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Interview With Steve Hawley

Aired March 9, 2002 - 08:37   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go to our Miles O'Brien, who has been live all morning from the Johnson Space Center, to talk a little bit about the Hubble and space suits and all that great stuff -- hi, Miles. Sorry about all the confusion this morning.


Oh, hey, you know, you've got to roll with it, right? This, after all, is not rocket science, as I tell producers frequently.

Good to see you again.

We're here at Building 9, the Johnson Space Center, standing with a man who's probably spent a good chunk of his life in this building, Steve Hawley, five-time shuttle flyer.


O'BRIEN: Two Hubble missions to his credit, the one that deployed it in 1990, the second repair mission, which was in '97 I think.

HAWLEY: '97.

O'BRIEN: And operating that robot arm all the time, which is an important part, as we saw this past week, of those Hubble missions.

Good to have you with us. Thanks for being here.

HAWLEY: Thank you, Miles. It's good to be here.

O'BRIEN: We aren't, this is, it looks like a, you know, a shuttle, an orbiter that got sawed off. But essentially this is Columbia in mockup form, fairly high fidelity mockup. What is this used for, this training device here?

HAWLEY: Like you say, it's a very high fidelity mockup and although it's not connected to computers that drive displays, like some of our other simulators, the fact that it represents very accurately the living and working area allows us to train in high fidelity conditions working on setting up experiments, practicing stowage, figuring out the logistics of where people will stand and operate or float and operate in space during the missions that they're training for. O'BRIEN: I'll tell you what, why don't we crawl in and as we crawl in I want to ask you, what you realize immediately every time you go in one of these, it's very obvious right away that it's a very small place, much smaller than you might expect.

HAWLEY: That's exactly right. As a matter of fact, it's much smaller than it looks on television.


HAWLEY: Very crowded.

O'BRIEN: Yes. As we, I don't know if we can get a picture, Joe, while I'm down here. These are some of the equipment lockers down here. This is the place they call the mid-deck. The lower deck is not used by people, it's used for storage, right?

HAWLEY: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: And then this is the air lock here, which takes a big bite out of the, this portion of it.

Now, everybody wants to know about this, so you have to bear with me while we do this.

HAWLEY: Surely.

O'BRIEN: As you walk into the shuttle the first thing, I don't know who made this design decision, but as you walk into the shuttle, the first thing you see -- well, of course, the door would be shut frequently -- but this is the WCS, the potty. Now, tell me, give me a little history on this, and we don't have to belabor the point.

HAWLEY: Well, it actually is, it functions a lot like the one you might have at home except it uses air flow instead of gravity. So it takes a little bit of training to get used to how to operate, but it operates very well and crews are very comfortable with it.

O'BRIEN: All right, so suffice it to say without ringing everybody's breakfast, suction is the key here.

HAWLEY: Exactly right.

O'BRIEN: And other than that, I don't think we need to belabor it. But this is an upgrade from the original toilet you flew with way back when. This is a much more sophisticated one. The original one wasn't so good, was it?

HAWLEY: Well, we did have some difficulties with it. In fact, my first flight, the toilet itself didn't break, but we had some other issues that allowed us to not be able to use it.

O'BRIEN: Oh, really?


O'BRIEN: The whole time? What happened?

HAWLEY: No, well, for the last several days.

O'BRIEN: Ouch.

HAWLEY: I'd rather not...

O'BRIEN: Not go on that one.

HAWLEY: We don't need to get into the gruesome details.

O'BRIEN: Wow. Why don't you lead us up the way here? This will take us up to the place they call the flight deck. This is the nerve center, if you will, of the space shuttle, of the orbiter. And, of course, you know, right away your training is limited by the fact that we're in gravity. You could just float up, almost sort of think your way up, in space. But nevertheless, it's hard to imagine in this very tight space, and I don't know that viewers can really get a sense of how tight it is, seven people up here. How does that work?

HAWLEY: Well, it's very difficult and in particular on a mission like Hubble, window space is very precious.

O'BRIEN: At a premium.

HAWLEY: And if you're Nancy and your job is trying to deploy the telescope and you've got six big guys trying to look out the window, I'm sure she was crouched down in the corner doing the best she could to look out the window and do her job.

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, it's worth pointing out, too, Nancy Currie is one of the most diminutive astronauts and Scott Altman is probably one of the biggest.

HAWLEY: Exactly.

O'BRIEN: So it's kind of a Mutt and Jeff effect here. This is not exactly where the robot arm device is on Columbia now. I believe it's over here, isn't it, more in this area?

HAWLEY: The panel on Columbia that Nancy operates is located where this panel is and the hand controller that she would use is located here. The second one's located here.

O'BRIEN: So when you're on the arm, what's the hardest part? Is it hard to get your orientation as to which way is forward, which way is left, right, all that stuff?

HAWLEY: No, I think the hardest part probably, what you get used to in training is exactly how's the most efficient way to maneuver either the telescope or the crew member to where you need to go. You can waste time if you move inefficiently and I think the most important thing that sophisticated arm operations requires is an intrinsic understanding of how's the most efficient way to do the job.

O'BRIEN: Yes. Let's get an e-mail question in. Kyra, do you have an e-mail for us?

PHILLIPS: I do. I have plenty of them for you and Steve.

