Alpha crew completes first week aboard station
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD
Posted: November 11, 2000
"The crew ... is doing very well," said station flight director Jeff Hanley. "They've really settled into their new home, they've started to not only configure their living environment but they've started finding the things that makes life, long-term, bearable, if you will, and they're making great progress on our mission plan.
"They've been busy, but they've been in general very happy, working well as a team together on board to get the work done. We had a very demanding plan over the last week, the timeline for the first few days was very, very packed based on the need to get some critical life support systems outfitted in the spacecraft."
Station skipper William Shepherd complained about the brutal workload early on, asking flight controllers in Houston to work with their Russian counterparts to develop a more realistic daily schedule.
Those efforts have paid off and "Shep" radioed his thanks early today, saying "it's been great the last few days. The schedule has been good and I'm glad to see you guys working together as a team."
Said Hanley: "We certainly have had some issues that have been brought up on the air-to-ground (communications loop) concerning the planning. We've always known the first few days the plan was very demanding.
"The lesson learned was probably in terms of the time it would take to locate tools, locate piece parts among all the stowage and the impact the outfitting tasks would have on the environment in zero G. That is something the task times obviously did not take into account."
Flight controllers early today asked Shepherd to activate a radiation alarm because of a major solar flare that has increased the flux of high-energy protons near Earth 100,000 times above normal levels.
"There was recently a rather large solar flare and it was large enough in magnitude that according to the flight rules we have to set up (a radiation alarm)," Rex Walheim radioed the crew from mission control in Houston shortly before 6:30 a.m.
"That should take about 45 minutes. And the doc says the increased solar activity shouldn't be a significant health risk, but it is something that's big enough that we want to monitor it. If you'd like to discuss it with surgeon we can schedule a PMC for it."
"Got you," Shepherd replied.
Hanley said the worst-case dosage for the crew, assuming they did not take refuge in the aft compartment of the Zvezda module, would be roughly equivalent to what Mir cosmonauts were exposed to during a long-duration mission.
"The radiation dosage we're talking about is not at all a threat to their health in the short term," Hanley said. "If they were to see this full exposure for the full duration of the couple of days this solar event is happening, they would get the equivalent of about a Mir mission of radiation dosage."
According to SpaceWeather.com, the M8-category solar flare occurred on the sun's western limb near active region 9218.
"The effects of this S3-class radiation storm include: HF radio propagation over Earth's polar regions may fade or black out altogether during the storm. Earth-orbiting satellites are likely to experience minor electronic glitches. Astronauts are safe so long as they avoid extra-vehicular (spacewalk) activities."
The SOHO sun-watching satellite also detected a coronal mass ejection shortly after the flare that could trigger auroral displays late Friday or Saturday.
In a weekly planning session later in the morning, flight controllers in Moscow told Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev they would get three days off Saturday, Sunday and Monday "as compensation for previous hard work."
Among the high-priority tasks completed by the crew during its first week aboard the station were:
"They also achieved over the last few days the final assembly of the carbon dioxide removal system, known as the Vozdukh. It has been functioning removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for the past two or three days. The air conditioner is also functional.
"They installed the TORU equipment, which is the equipment used by the Soyuz commander, Yuri Gidzenko, to pilot Progress vehicles up to the station in the event the automatic docking system doesn't work. It's a backup capability we wanted to have in place for arrival of the first Progress."
He was referring to a Progress supply ship scheduled for launch Nov. 16 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The unmanned craft is scheduled to reach the station two days later, docking to the Zarya module's downward-facing, or nadir, port.
The only major unfinished item on the crew's initial agenda is setup and activation of the station's laptop computer network. The crew has had problems finding necessary cables and connectors and Shepherd has repeatedly asked Russian flight controllers to uplink detailed diagrams showing the network's interconnections.
But Hanley said that work should be complete by this weekend.
"Once that capability gets up and running the flow of information between the ground and the crew will be much improved over what it is right now."
