Article Three - Day Three
By Phil Reeder
One of the biggest problems I have found in writing this series of articles is the amount of wordage that each article requires to tell the full story. I could I suppose write less but that would mean, in my opinion, belittling all the incredible things we did as a group during our stay at Space Camp, and that is something I would prefer not to do. So for all of you out there who are taking the time and trouble to read these articles I hope you feel the effort is worth it.
Now back to the story.
Once again the day started early with me waking at about 5.00 am and knowing that there was little chance of getting back to sleep again I got up, shaved, showered and was once again on my travels well before 6.00 am.
My target was once again the Rocket Park for a few close-up shots of the original Saturn Five and the restoration work that was being carried out on it. From here I moved on to the Astrotrek building which is situated to the right of Pathfinder as you leave the Rocket Park and again I HAD to stop and look up at this sleeping giant.
As I walked toward the Astrotrek building (See Photo) I heard the sound of music playing and thought that this was just a continuation of the over-view music that is played in the museum part of the camp.
The Astrotrek building houses what I would call the physical training simulators, that is the simulators that you have to be strapped into before you can use them. The one-sixth gravity chair, which helps you walk and gain an appreciation of what it is like to experience one-sixth gravity on the Moon, is situated in this building. The multi-axis trainer which has the ability to spin you in three different directions at the same time is also present. The 5DF training chairs which allow you movement in five different directions are also situated in this area along with the MMU or Manned Manoeuvring Unit training equipment.
The building has a dividing wall and crossing into the second side gave me my first shock of the day. The music I had heard as I approached the building was not coming from an over-view system, but from one my fellow team mates, Mr Bill Cumming, who I found out later is not only a Software Engineer, but a performer in his local orchestra. "Got to get my practice in" he said and not wishing to disturb him further I moved on.
By this time it was nearly 7.15 and knowing the way things worked with regard to the Advanced Academy students it came as no surprise to find four of my team mates already in the cafeteria waiting for the morning meal to put in an appearance. I joined them, and our two fellow trainees, Bill and Carolyn joined us soon after.
By now all my fears on my fitting in with the group had gone, the previous days events had pushed them away altogether and we got down to the business of discussing the events for the day to come. Breakfast was soon available and as we were sitting down to eat it, the next shock of day appeared.
For the past two days I had been hearing about the mysterious JEDI. My enquires to the others had led me to believe that this shadowy figure was a counsellor at the camp and that my fellow trainees had had dealings with this person in previous years. It was at this moment that the mysterious Jedi made her appearance. Teresa Couch, call-sign Jedi, was to be the counter-part of Jeff Van Zantt, with one of them covering us during one part of the day and other covering the other part, working in shifts. Jedi would be yet another person who I would come to know and admire over the next few days for her devoted dedication to the trainees placed in her charge.
8.00 am to 8.30 am
The first item of the agenda after breakfast was the pre-scuba dive physical, which is held in Habitat 2 which is situated directly opposite the main Hab building. Physicals completed we moved back to the main building.
8.30 am to 10.30 am
Once back at the main building I got my first view of the Neutral Buoyancy Simulator or the "Tank" as I will refer to it from now on. It is yet another "centre" around which training operations take place at Space Camp, as it is the one area I, and my fellow team mates agree really feel puts you in near all the conditions which can be found in space (See Photo).
The Tank is a huge water filled pool measuring twenty-seven and a half feet in diameter, with a depth of twenty feet. It holds an amazing one hundred and twenty-three thousand gallons of water and is the area used by the trainees to get them accustomed to living and working in an airless environment which is as near to zero gravity as it is possible to simulate on Earth.
In charge of this area is dive master Dana Kersjes, and whilst I only spent what seemed to be too short period of time in her presence, she is yet another person I would come to admire for the tireless dedication to the job that she does.
It's at this point that I am going to make a slight detour from the story to quickly tell you an interesting fact, the significance of which will, I hope, become clear later on. At Space Camp you are not allowed to use an item of equipment until you have been trained to use an item of equipment. Now back to the story.
The scuba dive section of the training firstly involves a re-appraisal of all the points covered in the evening before's lecture on scuba diving, but on a physical level, rather than a verbal one by introducing you to the equipment you are going to be using. Everything was covered, and I mean everything, from the basic safety rules to be followed, right down to the hand signals to be used when working and I mean working, its not just a simple scuba dive, there are tasks to be completed when you eventually reach the bottom of the Tank.
