I grew up watching a lot of the coverage of the early U.S. space program, all the way back starting with Mercury and then through Gemini and Apollo and of course going to the moon as the main part of the Apollo program.
It is a very busy mission: every day has some major goals that we have to get through, but my experience before has been that at least in the evening, you kind of take a deep breath and look around where you are and have some downtime.
We didn't use the shuttle robot arm before, so this has been a training flow to get ready for that.
We launch when we're kind of in the same orbit that they are in terms of being matched up in inclination in space, and we're just in a little different altitude.
We're on the same radius from the Earth, and then we start to swing around to where we're ahead of them on the velocity vector, so we come in relative to the station from this forward velocity position and dock on to the forward end of the Lab.
It's very important to know that we packed it right because it is a safety issue for coming home.
I did grow up with a really big interest in math and science; I liked it.
I'll be the person using the shuttle robotic arm.
The training comes to us with the benefit of what has gone before.
A lot of these things will fly in later forms on the space station themselves, or a later form of that research will, once they kind of find out some of the basics from flying it on shuttle.
It's really kind of a challenge to keep coordinated with the two station crews that we'll be interacting with. And of course one of them launched quite some time before our mission.
As always, we prepare for all sorts of contingencies. And the first few days of the flight up until docking on Day 3 are all spent really in the rendezvous because we launch at a time that puts us in an optimal position to catch up to station.
It's really a good feeling to know that we put this up there, that it's working, that all these people's plans that worked so hard came together and things fit and we've got a real space station.
UF is Utilization Flight. That got put in the manifest quite some time ago.
It definitely helps to have been through the arm training flow before and to have used the arm on orbit, and it also gives me the confidence to know that our training facilities are really good, that when you get up there, you feel like you've been there.
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