Here’s Why We Do Human Spaceflight!




August 3, 2005 at 12:05 am

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Since I’ve been sick as a dog for days and have neither worked, nor played games much at all, I stayed up a bit to play some .

I was about to go to bed, so I could start fresh on Wednesday with my backlog of work.

‘Course, before going to bed, I decided to check

for Shuttle coverage… and wouldn’t you know it, the much-anticipated 3rd space walk (EVA; Extra-Vehicular Activity) is scheduled for a bit after 3AM CST — Wednesday morning.

I can either go to bed for 2 hours, or stay up for the next 4-5 hours.


I’ve found this live coverage so interesting that I’m pissed it hasn’t been done for every mission. I realize I’m still “Spacey,” still posessing a fascination with spaceflight, whereas the average American may not even be aware the Shuttle is presently docked with the

(which I’ve been erroneously calling the “U.S. Space Station” even though I was well aware it’s primarily thanks to Russia that we even have a manned station!)

While we did have

in the 70’s, Russia’s

was the longest running inhabited space station, and without their


vehicles, the USA would have had to abandon the space station after the loss of Space Shuttle Columbia (), if not the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger (), for that matter. The Shuttle was meant to be the workhorse for the ISS, bringing all the major components into space for assembly.

ADDED 7-8:45 AM, Wednesday: As soon as the NASA commentator noted around 2 AM that the planned spacewalk could take as long as 7 hours, I went to bed. I just woke up and got to see the “money shots” as astronaut

easily removed both pieces of

from the Shuttle’s heat shield. No sawing required.

The most amazing thing? Knowing that Pilot

directed control of the robot arm in an unprecedented fashion, only able to see Steve via a video monitor and ever-cognizant about bringing him too close to the Shuttle or starting the robot arm and Steve into uncontrollable oscillations. Between the skillful robot arm control, and Steve’s excellent verbal instructions regarding exact movements (”Body down 6 inches… Good motion. Body down again until I tell you to stop. 3, 2, 1, stop the motion.”), it’s all gone off without a hitch.

Amazing stuff.

And that sleep I was whining about? Well, the Shuttle astronauts have all been awake and working… in space! …since long before I went to sleep at 2 AM!

Tear-jerking moment? Hearing Steve Robinson literally gush about how beautiful his view of the Shuttle’s belly is against the ISS and Earth!

Actually, he hasn’t stopped yet.

He’s also been quite complimentary of Pilot , — “That was the ride of a century, Vegas. Very nice job.” (”Vegas” is James’ USAF callsign).

Bear in mind none of these astronauts got to practice exactly what they needed to do for this spacewalk while on Earth. An astronaut has never even been attached to the end of the robot arm they used during today’s repair mission. An astronaut has never spacewalked underneath a .

A robotic arm has never been used to guide anything, much less a person, so close to the Space Shuttle’s relatively fragile “skin”.

And NASA’s never had quite so many terrific camera views of a Shuttle space walk, including some provided by fellow space walker .

I’ve loved seeing astronaut Steve go absolutely nuts with the digital camera. I already have a

on my desktop that Steve took of Soichi two days ago at the end of their first spacewalk. I can’t wait to get the wallpaper from today’s historic walk!

More coolness, from Steve Robinson, “I can see my whole home state and city right now. Sacramento. Oh my goodness.

It’s been a long way from there to here {laugh}.” In addition to being a mechanical engineer (masters & doctorate), Steve’s got 1,400+ flight hours in everything from tail draggers to NASA jets.

Oh, and here’s !

My only negative comment after watching bits and pieces of NASA TV coverage over the course of several days?

Why does astronaut

sound so pissed off all the time?

She’s a former Naval aviator with 1,500 hours in six different helicopter types (800 shipboard landings), so maybe she’s just adopted a “harder” way of speaking due to being among rotorcraft flyboys, but still — she’s the only one who always sounds peeved every time she makes a radio call. Contrast that to Commander

whose grin you can hear in her voice, even when she’s having to make the umpteenth mundane serial number and stowage report to Mission Control in Houston. Eileen was among the first of NASA’s female astronauts, and has nearly 6,300 flight hours in thirty aircraft types, including 537 hours in space from 3 previous Shuttle missions. She is the first and only female Space Shuttle Commander, although this is not her first flight as Commander; she was also the first female Shuttle Pilot.




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