ISS Update: Astronaut Shannon Walker -- 07.17.2012

Uploaded by ReelNASA on 17.07.2012

>> Amiko Kauderer: Hi.
Welcome inside the International Space Station flight
control room.
We are today with astronaut Shannon Walker.
Astronaut Shannon Walker was just -- gosh, two years ago --
aboard that International Space Station,
and she flew aboard Expedition 24/25?
>> Shannon Walker: That's correct.
>> Amiko Kauderer: And it was 163 days.
And so she knows what this experience is like docking
to the station and the hatch opening
and living aboard the Space Station.
Welcome and thank you for joining us
to talk to us about this.
>> Shannon Walker: Thank you, very much for having me.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Great.
So first, let's just talk about that road to Space Station,
'cause as I understand, it's a long one.
It's not, you know, just, hey,
I'll get assigned and there you go.
>> Shannon Walker: That's correct.
You don't just wake up one morning and say, hey,
I want to go fly on a rocket.
The training process is about two and a half
to three years long depending on which seat
in the Soyuz you're assigned to.
It's a little bit longer for the people that sit
in what's called the left seat 'cause that is the copilot seat,
and so you spend a lot of extra time
in Russia learning all the systems of the Soyuz
and learning how to fly it just
like the commander of the Soyuz does.
So my training was about three years long.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Wow.
And so when -- so when you did get assigned
and then you were training, tell --
first I guess just tell me a little bit that training.
I mean, it's not all just here --
we're here in Mission Control --
we're here in Houston but you go all over the world.
>> Shannon Walker: That's correct.
We train all over the world.
We spend a lot of time in Russia, of course,
because we are flying these days on the Soyuz space craft,
and so we have to go through a full training program there just
like we had a training program here with the space shuttle.
So that training for the Soyuz takes, oh, six months to a year
that we spend in Russia; we go back and forth
between Russia and Houston.
Interspersed with the Soyuz training,
we learn the Space Station system.
So we spend time in Houston doing Space Station training.
We spend time in Germany learning the Columbus module.
We spend time in Japan learning the Kibo module.
And we spend time in Canada learning how
to operate the robotic arm.
So we spend a lot of time all over the world.
>> Amiko Kauderer: All over the world
and then you eventually fly
and then you're flying literally all around the world.
>> Shannon Walker: That's correct.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Good deal.
Well, so, you know, when -- when you are --
you're doing all this traveling to train and that sort of thing,
so with your crew members who you flew with,
do you train together?
So are you a close knit family before you even get there
to Space Station or --
>> Shannon Walker: You know, that's kind of one
of the hard parts these days because you spend a lot
of time not training with your crew
because everybody's got a different schedule and it kind
of depends on some of your duties on the Space Station
or your duties on the Soyuz.
So because I was copilot on the Soyuz,
I spent more time in Russia.
My crew mate Doug Wheelock was going to be one of the EVA --
or one of the space walkers, so he had to spend more time
in Houston doing the space walk training
that I didn't have to do.
And then I spent more time doing robotics training,
and so it just -- it just depends, and unfortunately,
you don't get to spend a lot of time training together,
but we do try and spend personal time together
so we can get to know each other.
>> Amiko Kauderer: You get plenty
of time when you get there.
>> Shannon Walker: Yes, that's true.
We have lots of time together in orbit.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Plenty of togetherness.
So let's now just real briefly describe for me what
that launch is like for you.
>> Shannon Walker: The launch.
The launch is amazing.
We actually enter the Soyuz about two
and a half hours before the launch.
We go through a bunch of system checks,
and once those checks are done, we've got about 45 minutes
to an hour we just have to sit
and wait while the ground finishes the preparations
for the shuttle.
So we're sitting there calmly just waiting, waiting, waiting,
and all of a sudden the ground starts talking to you again
and you start hearing things happen beneath you.
You start hearing these big valves moving.
