Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Week of Behind the Scenes Tours at NASA: Day 4

Today’s lectures: Space Physiology, Challenger and Columbia.

Today’s tour: NASA JSC Building 9 – The Space Vehicle Mockup Facility.

Today’s thoughts:

(1)    At my previous job I could walk a few hundred feet and sit inside my test article (a helicopter with orange equipment). It turns out the International Space Station is a slightly different animal. I can’t just walk or drive over to it, play with new software drops in the real environment, or even truly simulate the environment the astronauts experience onboard. This disconnect from the machine presents a new challenge for someone so used to the hands-on environment of Army helicopter flight test. One of the ways the astronauts and support personnel deal with this challenge is through high fidelity mockups, like those in Building 9.

(2)    The building looks quite different than I remember it from 2000. Only occasional remnants of shuttle exist (in fact only one “Crew Compartment Trainer” also known as the 90-deg simulators remains), and even those are slated for museum move dates in the near future. No more full-scale shuttle with payload bay mockup. Instead the landscape inside Building 9 is dominated by the International Space Station “stack”, Soyuz capsule, Orion testbed capsules, and various other experimental vehicles (roving and robotics).

(3)    Tomorrow is the end of Training Academy and next week I start Boot Camp…eeek!

This is the crew compartment trainer (CCT), which can rotate 90 degrees to simulate the launch configuration. It will be soon be moving to it's permanent museum home :-(

Me on the flight deck, inside the CCT!! It is pretty rad.

Some of the switches on the flight deck!

Robo-naut was taking a nap, it ain't no thang at NASA!

Robo-centaur guy was pretty generation of Transformers?!

A rare look inside the Soyuz capsule. It's pretty tiny!

A panorama of the International Space Station "stack" mockup.