget. Although
I had a lot of experience with that as the Deputy, that was something
that I kind of took that role with me when I became the Director because
the Deputy that came in to work with me, Kent [V.] Rominger, was new
to the world of budgets and things like that. So I kept that.
I suppose that if there was one thing that occupies the majority of
your time, it’s probably resources and dealing with resources
and acquiring resources and trying to defend your resources or your
need for your resources, and how the resources are being managed by
your organization. It wasn’t something that I thought was the
most fun part of the job, but it is necessary, and I thought we did
a good job of trying to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollar. Everybody’s
got tight budgets these days, and so it’s a real struggle to
figure out how to do what you need to do. Nobody wants to be told,
“I’m sorry. You can’t do that because we don’t
have any money.”
You also get to recommend crews for assignment. During my tenure,
we didn’t select any new astronauts, but if we were, that would
be something for which the Director would be responsible also.
Well, during your time there as Deputy Director, Phase I of Shuttle-Mir
was going on.
Did you have anything to do with any of the flight crews that were
chosen for those missions or that residence?
I certainly consulted in some of the selections. I was also part of
the Phase I Program Mission Management Team, so as there were technical
issues, the Director or I would be involved in trying to resolve them.
I remember when [Norman E.] Norm [Thagard] was selected to be the
first Shuttle-Mir crewmember. I had argued that I thought that would
be a good choice, first of all, because he was a doctor, but secondly,
because, frankly, he really wanted to do it, and I felt that one of
the most important qualities of someone in a position like that is
that they really want to go do it. He really wanted to go do that.
He really wanted to become part of their program, not just be an astronaut
flying with the Russians, but he wanted to go over and be cosmonaut-trained
and be part of their program. I thought that was a good trait. So
I remember arguing for his selection, and was glad that that worked
Did you have any dealings with the other astronauts that came here
and did training, some of the Russian astronauts?
Some, but actually, not a lot. We didn’t have anything to do
with selecting them. Typically they were selected by either Energia
or GCTC [Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center]. We would track their
progress, but in that job you’re not directly involved in the
actual training activities. I got to know some of them on an individual
cosmonaut-to-astronaut level. We’re all very similar, kind of
similar types of backgrounds and similar types of interests and similar
kinds of challenges and meeting the training objectives and getting
the mission done and all that.
I suppose the first time I saw that, it was kind of an interesting
surprise to realize that, hey, fundamentally cosmonauts and astronauts
are kind of the same people. Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising.
Johnson: You’ve recently moved into another
position, also, Associate Director of AstroMaterials Research and
Yes. It’s kind of, you know, the circle is now complete. I’m
sort of back to doing real science things.
Can you describe some of your duties and what you expect to be doing
in this position?
Well, I’m still relatively new at it. I’m trying to figure
out exactly what my duties are. For JSC, it’s all of the science
that isn’t a life science. For us, the centerpiece of that,
frankly, is the curatorial facility and the contents therein, the
Moon rocks, and then the associated science that’s done on Moon
rocks, on meteors. We also have a unique niche, I think, because we
are really the experts on the role of humans in exploration, how you
do space exploration with humans. If we’re to go back to the
Moon or on to Mars or go anywhere with humans, we’re the people
that have the expertise in how you might do that.
So in a very real sense, this is perhaps a look at our future, particularly
in today’s environment where science is now a new priority within
NASA, we’re the people [that] do that. So I’m hopeful
that we may see this area grow a little bit and build up JSC’s
science capability, and in particular, if we can find a way to push
out beyond low Earth orbit, then we’ll be among the folks that
are kind of helping to chart that course, which will be kind of fascinating.
Looking back over your career with NASA, is there anything that you
would say was the most challenging aspect of your career, or anything
that you were involved in that was most challenging for you personally
Boy, that’s really hard to say. Well, I suppose that maybe trying
to learn how to—it wasn’t as big a leap, I don’t
think, to go from being a scientist to being an operator as perhaps
it was to go from being an operator to being a manager, and having
to learn how to be successful in the world of people that do business-type
things for a living. At least I hope I was successful. That was pretty
I’ve had a few people say, in particular recently now that I’ve
moved on from FCOD, that I was one of the few people they dealt with
that had any business sense. Part of that, frankly, I think, is we
have a little bit of a history of people in those jobs who are there
for a short period of time and then rotate back into flight assignment.