You can tell that the engines are being pressurized
and then you know something's going to happen,
and you're watching the clock tick down to the time
of your launch, and then the engines light
and everything starts rumbling and --
and you're not moving yet, it's just getting ready to go,
and when the engines are at full power, you slowly lift off
and you get -- you can feel the speed build up and build up,
and there's so much noise and so much vibrations,
it's just an amazing ride.
>> Amiko Kauderer: What are you feeling when you're going up?
>> Shannon Walker: You feel -- well, one, a lot of excitement.
It's very exciting.
You also feel the pressure from the g-forces, so you have --
you're -- you're laying back in your seats
and so you have pressure on your chest,
so it's like someone is sitting on your chest, and you build
up to about 4-Gs going uphill, and so it's just a lot
of vibration, a lot of noise, a lot of pressure,
and a lot of excitement.
>> Amiko Kauderer: And then once you get there,
how do you know you've made it?
>> Shannon Walker: When -- you know you make it into orbit
when the third stage engine cuts off and separates,
there is a huge bang, and then all of a sudden it's quiet
and you're just kind of hanging in your seats and you know
that you're floating in space.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Wow.
That's exciting.
Okay. So now let's talk about that two-day trip.
'Cause it's a two-day trip to the International Space Station.
So you have all this anticipation, this buildup,
and this great adrenalin rush
and you're there and you're floating.
But two days?
>> Shannon Walker: Yeah, two days can be a long time.
You're -- there's a lot of time where you've got a lot activity
and there's a lot of time
when you have absolutely nothing to do.
So once you get on orbit, you have to do a lot
of systems checks, so you're -- as soon as you're in orbit,
you're busy -- you're still busy from the launch.
You make sure that the pressurization is holding
in the spacecraft, you do a lot of leak checks,
you check out all the motion control systems.
That takes a couple of orbits.
And then about two orbits after you're in space,
you actually do the first rendezvous burns,
the first engine burns to put you on the right trajectory
to reach the Space Station.
>> Amiko Kauderer: And how was the space?
>> Shannon Walker: Oh, how's the space inside the Soyuz?
>> Amiko Kauderer: Uh-huh.
>> Shannon Walker: It's kind of small.
It is kind of small.
The hatch -- the descent module where you are -- where you --
you ride to space and you come home is a very small --
small location.
But you do have an orbital compartment above you.
You get to open the hatch, and you do have a little more space
to move around in for those two days.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Okay.
Wow. So hopefully you like the people you're flying with.
>> Shannon Walker: Yes, you better like them.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Get along anyway.
If not, you're going to force yourself to.
So I have a question here now.
We've -- we pulled public -- thank you, guys,
for sending us the questions.
We do have a couple of Twitter questions for you.
One of them comes from IBhappyhopi:
How long do they stay in the Sokul Suits?
until docking?
>> Shannon Walker: That's a good question.
So the Sokul Suits are the pressure suits
that we wear during launch and entry to, you know,
to protect us if there's a problem.
If there's a big leak in the --
in the Soyuz, we would still be safe.
So we are in our pressure suits for a couple
of orbits after launch.
And so we're able to get out of them maybe two and a half
or three hours after you launch.
And we're in them for about five hours before launch.
So you're in your suit for a long time but you do get
to take them off, you get into some regular clothes and spend
that time for the two days just in regular clothes.
And then right before docking, you put your suits back on as --
just as a safety precaution
because you are essentially colliding with a big object
in space and you want to make sure everything's going
to be safe.
>> Amiko Kauderer: You're safe.
As safe as you can be, right?
So that just brought up this --
the second Twitter question that we do have here.
This one comes from jkestner77:
Has docking become routine, or is it dangerous?
>> Shannon Walker: I would have to say yes and yes.
The technology that we use for docking has been out there
for a long time and it works extremely well,
but it is dangerous because you are going incredibly fast
and you are, like I said, trying to collide with a big object
in space in precisely the right point.
And so we do spend a lot of time training for that,
making sure we know how to fly the Soyuz.