O'BRIEN: Good. Good.

PHILLIPS: Hello, Steve.

All right, this comes...

HAWLEY: Good morning.

PHILLIPS: Good morning.

This comes from Marcus. He wants to know, "When the Hubble mission is complete around 2010, will NASA bring down the Hubble telescope by launching a shuttle or will they bring it down as the Russians brought down their beloved Mir?"

O'BRIEN: Good question.

HAWLEY: Good question. We certainly hope that we'll be allowed to go get it. I'd love to see us go recover it and bring it down and have it in the Smithsonian for everybody to see. And I would even propose that the crew that took it up originally might be selected to be the crew to go retrieve it.

O'BRIEN: I think that is officially a plug for Steve Hawley to be on that mission. But one thing we need to point out is the Hubble doesn't have any steering jets at all. It has some reaction wheels which allow it to point. But basically it's in a free drift and so something has to be done to either boost it up into an orbit where it's not going to land or go and get it and bring it back.

Now, it was deployed, as we know, on a Hubble, Hubble Discovery, with Steve Hawley aboard in 1990. A lot of people would like to say well, if you're going to go up to put a rocket pack on it to send it up, you might as well just bring it back and make it a fantastic display in the Smithsonian. And that's my vote, too.

All right, next question?

PHILLIPS: All right, here, this one comes from Brian. "Now that the Hubble space telescope has been upgraded and released, where will it be pointed first? Will it be in Alpha Centauri, the closest star?"

O'BRIEN: Good question. Steve, you, this is an area that people get a little, scientists get a little bit ticklish about, don't they?

HAWLEY: Well, the investigators like to be a little bit parochial about their data and they probably know what the first observation will be but I think probably have chosen to keep that a secret for a little while.

O'BRIEN: Suffice it to say it's a competitive business, Kyra, and the world of scientific papers is such that they're probably not going to tip their hand. The fact of the matter is Hubble time is so valuable that they won't waste an image just on a test. It'll be something that'll be used for real science.

PHILLIPS: All right, we've got another one. Look at you guys. Are you guys getting ready to take off?

O'BRIEN: Yes, we're -- we are getting ready to go here.

PHILLIPS: You want to -- yes, give us a little action. Can you show us how the simulator works?

O'BRIEN: Well, yes. Steve, this is not -- now, we should point out, this is not the -- there's another building here that has the simulator that the commander and pilot use to actually practice landings and that's got a 3-D display of the Kennedy Space Center and landing facility at Edwards. And this is not designed for that sort of simulation. This is more for systems and that kind of thing.

So what goes on in here, Steve?

HAWLEY: Well, one of the things we use this for is we can actually rotate this vertically. And so it replicates the orientation the orbiter is actually in on the pad. And so we would practice what it's like to get in the orbiter pre-launch, strap in, go through all of those procedures without actually launching. It's interesting, most people have the same feeling. When you get in the orbiter in the vertical for the first time, it's tremendously disorienting.


HAWLEY: You don't, the panels that you're so familiar with and you could reach out and touch in your sleep seem to have gone to a completely weird location and you have trouble even orienting yourself. So practicing in that orientation before you do it for real is very important.

O'BRIEN: Kind of a space version of "The Poseidon Adventure" or something, everything upside down, or at least sideways -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: It's kind of like flying in a jet.

All right, here we go. This question comes from Bob. "What's the difference between the orbit of the Hubble observatory and the international space station?"

O'BRIEN: About a hundred miles, right?

HAWLEY: That's a good question. It's actually a little bit higher than the international space station. It's also in a different orbital inclination, that is, how the orbit it tilted with respect to the equator of the earth. Hubble is more equatorial. The international space station is more north and south to allow launches, for example, from Russia to also reach the space station.

O'BRIEN: Yes, and beyond that it gets into some pretty serious orbital mechanics. But suffice it to say what is interesting about the two vehicles right now is their orbits are what is called phased, which essentially means they're on the same side of the earth at the same time. And a little later in this mission, they're going to try to do a radio conversation between the two spacecraft as they kind of pass in the same neck of the woods, if you will.

PHILLIPS: All right, I think, I'm getting the sign here, Miles, that you're going to take it from here. That's it for our e-mails and our calls. I wish we could keep going, though.

Steven, thanks so much for joining us on this.

HAWLEY: It was my pleasure. Thank you.

O'BRIEN: All right.

Should we do a quick orientation of the instrument panel? Now, we've got to point out that Columbia has been upgraded. It has a bunch of glass panels now. A lot of these so-called steam gauges are gone.

HAWLEY: Exactly right. Yes. This is the orientation as it was prior to Columbia's modification with the old-fashioned green cathode ray tube displays, the electromechanical instruments that you see in front of you. Now we have modern, a more modern glass cockpit available to the crew.

O'BRIEN: Wow, it's just, all right, we're going to have to wrap it there. Of course, we could spend all day talking about this, as you well know.

Steve Hawley, veteran of two Hubble missions, five shuttle missions in all, and the first to volunteer for the Hubble return to earth mission right here on CNN. You heard it here first. Thanks for being with us. We really appreciate it.

HAWLEY: My pleasure. And congratulations on your outstanding award.

O'BRIEN: Oh, thank you, sir. I appreciate it.




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