I was maybe one of the first to come out of the Astronaut Office that
actually did it for a prolonged period of time, where I was able to
actually develop some experience in how to do business with the world
of resources and procurement and all of that.
Maybe if I was able to develop something of a reputation as being
pretty good at that part of the business where I really had no training
at all going into it, then that may have been among the most challenging
things to do.
What about your most significant accomplishment?
Well, that’s another hard one. There’s so little that
you really get to do yourself. Everything you do is as part of a team,
I think. I mean, obviously, the things we did with Hubble are things
that I’ll remember forever, but they’re not things that
I did uniquely. I did them as part of a team. And if it hadn’t
been me, it would have been somebody else that would have done it
just as well.
I guess every once in a while I had a good idea that somebody incorporated.
I suppose, in general, particularly as I got into management jobs,
the thing that gave me satisfaction on a day-to-day basis was, did
I do something today for somebody that actually helped them? My experience,
which I guess is not unique, is you go do battle on a hundred different
fronts, and you’re going to lose ninety-five of them, but you
may win a few. And you have to be satisfied, I’ve always thought,
with the knowledge that you’re not going to win all of them,
you may not even win most of them, but you may win some. And the ones
you win are going to help somebody do the right thing, or they’re
going to help the program do the right thing. If you can take satisfaction
in the few that you win, knowing that you really did some good for
somebody or some program, then I think you do get job satisfaction
So, sitting here right now, I’m not sure I could tell you what
any of those are, but I do feel like I won a few over the years that
probably gave me a lot of satisfaction at the time that we were able
to win this point or successfully fight for funding in some area that
we thought was important, where they had cut our budget, or win some
technical point that was going to make the program better.
Before we close, I’m going to see if Rebecca and Jennifer have
I don’t today.
I actually had a couple.
In your earlier interviews, you did a really nice job of describing
the importance of the astronauts to the Space Shuttle Program, especially
early on in the 1978 and the1980 astronauts. I’m wondering if
you could give us a timeline of when astronauts began to play a less
important role, once the Space Shuttle Program got started and things
became more routine.
I wouldn’t maybe characterize it as a less important role as
I would maybe say less pervasive, but I think it probably happened
not by making some strategic decision that says, “Okay. The
program is mature enough now that you don’t need the involvement
to the extent we’ve been providing it.” It was probably,
rather, that priorities said, “Hey, we need to devote more resources
to Station now, because Station’s in development, and we don’t
have the people to devote to Shuttle. We’d like to, but we can’t.”
So it was probably more circumstance-driven.
That would have been probably in the mid-eighties and then subsequently
in the early nineties after [Space Station] Freedom was replaced with
what became International Space Station, and we had to devote more
people to doing exactly the same kind of things that we did early
in Shuttle for Station.
But the difference in the early nineties compared to the seventies
was, in the seventies you developed Shuttle and then you flew Shuttle.
In the nineties, we’re developing Station and then we’re
going to fly Station, but we’re also still flying Shuttle. So
we have an ongoing operational program plus now a new development
program, and it just probably became a matter of resources that we
had to cut them from Shuttle and put them on Station because that
was the more pressing need.
So again, it wasn’t so much that we said, “Hey, we’ve
reached the point in time where we can get out of this now.”
I mean, that was part of how you make those priority decisions, but
it was just probably resource-driven.
You just answered one of my other questions, but I’m wondering
if you could tell us how the position of astronaut has changed since
you joined the corps in 1978 until present.
Oh, it’s probably changed in a lot of ways, some of which I
can think of, and others I’ll probably think of after I leave
here. In the spirit of random thoughts, I would say that we ended
up, because we were involved in the early development of Shuttle,
we developed a lot of procedures. We developed a lot of training techniques
that subsequent classes of astronauts just basically inherited. A
consequence of that is that I think there’s a tendency maybe
for people to know how to execute a procedure without really knowing
where the procedure came from. I don’t mean that to sound like
a value judgment. I mean, it may be that that’s just a different
way of training, that given where we are in the program, the resources
we have to spend on training, and the maturity of the system, that
[But,] our class, I thought, really understood more of the details
of how the system worked because we had to develop it along with engineers
and controllers before Shuttle ever flew. So maybe in that sense people
aren’t quite as well prepared when they fly as we were when
we flew. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re not adequately
prepared; it just means that we probably knew more details because
we lived it.