We were taken down to the bottom of the Tank in groups of two and with a ratio of one diver to two students. I was part of the last group to go down and this gave me the opportunity to observe things from above. Jedi seeing that I was looking down on the others and was using the air from my tank asked if I would like a snorkel to use so I could save my air for the dive, yet another example of the counsellors asking if their was anything they could do to help, rather than waiting to be asked.
Groups one and two completed their tasks and made their way back to the surface. It was now the turn of the last group. If I remember correctly the last group consisted of me and Carol Johnson. Making our way to the bottom of the tank, taking our time to equalise pressure as we moved down we finally reached the bottom of the Tank. The first task before us was to get an appreciation of the way in which items which are heavy on the surface are a lot lighter underwater (or in space). To do this the camp has weighted a large ball approximately two feet in diameter. The ball would take two people to lift it on the surface but underwater (or in space) we could each manoeuvre it quite easily (although quite slowly) and we spent a couple of minutes pushing it from one of us to the other.
Task 2 involved the use of a Nerf torpedo or rocket shaped object and required that we place it on one hand and gave it a push with the other, aiming it toward the other person. Once again we spent a couple of minutes doing this before moving on the last task.
The last task involves the use of construction and communications skills. The aim is to construct a four sided pyramid using connecting poles with locking catches for the end of each pole. Now this may be easy on the surface where you can talk to your partner, but you try doing it underwater where the only communication you have with your partner is via an underwater writing tablet and things start to get real interesting. Suffice to say we completed the task and we made our way back to the surface.
Once on the surface the group started to ask Dana if there was any chance of her arranging a "Helmet Dive" - but more on that incredible experience in a later article.
10.30 am to 11.00 am
Dive completed we returned to the camps medical centre for post dive physicals and then moved on the Astrotrek building for the next item on the agenda.
11.00 am to 1.00 pm
Arriving at the Astrotrek building we split into two teams for Rocket Construction (See Photo). This is something the veterans in my group had done in previous years and so I decided to observe for the most part and participate whenever possible.
The aim of the exercise, which covers a number of days, is to construct either from scratch or from available rocket kits, a rocket which is capable of carrying an astronaut safely into the air and returning them to the ground. Obviously you do not construct a full size rocket Everything is scaled down and in place of an astronaut you use an egg or as it's more commonly referred to an Eggonaut.
This task teaches you many things about rocketry and requires that you try to acquire an appreciation of the many things that rocketry design entails whilst you are doing it. There is the centre of gravity to consider when constructing the rocket, and the centre of pressure which is the point at which the rocket has to remain balanced for its flight from lift-off to orbital insertion. Other things you have to consider are the Eggonaut's safety as the aim is to return him (or her) to the ground without breaking the shell.
The rockets we would be using would be two stage, each having its own engine, so the rockets had to be constructed with care to ensure that the various glues we had access to only went where we wanted them to go and did not end up sticking parts together that we would have separate at the right time. The construction of the Eggonaut's capsule area also has to be considered carefully taking into consideration the force he/she will be subjected to at lift-off, first stage separation, parachute deployment and finally on landing.
Each team is allocated a number of points with which can be used to purchase parts. These can come in the form of new ready to build kits, parts from new kits or parts from a ealier groups kits which have been salvaged from previous launches.
Points are also awarded for technical innovation, such as taking the time to write up a report on how the rocket was constructed, what materials were used and why, a breakdown of the costings involved with regard to parts purchased etc. I was even told the tale of a previous group coming up with a complete biography for the Eggonaut, which detailed the Eggonauts life from birth to launch (and crash - alas the poor Eggonaut did not survive).
Now I have built models of rockets before on many, many occasions back in the UK, but I have never built a model rocket that is supposed to fly so I took a backseat for most of the building process, helping when I could and getting shear enjoyment from the learning process that was going on around me.
After construction had taken place to the extent that it was now time to leave the rockets until the glue dried we took them back to Hab until the next day.
1.00 pm to 1.30 pm
Lunch came next and much of the discussion over lunch was about the next item on the agenda or I should say the person who was the next item on the agenda.
1.30 pm to 3.30 pm
The guest speaker for our team and a couple of the younger groups at the camp was Doctor Georg Von Tiesenhausen, the designer of the Lunar Rover used on the later Apollo Moon landings, and one of the German scientists who came to the U.S. immediately after World War II with Werner Von Braun.
