An Interview With...
Gregory H. Johnson
These interview questions came from students representing Big Apple Tree in Taiwan. They are learning English so reading Greg's Imagiverse interview and chat, to prepare these questions, was quite a struggle for them. Their teacher, Kim Yang, wrote:
"The students are very very eager to know the answers to their questions. It was a very hard job for my students, because our members have kids from kindergarten ages to college ages. The questions they had to make needed to be easy ones, but yet interesting. I am proud of my students. I also felt somewhat sorry for them. They were sweating 2 hours and 30 minutes in a hot classroom to discuss about the questions!"
Imagiverse congratulates and thanks Winnie, Sunny, Peggy, Judy, Carol, Jenny, Jack, Jackie, Peter, Howard, Steven and Edward, for a job well done!
What things do astronauts have to prepare before a flight to space?
After initial astronaut selection, each group of new astronauts completes a 1.5 year long "astronaut course" in order to become "qualified" for mission assignment. After completion, new astronauts go into the pool of unassigned astronauts awaiting mission assignment. The wait for specific crew selection varies based on office manning and mission requirements, but can be as little as 2 years to over 10 years. During that time, unassigned astronauts spend a portion of their time training in simulators to stay current and qualified, but they also have other engineering, support, and managerial jobs at Johnson Space Center.
Shuttle mission crews are named about one year prior to flight. These crews are selected for a specific mission by matching the mission requirements to the combined skills of all members selected on the crew. Although some of the preparation for spaceflight is similar for all shuttle mission crews, much is mission unique. Furthermore, even within a crew, each astronaut completes a unique array of lessons/meetings/reviews/tests based on that individual's contribution to the overall mission. So, there is not a simple answer to this question.
For example, I will be the shuttle pilot for STS-123. Due to my crew position, I will receive much training to operate the space shuttle itself, whereas some of the mission specialists on my crew will receive very little shuttle systems training. Others on my crew are performing spacewalks. They will spend many hours practicing spacewalk tasks in various simulations (including the Neutral Buoyancy Lab pool) to refine their spacewalking skills, whereas I will receive none for the spacewalking task. Similarly, I'll be operating the shuttle and station robotic arms, so I'll get quite a bit of training on the robotic tasks that I will be performing on orbit.
How did you feel, when you were first in space?
The most obvious difference between being on the ground and in space is that astronauts on orbit cannot feel the effect of the earth's gravity. In "zero-gravity," objects (and people) float freely if they are not secured down by straps or Velcro.
I have never been to space myself, but I've been told by my office mates that many astronauts feel a little dizzy when they first get to orbit. A primary cause of this dizziness is physiological. The fluid in our inner ears (that normally gives us the upright sensation on earth) is not pulled down by gravity like it is on the ground. Instead, the fluid floats around freely, confusing our up-down sensation and causing dizziness. However, our bodies are very adaptable, so within hours the dizziness often subsides.
What do you like doing in space, if you have spare time?
Free time in space is fairly rare because each mission to space is very expensive. Flight planners attempt to be very efficient with our time, so we can be as productive as possible. However, we are allowed time for personal hygiene, eating, sleeping, and exercise. I'm told there are occasionally a few minutes between events that might be dubbed "spare time." During these periods, I plan to listen to my favorite songs on my iPod while watching the spectacular views outside. I also plan to send a few short emails to my friends and family.
Do you believe that there are possibilities of planets like Earth?
Yes. There are billions of stars in our universe that are very similar to our sun. Many of these stars might have planets orbiting around them that are very similar to the planets in our solar system. I think it is quite unlikely that there would not be at least a few planets in distant solar systems that would have very similar physical characteristics to our planet.
Your first flight to space, what thoughts did you have the night before? And what were the first things you were thinking to do when you came back from space?
I will have to answer this based on discussions with my friends and associates after they have returned from their missions.
Many rookie astronauts have trouble sleeping the night before their first launch because they are so excited. They think about the tasks that they will be performing on orbit, rehearsing these tasks in their minds. They hope that the shuttle will operate normally. They hope that their families will be OK while they are gone. Because life in space is so different from that on earth, there is much curiosity and anticipation of what's ahead in the next two weeks. I can't wait!
When I come home from space, one of my first desires will be to share many of my experiences with my friends and family. Communication will be limited on orbit so they will be anxious to know how it went.
I also plan to kick back and relax because I'm sure I will be very exhausted after the 15 day mission we have planned next February.
Other interviews: 17 July 2003
- 18 May 2007
14 July 2007
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