Press Conference at Johnson Space Center (2003.1.7)
On January 7, 2003, Astronaut Noguchi held a press conference in Houston two months before the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.?
Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm astronaut Noguchi and I would like to wish you a Happy New Year. The day for launch of the Atlantis is approaching. The STS-114 crew, and the three crew members of Expedition 7 for the ISS are progressing steadily with training, focusing on the March 1 launch. Last week, we conducted the Crew Equipment Interface Test (CEIT) that included the final confirmation of the flight items, the verification of onboard switches and wires, and the setting of various equipment of Atlantis. We have prepared ourselves by conducting these operations. I'd like to express my gratitude for all the support I have received from the Japanese people. I will perform three Extravehicular Activities (EVAs) during the mission. I'm looking forward to carrying out this mission successfully and discussing the ISS and the view of Japan from space with the Japanese people.
Q1 I'm sure you have memorized all of the mission procedures, but which part do you think will most require your concentration during the actual mission?
It will probably be the time that we actually begin the first of the three planned EVAs. The first EVA is scheduled on the fifth day, in which we will egress from the ISS airlock. On the third day we will start various preparations after docking with the station. The fourth day will be quite busy with the various preparations before opening the hatch to start the EVA. Once we accomplished this task, I believe we will be able to continue our mission steadily. Should we face any problems during the EVA, I feel confident we will be able to cope with them calmly and efficiently.
Q2 Have you mastered the techniques and are you confident about conducting the three EVAs?
Yes, I have. I have already received training in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at the JohnsonSpaceCenter including specific training for these EVAs . Two of us, mission specialist Steven Robinson and I, are going to conduct all the EVAs. We have trained so well that our instructors and flight controllers have given us their seal of approval. I'm sure the actual mission will be successful as we continue our partnership and make the most of the remaining training sessions including the one we are conducting tomorrow.
Q3 Are there any concerns about conducting the EVAs on the ISS?
Basically, there are no concerns about that. There certainly are some dangerous possibilities such as being struck by debris . When compared to the EVA that is conducted inside the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle, it would be more dangerous to be outside of the ISS, exposed to the debris strike, or to be pulled away from the station accidentally. That would make it hard to get back to the station. However, I understand the danger. I have been fully trained to handle situations that may occur and feel I'm prepared for them.
Q4 Will you be responsible for the operation of the robot arm from inside the ISS during the three EVAs?
No, I will be outside the ISS, so Astronaut Jim Kelly will be responsible for the robot arm operation.
Q5 How will these activities contribute to future space development and the launch of Kibo?
Well, most of the duties I'm going to carry out are standard ones. I think it will be extremely helpful for the Kibo-related EVA. It will be helpful for both me and the engineers and flight controllers who have been preparing for various operations of the Kibo, now in its final stage. There are various operations related to Kibo, and I hope to take this opportunity to pass on the knowledge― not only of EVA, but also of crew exchange, installing experiment equipment, and supply to the ISS after it enters its operation phase ― to promote space development of Japan.
Q6 Japanese astronauts have been giving presentations from space to show us the magnificence of the universe. What are you planning to do during your flight?
We have set aside a time for an educational event, for which preparations have been proceeding under NASDA, now JAXA. From the ISS, I'd like to introduce toys or foods Japanese children are familiar with the same way we have been doing in the Space Class. That would certainly be my greetings to Japanese people, and I count it a great opportunity to introduce Japanese culture to the people around the world since the ISS is a cooperative project supported by 15 countries.
Q7 Have you ever craved Japanese food during your stay in America?
Yes, not that I have to have it, but I think Japanese food is nutritious. Sometimes I would like to have fish and soybean paste (miso) .
Q8 Do you think you will get homesick while you are in space?
No. Being in space for two weeks is similar to going camping. However, after the Kibo is launched and Japanese astronauts begin to stay on the ISS for half a year or longer, then it could be more of a possibility. It would be nice to have more food options during that time also.
Q9 Is there any difference between you and other Japanese astronauts?
I don't think there is any big difference between us. People might feel close to me because I'm an ordinary Japanese. I would also like to report on life in space, for this is the first phase of the ISS operation. I will have a short stay , but I will come back to earth with the Expedition 6 crew and will be flying with the Expedition 7 crew. I hope to convey information to you about the space flight including preparations and the utilization of hardware on the ISS that I learn from the Expedition 6 crew, from the point of view of someone who will have lived in space for a long period of time.
Q10 Are you concerned about the flight delay?
When I was assigned as a crew member in April 2001 the scheduled launch date was July 2002. It was then changed to November 2002, then to January 2003. Now it is planned for March 1. We are not bothered by such delay, as it enables us to learn the day-to-day or week-to-week training for the mission. Schedule delays do not matter to me.Rather, now (seven weeks before the launch) even with preparations proceeding steadily it might be better if there was more time to prepare. However, I have been keeping up my morale.
Q11 Do you find any special meaning or expectation to participate in this mission during this economically and politically severe time?
A major objective of the ISS is to realize international cooperation. It is thus important for various countries to bring their own resources and techniques together to proceed to the same goal for peace. Therefore, I would like to demonstrate that we are progressing forward to such an exalted aim of peace, cooperating with each other through the ISS activities and this flight.
Q12 Do you have any messages for the younger generation?
