STRONAUT SCOTT Kelly is not the
first person whose life was inspired by
a book. And he will no doubt not be the
last of those people to turn around and write
a book about his own life. His book,
Endurance (available at Costco), details
many aspects of his life, his four space
flights and his yearlong sojourn on the
International Space Station (ISS); he
returned from his ;;;-day mission on
March ;, ;;;;. Kelly spoke to The
Connection via Skype to talk about the
book, his time in space and more.
THE COSTCO CONNECTION: Tell us
about your training for a mission.
SCOTT KELLY: You have a couple, three
years of training leading up to a mission.
With a yearlong mission, you could wind
up having training classes, simulators or
whatever on something that’s going to
occur like three, four years in the future.
And I think the way we’ve tried to handle that is having generic skills-based
training. As an example, you don’t necessarily teach me a specific task of how to
do something with the electronics of an
experiment; train me to be an electrician.
I’ve always found that, for a space station
mission, in some ways we overtrain.
CC: Describe your ;rst experience of
going into space. What were you feeling
on the launch pad?
SK: In the months leading up to it, you con-
sider the fact that this is the last thing you
might ever do, because it is risky. My first
flight was before the Columbia [space shut-
tle] accident, and my second flight on the
shuttle was after. The Soyuz [the Russian
ship that shuttles all astronauts to the
ISS] likewise has had two fatal accidents.
It’s something you think about, but when
you’re getting closer and closer to launch,
and then definitely on launch day, it’s something that you’ve reconciled in your mind
that you’re going to do despite the risk.
When you’re in the rocket, the space
shuttle as an example, you get in about
three and a half hours before launch. Over
the course of the next three hours, it’s a lot
of getting the systems ready for launch, but
there’s also a lot of time just lying there.
[Because] the shuttle is vertical, you’re
lying on your back. It’s kind of like sitting
in a chair or on the floor, so you’re leaned
back, your legs are above your head. It’s a
little bit of a feeling like you’re standing on
your head. You’re strapped into the seat so
tight that it gets painful. Depending on the
person, you can have a lot of back pain.
Generally, when you sit in that position it
makes you have to pee. And you get in the
suit about a couple of hours before you get
into the rocket, so by the time you’re
launching you’ve been in the suit five or six
hours, so you try to fight those urges off for
as long as you can.
You have times of intense concentra-
tion, when you’re trying to get a system con-
figured properly, looking at the checklist.
You have to be very deliberate, very careful.
Then there are other moments when you’re
just sitting there, talking to your fellow
crewmates. People doze off occasionally.
But then, when you get to about ;;
minutes before launch, you start getting
busy again. At nine minutes there’s a hold,
called a T minus nine-minute hold. That’s
to give you time to catch up, if you happen
to be behind on your procedures. It’s also
the point you think to yourself, “Man, this
is a stupid thing to be doing, getting ready
to fly into space.” Especially the first time
you do it.
Then the clock picks up at nine minutes and pretty soon you get to a minute,
and then ;; seconds, and the space shuttle
computers take over the launch count.
And then, at six seconds, the main engines
light, three main engines, a million
pounds of thrust between the three of
them. You don’t go anywhere because
you’re bolted to the launch pad with these
eight giant bolts.
And the clock goes five, four, three,
two, one; those bolts are exploded open; the
solid rocket motors are lit; and it feels like
the hand of God has just lifted you off the
launch pad and is throwing you into outer
space. The first time you do it, it is so surprising how much power and energy you
feel. The space shuttle produces ; million
pounds of thrust, and you can feel every
pound of it. CONTINUED ON PAGE 38
Above: Lifting off in space shuttle Discovery
in December 1999. Left: Scott Kelly inside the
Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft during a ;t check
with Russian cosmonauts on March 15, 2015,
FACING PAGE IMAGE,
NASA / BILL INGALLS
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here for a trailer for
Endurance. (See page 9