I should point out that in most cases,
the Soyuz dockings are done automatically.
We've got a very good radar system and computer systems
and it -- and the motion control system will guide you
into the Space Station, but just in case something goes wrong,
one of the pieces of equipment fails, you have to be prepared
to fly it in yourself, and that's what we spend a lot
of time practicing so we can do it safely.
>> Amiko Kauderer: And hopefully we don't have
to do that, though, right?
>> Shannon Walker: Right.
>> Amiko Kauderer: So let's talk about docking.
As you're approaching, that's got to be a really exciting time
for you guys, but just kind of explain to me --
'cause we usually see the station side, you know,
everyone being excited and they've been waiting
for a while for, you know, new company and whatnot,
but what's going on aboard the Soyuz?
I mean, it's been a long trip.
>> Shannon Walker: It has been a long trip
and the excitement is building, but it's a --
it is a time where you really have to focus and make sure
that everything is going right,
make sure all the systems are working perfectly.
So the three of us in the Soyuz are sitting in our --
in our seats in the descent module
and we are working very hard.
We actually don't have good views of the station.
We've got little bitty windows on the Soyuz that point
out to the side, the station is in front of us,
so we can't really see the station when we're coming
up to it, although when I did look out my window,
I could see the very tips of the solar arrays, but I don't have
that big beautiful view that you'd --
you would think you would have
when you're flying up to the station.
So it's a busy time for the crew inside the Soyuz.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Yeah.
Okay. So capture.
Then what?
>> Shannon Walker: So capture, you kind of thunk
into the station, you feel the latches latch, some hooks drive,
and then it's a -- and then it's a hurry up and wait really
because you have to make sure
that nothing went wrong during docking,
meaning that you didn't knock a hole into your spacecraft.
So we do leak checks.
We do a leak check of the area between the Soyuz
and the Space Station, we do a leak check of the Soyuz itself
to make sure it's still leak tight, and when all
of that is good -- and we do change
out of our Sokul Suits back into our regular clothes --
when all of that is good, couple hours
after we've reached the station, we're finally able
to open the hatch and greet our friends on the Space Station.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Great.
And I'm sure -- so that explains actually why it takes a
couple hours.
So last night's docking occurred
at 11:51 central time last night, and then the hatches open
at 2:23 in the morning.
That sounds pretty nominal
because that was what was planned.
I mean, I think they had an 11:53 docking,
which is pretty much, like, perfect,
and then 2:25 a.m. central time hatch opening,
so it just went along perfectly.
>> Shannon Walker: Yeah.
That's a perfect schedule.
And most of that is taken up with the leak checks,
and it takes a long time to check --
to check the pressurizations
because you could have a really tiny leak and you want
to know -- obviously, if there's big leak in the --
in the Soyuz somewhere, you'd know that right away,
but you're looking for the tiny leaks
and so that's why it just takes time to do.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Sure.
And I'm going to flip it on you.
So you were also on station
when you had a new crew join you guys.
So what is -- what are you guys doing?
>> Shannon Walker: Yeah, that's an exciting time
for the crew on the station.
So the -- we have a couple of places where we can watch.
We do have some TV screens so we're getting video,
and we can look out the windows and see the Soyuz approach.
And for one, Soyuz -- for Soyuz docking I actually went
to the hatch area where they would be docking
and put my ear next to the hatch so I could hear them attach
to the station which was kind of neat.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Oh, that's fun.
That sounds really fun.
So hatches open, you greet each other,
there's a welcome ceremony, and then you have an opportunity
to talk with friends and family who actually travel
that long way to see you lift off.
What is that like?
>> Shannon Walker: That's pretty neat.
And it is really special because the crew in the Soyuz has been
out of view for two days, and so I think it's really important
that the family gets a chance and your friends and the world
to get a chance to see that, you know, that everybody's okay
and you can -- you can say hi to your friends and family,
and then -- then say, you know, I finally made it.