Another thought I have is that I think people that we hire, as time
goes on, are better prepared to be astronauts than we were, partly
because there’s a real model of what a Shuttle or Station astronaut
is now. There wasn’t when I applied. So if you want to prepare
yourself to do that job, you have something you can actually use as
a template, and you know how to go about it, you know what kinds of
things to prepare, or you know what the job is going to be. So I do
think that the people we interview and accept are better prepared,
better qualified. I’ve told people on the selection board, “We
probably wouldn’t be competitive anymore if we were applying
with what we brought in 1977,” just because people are more
There’s probably a little more anonymity with astronauts today
than there were—our class was a little bit unique, in we were
the first Shuttle class and we were the first class with women and
minorities, so the women and the minorities got a lot of the attention,
which was fine with us. Eileen Collins always said something which
I thought was kind of cute, but also kind of telling. Somebody asked
her once, “How does your daughter feel when she’s at school
and somebody points out that her mommy flies the Space Shuttle?”
And Eileen said, “Oh, heck,” she says, “my daughter
thinks everybody’s mommy flies the Space Shuttle.” [Laughs]
So in many ways it’s not as big a deal anymore as it was.
I think one of the things that’s clearly different today than
it was back then is the international nature of the program. You are
called upon to be, I think, more culturally aware, more language-skilled,
and the training is more difficult if you’re going to participate
in the Station Program, because you’re going to spend a lot
of time training overseas, and in particular in Russia. I mean, that
wasn’t something we signed up for when we came on board.
So, in many ways, the hardships are still there. They’re different
than the hardships we went through. They may even be greater today
for the people that have to experience the separation from their families
because they’re training for a couple of years in Russia. So
I guess those are the things that come to mind right now.
Okay. Thank you.
Thank you again for being here and joining us and for participating
in the project.
You bet. I think this is an important project. Thank you for doing
Thank you for coming.
Eileen [Hawley] and I, my wife and I were talking the other day about
the notion that people are leaving that had a lot of this expertise.
In fact, I was talking with somebody in my new work group just yesterday
that we’ve had this problem in the Shuttle over the last several
weeks about the ball strut tie rod assembly. It’s a piece of
hardware in the plumbing for the main engines that they discovered
cracks in one of the vehicles, and so they’re trying to figure
out how much cracking it can sustain and what causes the cracking,
and is it going to produce debris which could be a threat to the engines
during operation. This colleague of mine that I work with in Building
31 was telling me, actually, that she got a call asking, “Hey,
do you know so-and-so?”
She said, “Yeah, I know so-and-so.”
He said, “Well, we’re really looking for so-and-so’s
dad. Do you know if so-and-so’s dad is still around?”
He had retired, but, “Could you get to so-and-so and find out
where her dad lives?” Because he was a guy that thirty years
ago worked on this stuff, and he was the only guy that anybody could
think of that actually knew how the certification testing had been
That’s, in a nutshell, the sort of problems we’re going
to begin to face as we operate this program. If we go to 2020, this
thing will fly for forty years and probably have been in development
for fifty years, and we have to have a way to figure out how to capture
the knowledge and experience of the people that were there in the
beginning that aren’t there now. I mean, in the same sense that
the astronauts today probably don’t know why this procedure
is written the way it is. They just know when this happens, this is
what you do, because they weren’t involved in developing it.
In the beginning, we didn’t know what to do when this happened,
so we had to figure it out. Now it’s written down, so you just
learn to do it. What happens when things begin to break thirty years
later that you didn’t really think about, and now you don’t
have the expertise anymore, you don’t remember why they built
it that way, you don’t remember why you rendezvous with Hubble
at night, that sort of thing.
And now we know.
Now you know.
Hopefully, we can continue to provide those kinds of details for people.