Hanley said Shepherd probably will continue work on the computer network this weekend even though the crew is scheduled for off-duty time Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
"Shep's going to be working on the laptop network," he said. "That's what he spent his Sunday doing. Basically continuing to configure the spacecraft the way they want it, get a better idea of where the remainder of the items are that are stowed on the vehicle, mostly catching up on personal correspondence.
"They have the capability to watch DVD movies up there, they'll probably take a movie or two. They'll be doing something similar to what you'd be doing in your spare time over the weekend or on a holiday, basically doing the things that interest you."
As for the plan for next week, Moscow flight control told the astronauts they will begin preparing for the upcoming Progress docking once they return to work early next week.
"You have three days off Saturday, Sunday and Monday as compensation for previous hard work, although there are attempts at your discretion to have you work on the ham radio today and tomorrow (and to complete activation over the weekend for a test Monday.
"Monday is a day off. Nov. 14 is the day that we start preparing for the Progress launch. The Progress is to launch (Nov. 16) at 1:32 GMT. The docking is planned for 3:17 GMT on Nov. 18. We will have to change your work and rest schedule for that day and we have a docking test as well four days in advance. We have not yet decided whether we're going to involve you in that test.
"You will have to prepare the displays on the 14th for the laptop to monitor the FGB hook closure. You will get a radiogram for that. The next day after that, you will have a TORU test. And I would like to ask your advice. We have several requests from the NASA planning office suggesting that on the 15th we talk to you about the 4A plan overview. What do you think? Is it a good idea to discuss this after the Progress docking so you can complete one important event before you go on to the next one?"
After conferring among themselves, the crew said "we agree, it's best to do it after the docking, not to take up time."
During a communications session with flight controllers in Houston, Shepherd was told "things are beginning to smooth out down here."
"Yeah, I can see that up here. It's been great the last few days," Shepherd replied. "The schedule has been good and I'm glad to see you guys working together as a team. I think it's a real tribute to the planners. Planners lead the way, or something like that, right?"
But he complained that communications between the station and Moscow using NASA's OCA comm link are spotty at best and need improvement. He said crewmates Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev could barely understand their Russian colleagues and that conversations were essentially "unintelligible" to him.
"The OCA comm coming through Moscow is very hard to understand, particularly because of the language. It's almost unintelligible to Sergei and Yuri and it's very difficult for me."
The Expedition One mission to the space station is being extended two weeks due to delays in launching the space shuttle to bring the three men home. Read story.
Endeavour landed at Kennedy Space Center right on time Monday at 6:03:25 p.m. EST (2303:25 GMT).
See the Status Center for full play-by-play coverage.
In a two-part conversation, commander Bill Shepherd and NASA Administrator Dan Goldin agree to name the international space station "Alpha" for the Exedition One crew.
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The Russian Soyuz capsule with the three-man Expedition One crew docks to the Zvezda module of the international space station.
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The Russian Soyuz rocket lifts off from Baikonur Cosmodrome with the Expedition One crew.
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The three-man Expedition One crew departs quarters for the launch pad to board the Soyuz rocket.
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Flight Engineer Sergei Krikalev undergoes a check of his spacesuit before heading to the launch pad for blastoff.
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The Soyuz rocket that will launch the Expedition One crew is transported from its assembly hangar to the launch pad on Oct. 29.
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At a Glance
Mission 1: ISS-2R
Crew: Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev
Launch date: Oct. 31, 2000
Launch time: 0753 GMT (2:53 a.m. EST)
Launch site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan
Return vehicle: Shuttle Discovery (STS-102)
Landing date: March 11, 2001
Landing site: Kennedy Space Center, Fla.
Mission 2: ISS-4A (STS-97)
Vehicle: Shuttle Endeavour
Crew: Jett, Bloomfield, Tanner, Garneau, Noriega
Launch date: Nov. 30, 2000
Launch time: 10:06 p.m. EST (0306 GMT on 1st)
Launch site: LC-39B, KSC
Landing date: Dec. 11, 2000
Landing time: 6:04 p.m. EST (2304 GMT)
Landing site: SLF, KSC
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