I've worked this long and here I am and I'm ready to get to work.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Yeah.
And I'm sure it's probably pretty nice to know --
knowing that you had that family --
that support there knowing that they're going to be
with you all along the way even though you're not --
you're many, many miles away for quite a long time.
>> Shannon Walker: Absolutely.
No question.
It is a -- it is a long training process, you're in orbit
for a long time, and none of it is possible without the support
of your friends and family.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Sure.
Now, on station, first order of business.
>> Shannon Walker: First order
of business actually a short break
after the welcome ceremony,
and then you actually have a safety briefing, because you're
in a new vehicle, you need to make sure
that you refresh your memory
where all the safety equipment is.
So that is the first thing that happens.
And then after that, hopefully a little bite to eat
because you're probably pretty hungry.
>> Amiko Kauderer: And do you tour?
I guess --
>> Shannon Walker: You take a tour of the Space Station
as you're doing your safety briefing.
So you'll actually go through every module,
and the crew that's already on the station will point out,
you know, here -- here are the fire extinguishers,
here are the valves that we'll need
to operate should we have a fire or depress
or a toxic atmosphere.
And so you go through and refresh your memory.
It's kind of a quick run-through
because you actually have a more thorough one a day or two later
when you've had time to sort of collect your thoughts
and get a good night's sleep and process information better,
but you do have that first run-through, and then,
since it has been a long day, usually it's a bite to eat,
set up your crew quarters, and then go to sleep.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Right.
So I know the crew that has now joined Sunny, Aki,
and Yuri are going to spend some time
with some familiarization tasks.
Luckily, all three of them have flown before.
But also just adjusting to space, how long does that take,
I mean, for you to adjust and get kind of, you know --
>> Shannon Walker: Yeah.
Adjusting to space, it really depends on the individual.
Some people adjust quite quickly,
some people it's more slowly.
Some people have go to through two adjustments.
You may adjust into space while you're on the Soyuz,
and then you get into the Space Station,
it's a much bigger volume
and you have a different adjustment period.
For me, I felt fine the whole time, but it took me awhile
to sort of learn how to fly about gracefully.
You really have to learn how hard you have to push off
so you don't go crashing into equipment,
into walls and things.
So it just -- it takes a while to get your sea legs as it were.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Yeah.
And I know, you know, with you, you were there for 163 days.
I'm sure after some point in time, I think I've even heard,
that there were some games to see who can fly the furthest
without knocking into anything.
>> Shannon Walker: Yeah, we would do that.
We would -- you know, when we had some spare time,
and we said, we've got to take advantage of this atmosphere.
We've got to have some fun.
So we would try to fly for one end of the station to the other
without running into things.
And then my colleague Dougie and I would kind
of do these do-si-does where we would --
we would do a little loop-to-loop and try
to head back the direction that we came,
but that was never successful
because I think we had a mass problem.
Doug weighs a lot more than I do, a lot more mass,
and so I was always being flung off into some other direction
that I didn't want to go.
>> Amiko Kauderer: That's great.
Well, and spare time is just hard to come by there
on the Space Station so you definitely have
to take advantage of it when it's there.
So I'm going to go ahead and ask you another quick couple
of questions that came to us from Twitter.
This one comes from cyrusdubash: What speed is ISS traveling
at at the time you're docking?
And after docking, is the ISS still moving,
and if so, at what speed?
>> Shannon Walker: Well, that's a very good question.
The station is moving at roughly 17,500 miles an hour
or roughly 30,000 kilometers an hour.
And it is moving that fast
through the entire docking process and afterwards.
So what the Soyuz does, the station's in orbit
and the Soyuz plays catch up to it, and then you sort of go
into a holding pattern.
So you're matching the speed with the station,
and then you're slowly inching forward.
So it looks slow on the TV video that you see down,
but you're actually zipping through space pretty fast.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Wow.
So now, just one other thing.
So one of the activities
that the crew is doing aboard Space Station today,
the new crew members, they are setting up their crew quarters.
