Spaceflight Now STS-102

Space station crew rotation complete

Posted: March 14, 2001

Astronaut Susan Helms officially moved from the shuttle Discovery to the international space station today, completing a staggered crew rotation that began Saturday with the transfer of Russian commander Yury Usachev.

Helms, Usachev and James Voss have now officially replaced the station's first full-time crew, commander William Shepherd, Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, who will complete a 140-day stay in space when Discovery lands March 20.

Shuttle commander Jim Wetherbee and Expedition Two astronauts Susan Helms, Yuri Usachev and Jim Voss answer questions from reporters during interviews today. Photo: Spaceflight Now/NASA TV
"Tonight, at 12 o'clock Houston time, we passed a really significant milestone with the completion of the first crew rotation in ISS history," said lead flight director John Shannon.

"It was a time we have all looked forward to for the past couple of years with great anticipation because we are passing from the time where Expedition One did construction and, as Bill Shepherd called it, the skakedown cruise part of the initial ISS construction, to Expedition Two, which is when we make it more of an orbiting laboratory."

While the Expedition One crew is now sleeping aboard the space shuttle, Shepherd will remain in formal command of the station until hatches between the two vehicles are sealed just before undocking late Saturday.

At the moment of hatch closure, the Expedition Two crew's tenure will officially begin.

"Expedition Two will start next Saturday when Bill Shepherd officially hands over to Yuri Usachev," Shannon said. "That will be with the hatch closure Saturday night.

"So the torch is passing as we speak today from one crew to the next as well as the phase of flight for the international space station, as we go from construction to utilization."

For their part, the Expedition Two crew members are clearly looking forward to the experience.

"I think we've become family and learned how to anticipate each other during our four years of training together," Voss said early today. "We've spent a great deal of time both in Russia and in the United States. Susan and I even stayed in the same cottage while we lived in Russia.

"We have learned to anticipate, work together. ... We just seem to mesh together very well and I expect for us to get along greatly during the four-and-a-half months we'll be up here and get a lot of work done."

Helms agreed, saying the station's sheer size will make the stay enjoyable.

"By comparison to the shuttle, the space station is beyond spacious and I don't think Jim, Yury and I are going to have any trouble moving from the close quarters of the shuttle over to the huge space station," she said. "We are just going to have the time of our lives."

But spending four months in isolation aboard the space station will still pose psychological challenges.

"We're going to be in an isolated environment for many months and I expect there to be probably some predicted psychological effects, which involve maybe some highs and lows relative to being isolated for so long away from friends and family," she told a reporter early today.

"However, I've been mentally preparing myself for that and I feel like that's not going to impact getting the work done ... and the spaceflight will be terrific."

The astronauts are ahead of schedule unloading five tons of supplies and equipment from the Leonardo cargo module carried up aboard Discovery.

Over the next few days, the combined crews will complete the unloading process and move some 1,600 pounds of trash and discarded supplies and equipment from the station to the shuttle for return to Earth.

A view inside Leonardo as astronauts Jim Kelly, Susan Helms and Andy Thomas work to unpack the cargo carried aboard the module. Photo: Spaceflight Now/NASA TV
At the same time, Shepherd's crew will spend as much time as possible briefing Usachev and company on space station operations. So far, Shannon said, "it has gone better than I had ever hoped."

"And I would attribute that 100 percent to the training the crews got both in Russia and the United States," he said. "We've spent a lot of time preparing for this mission. The Expedition Two folks spent over four years training for this mission and clearly Bill Shepherd and his Expedition One guys spent a tremendous amount of time ... getting the station ready to go, packing up things and thinking about how they were going to do the rotation."

Station flight director Rick La Brode said the new crew will have to hit the deck running to prepare the station for installation of a complex Canadian-built robot arm next month.

The arm is critical for subsequent construction missions and the Expedition Two crew is charged with activating and checking out the computer work station needed to operate the space crane.

"As soon as the shuttle undocks, they're going to have a couple of days off for well earned rest," La Brode said. "But then they start activating the systems we're going to be using to support payload operations.

"So the time period between (Discovery's departure and the next shuttle's arrival) is going to be dedicated towards really gearing up for payload operations and also getting ready to support the station arm. So it is different, it's not a shakedown."

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