I can see that the younger generation as well as adults have a sense of frustration these days. I believe that children are more sensitive to such an atmosphere. I hope I will be able to help in some way to change the status quo.I believe that space development is one way to do that. It is important to live our daily lives in Japan, but apart from that, recognize that their future and other possibilities may lie ahead in space. One might find his/her future related to the space program, or find new possibilities in another field.
Q13 Are there any safety concerns for flying aboard the Space Shuttle?
Last summer (2002), we couldn't fly the shuttle because tiny cracks were found in the piping. Finding the problem during inspection and taking time to respond to that problem helps us to maintain very safe conditions. However, the Space Shuttle has been flying more than 20 years. It is true that some vehicles experience problems due to the age of the shuttle. Again, I think we can make use of this information for future space development in Japan. For instance, in Japan, we have been launching brand new expendable rockets each time. That needs to be changed to reusable ones at some point. This would be especially useful during its 10 to 15 years of expected operation for the ISS. After the Kibo is launched, it would need maintenance and measures to prevent failures during its 10 to 15 years of expected operation. We must learn from the response presented by the Space Shuttle Program.
Q14 Are there any concerns regarding the safety for the next flight?
There is always a possibility that some new problems might be found between now and the launch date. We feel that the Space Shuttle Program will respond to them thoroughly until safety can be verified.
Q15 Do you think a crew of four is satisfactory?
In general, a shuttle crew consists of five to seven members. Our crew consists of seven. However, only four of us will actually be responsible for the shuttle flight mission. This naturally charges each crew member with more responsibility. Most of the previous shuttle flights with Japanese astronauts aboard consisted of seven members. It is quite a task charged for a rookie like me.
Q16 What are tasks are you responsible for in the Space Shuttle?
During the launch, I will be on the flight deck assisting the pilot. On our return, the three ISS crew (Expedition 6) will be aboard with us, lying on the middeck floor. You have to lie down instead of sitting in a chair in order to prevent lightheadedness upon returning from the weightlessness to the world of normal gravity. It is also my duty to help the ISS crew if there is a need, as well as sitting in the middeck to operate the necessary procedures that I'm engaged in. I have three EVAs to conduct during the mission, as well as managing video equipment called "Photo TV" that includes all the cameras, videos, and films on board.
Q17 What is the most important task you are involved in?
Among all tasks in the mission, I take EVA as my main assignment. Two persons conduct EVA. I'm assigned as EVA1, the primary EVA crew member. I'm responsible for all phases of EVA from training to the specific operation procedures. I feel that I'm the one who is fully in charge of the EVA process from the beginning (including training) to the end (through debriefing), after we have landed.
Q18 What is your perspective in accomplishing your task since the ISS is expected to be completed sometime after 2008?
There are two perspectives . First, I think we are proceeding at a quicker pace than before towards the completion. Aside from the problem of piping failure we had last summer on the shuttle vehicle, I don't think we would have delays such as the Russian Service Module being held back on the ground for months. In addition, NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe has publicly announced that the launch of Node 2, which is scheduled next year (February 2004), will mark "core complete," which implies NASA's determination not to allow further delays. Second, although preparations for some modules are behind schedule, ISS itself has begun its operation with a crew on board. We have obtained results from experimental data acquired from the operation. I don't think we need to place great importance on the exact date of the completion. Unlike dams, which need to be completed to start operation, the ISS is capable of operating without completion, and it has already been doing so. I think it's more important for us to focus on Japanese astronauts' first involvement as the expedition crew, or utilization of the experiment data we have obtained so far, rather than being concerned about the date of the final stage and completion of the ISS.
Q19 What is your opinion of the significance of the ISS construction?
As I said before, in addition to the scientific results we obtain from the ISS, ISS is significant for being an international project. Relationships between nations have become tense. ISS is a great opportunity to show the world that it is possible for nations to cooperate and work together toward a peaceful objective. Furthermore, the ISS is not the final goal. With space exploration becoming more and more extensive, it is significant that Japan takes part in the future space exploration, such as reaching the lunar surface and Mars.
Q20 What would you personally like to see when you go to space?
Other than space itself, I would like to learn as much as possible about what it is like to live in space. I want to see Earth from space , for it can't be seen otherwise. I would like to be able to tell people what the Earth looked like from space.
Q21 Would you like to stay at the ISS as an expedition crew member in the future?
Definitely yes! Especially after Kibo is launched. I have an affinity for the Kibo since I took part in its various development tests. I can't wait to see what it is really like to be in space for a long period of time. In that sense, I think my next flight is going to be the step forward to make that come true.
Q22 Have you thought about flying the second flight in the future?
It depends on my next flight. I'm sure I will get used to space flight and be much better at it the second time. The next flight will be a very good chance to gauge what I would do in the future mission to the ISS.
Q23 Have you discussed your plans for space travel with your family ?
Because I will be away from them for just about two weeks, my children may perceive that their father is going for another business trip. I haven't had much time to talk to them because I've had to spend so much time training. Instead, I will tell them about space and what I will have seen in space after I get back home, much like telling the story of my business trip.
Q24 Are you, say, 99% prepared for the launch?
To be honest with you, I feel that I'm just about a half that . There are so many things to be done. Following the training schedule there is reviewing what I have done before. There are a lot of things that I want to cover to make sure that I'm as well versed as possible with them.