Can you tell me a little
about what the crew quarters is like and --
>> Shannon Walker: Yeah.
The crew quarters are --
you're only personal space on the station.
It's a very small space about the size of, I would say,
an old phone booth, or like the red British phone booths.
It's about that big.
You have a sleeping bag inside that's attached to a wall
and that's where you sleep.
You actually have a laptop inside
where you can get your e-mail and make phone calls
to your friends and family.
And then you have a few of your clothes that are in there --
you don't have all your clothes 'cause you don't want six months
worth of clothes inside your crew quarters --
but, you know, the clothes that you wear for about a week,
your exercise clothes, and things like that and --
are in the crew quarters with you,
and what other personal items, like if you brought pictures
of family, you can put those up inside your crew quarters.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Oh, very good.
Well, so while flying to space and being on the Space Station,
a lot of the activities seem to be a lot of routine maintenance
and upkeep because, you know,
it's just like being at home, right?
We have to maintain our home.
But also there is science.
And so this next question is -- kind of talks about science,
and I want to go ahead and ask this one.
This one came on Twitter from jonesWCaleb:
How can I best kindle my daughter's interest in science?
>> Shannon Walker: Oh, that's a good question.
You know, it's always tough to answer questions like that.
First, you got to see where your daughter's interests lie.
She may be -- and by that I mean she may be interested
in a biological sciences as opposed
to the physical sciences.
And so if you can pick a direction,
then maybe you can show things, do experiments at home.
Science is a lot of fun and so you get kids involved
at a young age and sort of thinking
about how the world works and what happens if I do something,
they're going to be interested in science for the long haul.
So I'd say start introducing fun experiments at home
and see where it takes you.
>> Amiko Kauderer: And then you never know what's going
to happen, because they may be doing science all the time
around the house and you may be sorry you did that.
>> Shannon Walker: Well, that's true.
You never know.
But think of it as a good thing.
>> Amiko Kauderer: That's very good.
So just one last question before we go.
Speaking of science, so what was your favorite science experiment
while you were there?
>> Oh, that's a good question.
When I was on the station, we had something like 100 --
I forget -- 130 different experiments going,
so unfortunately we don't get to spend a lot of time
with too many of them.
I thought some of the most interesting ones were ones
where I was the test subject.
We were studying how the human body reacted to various things.
We were doing a study on how types of protein you eat --
animal protein versus vegetable protein --
how that affects your bone and muscle mass, and so things
like that are very interesting to me.
But all my involvement was essentially eating certain
specialized diets that they had and then donating blood
and urine, which is not that, you know, exciting to do.
Little difficult in space.
But some of the Japanese experiments that I did
with plants were very interesting to me.
Watching plants grow and see how they are affected
by zero gravity is very interesting.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Yeah.
I always find that experiment very interesting as well.
And the diet one, you know, that one is essentially
to show us how -- because there's bone loss,
and so maybe it's to help mitigate those --
the negative effects that space flight --
long duration space flight has on our bodies.
>> Shannon Walker: Yeah, that's exactly right.
So it's twofold: One, can we mitigate the effects of space
on the crews while they're there based on diet --
something as simple as diet -- and I think the answer is yes.
But then it also has a wide application to --
to people on earth because, of course,
osteoporosis is a big problem for so many women,
and if you can change people's diets ever so slightly
and say you -- well this type of protein is better than that type
of protein to maintaining your bustle -- muscle and bone mass,
then people will be better off in the long run.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Right.
And I can imagine that will be very important for us
as we continue in space
and continue our future in space exploration.
>> Shannon Walker: Absolutely.
>> Amiko Kauderer: So Shannon, thanks so much for coming out.
An exciting day for the Expedition 32, your colleagues,
so it must be fun watching them.
And always a pleasure talking with you.
Thanks for coming.
>> Shannon Walker: Thank you, very much for having me.
>> Amiko Kauderer: Thank you.
This is Mission Control Houston.