STS-107 Caramba log 5 - About STS-107

STS-107 is a microgravity research mission that includes over 80 experiments directed at Earth and space science, advanced technology development, and astronaut health and safety. Most of the experiments are conducted in Columbia's middeck and the SpaceHab Double Research Module in the payload bay. The crew is divided into two shifts (red and blue) to enable round the clock operations. The red shift includes Rick Husband, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon; the blue shift includes Willie McCool, Dave Brown and Mike Anderson. There is overlap between the red and blue 16 hour shift periods during which the crew can eat, socialize, and hand off responsibility for ongoing experiments and orbiter systems monitoring.

The STS-107 launch is about 18 months behind schedule. Delays have accumulated because of delays in preceding missions, mechanical discrepancies (including repair of cracks in the fuel pipe liners), and reordering of mission flight sequence due to the necessity for resupply and rotation of the space station crew.

Speaking from Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday 18 December 2002, Kalpana told me "It feels like we're really going to go!". The crew has been at Kennedy Space Center this past week running through the Terminal Countdown Timeline (TCDT), essentially a dress rehearsal for launch. They were doing the same thing when I met DP backstage to discuss wakeup music selections in Houston during this past summer. The TCDT includes a pad safety walkdown, emergency orbiter egress training, several other safety training activities and a simulated launch countdown.

Launch is scheduled for 16 January 2003 followed by 16 days in orbit. During this period I tell others that my wife is on a business trip. Landing is scheduled for 1 February 2003.

All crews suffer the effects of weightlessness immediately after achieving orbit. These can include puffy face because blood redistributes itself evenly throughout the body, a feeling of falling (which is exactly what the shuttle is doing in orbit) due to absent inner ear balance system cues. Also sleep can be problematic because the brain is used to being told that the body is lying on something (proprioceptive cues). In orbit, although each crewmember straps themself down, the absence of these physical sensations can be disorienting and at least temporarily interfere with the ability to sleep. Kalpana did mention that floating in the light-free environment of an orbiter sleep station, she felt like a disembodied consciousness due to the absence of proprioceptive cues. Ability to taste food is degraded; the most popular menu items aboard the orbiter and space station are generally spicy, for example shrimp cocktail. Upon returning to Earth, crewmembers must not move their heads to rapidly or they will almost certainly fall over. A shower and sleep are usually among the first things on the crew's minds. Also it not unknown for a newly returned crewmember to release an object, expecting to remain in position as it does in orbit. The effects of gravity don't take to long to remember in such cases.

STS-107 includes experiments and studies that require certain crewmembers to remain prone after landing to minimize the effects of gravity on their bodies. The crewmembers are placed on hospital gurneys, various measurements and observations taken, then removed from the orbiter for further study. Some time later they can rejoin family and friends in astronaut crew quarters at Kennedy Space Center.

Upon returning to Houston, the crew is received at Ellington Airfield, then returned home for a few days rest. This is then followed by mission debriefs, further receptions and parties, and possibly public relations trips to the home countries of international crewmembers. After the mission related activities have subsided, the crewmembers are assigned to technical jobs in the Astronaut Office and take their place in the queue for the next flight assignment...

J P Harrison

The foregoing are the personal observations of Jean-Pierre Harrison and do not constitute an official statement or endorsement by NASA or any NASA employee or contractor.

Commander Husband
Commander
Rick D Husband
Pilot
William C McCool
Payload Commander
Michael P Anderson
Mission Specialist
Kalpana Chawla
Mission Specialist
Laurel B Clark
Payload Specialist
Ilan Ramon
Mission Specialist
David M Brown

Links:
STS-107: Space Research and You
Pre-Launch Video Coverage: Terminal Countdown Demonstration Test
Proprioceptive Processing
National Space Biomedical Research Institute
Managing Astronauts' Health for Long-Duration Stays in Space


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