I have to confess that up until that time I had never hear of the good Doctor but his lecture is one I will never ever forget (See Photo).
The lecture was to be held in a lecture hall in Habitat 2. As we had a few minutes to spare before the start of the lecturer I took the time to change into my flight suit and then made my way to the lecture hall. As I approached the building I noticed an elderly gentleman, who appeared to be in his late 70's early 80's, sitting outside and wondered if he was ok as it was a very hot afternoon. I asked as to his health and he smiled and said that he was ok and was just taking a few minutes to sit outside before the start of the lecture. I though he was going to be just one of the attendees so I passed him by and made my way into the lecture room and sat down with my team mates.
An introduction of the lecture was made by another member of staff at the camp and upon hearing his name said out, Dr Von Tiesenhausen made his entrance into the room.
The same gentleman who's health I had enquired into just a few moments before.
From the moment he started to speak it was as if the room was transformed (I kid you not). He spoke with such fire and passion, firstly about space and time and how the two should be considered as one and called space-time, next on the moons and planets that make up our solar system and lastly about the future of space exploration and mankind's next great leap into space - Mars.
Other things about the Doctor also impressed me also. One of the first things he had said right at the start of his lecture was that he loved to answer questions and that if anyone had any questions they should ask. The questions came at a steady pace all through the Doctor's lecture and he would phase his response to match the age of the person he was taking to. He would also ask if the person had understood his response and was more than willing to re-phase his answer in the hope of getting the answer across a little clearer.
To say I was impressed with the Doctor is an understatement and I am not ashamed to say that I felt a lot of the emotion within me that his words were creating.
I have never been a collector of autographs but I had to have the Doctors and having my Space Camp journal with me I asked him at the end of his lecture if he would be willing to sign it. It now holds a very special place in my model gallery back home in the UK, because it not only contains the Doctors autographs but some other very specials people as well.
The Doctor also agreed to have his photograph taken with anyone who asked and I managed to get a picture of him with our entire team - What a guy.
4.00 pm to 4.30 pm
The Doctors lecture over, we made our way to the grassed area just to the rear of Pathfinder for the next item on the agenda - The Team Photograph (See Photo). This would be the first of two official photographs which would be taken of the group during our stay at the camp and these also now have a special place in my model gallery back home in the UK.
4.30 pm to 6.00 pm
Time for Charlie Mission Training in the MCC, and I found myself on my own in Mission Control as Mission Scientist, with the other members of team taking positions in the full-size mock-up of the Science Module of the International Space Station (See Photo). Of all the training I took part in whilst at the camp this was the one time I felt slightly bored. There were a few problems to try and sort out but not having a command of the phraseology to use I felt that I not so much helped the team as hampered them and have to admit that I was glad that this training session only lasted an hour.
6.00 pm to 6.30 pm
Time for dinner
6.30 pm to 7.30 pm
The next item of the training schedule was the 1/6th gravity chair (See Photo). This is something I had experienced the year before during my ATX training at Kennedy Space Centre, and is intended to give the trainees an appreciation of what it is like to function in 1/6th gravity, so I had a rough idea of what was to come - More Fool Me.
The training at Kennedy was like child's play next to the equipment they use at Space Camp. At Kennedy it's a harness that they use. At Space Camp it's a chair that you are strapped into. At Kennedy we got about three to five minutes of what it's like to experience 1/6th gravity. At Space Camp it was more like ten minutes and every one of them was shear enjoyment as you bounced around the room with Jeff always keeping a tight hold on the safety strap the chair was attached to make sure you did not attain orbital velocity.
7.30 pm to as long as it took to get it right, and then some
Next item on the training schedule was the Delta Mission training (See Photo) and I once more found myself in the Mission Specialist's position onboard the orbiter.
The task once again was the repair of the Westar satellite, but this time I was MS2 in the harness, with Carol riding the Canadarm in the MS1 position. Having ridden the Canadarm as part of the Alpha Mission training, I was in a position to give Carol a few pointers on the arms short comings when it came to getting in the right position to be able to access the four instrument bays on the satellite, installing the ground link from the satellite to the orbiter and tips on how to remove the two antenna on the top of the satellite.
All went well and we returned to the orbiter after mission completed.
That should have been the end of the day but once again Mike was "drawn" to the Computer Lab and at least four of us followed him and spent the next one and a half hours practicing landings on the simulator.
Article Four - Day Four