The Hughes Astronauts–compiled by Jack Fisher

Training Routine is Never Routine for SCG Payload Specialist-Roy Carlson SCG Journal April 1985

“We were doing 40 parabolas of 30 seconds each,” said Greg Jarvis, describing nis experience in NASA’s airborne zero gravity simulator.  “During the last set of 10, one of the crew members asked me to hold his cup of water.  The next thing I knew we were going through zero g.   The water was in little balls and I was chasing it around the ceiling, trying to catch it in the cup.”  He smiled “Remember when you were a kid and broke a thermometer and rolled the mercury around, trying to gather it together?”

During a recent visit home from Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, SCG Payload Specialist Jarvis and Bill Butterworth, backup specialist, offered insightful views into the training of a NASA space shuttle payload specialist.

“Our training has consisted of two parts,” Jarvis said.  “One is habitability training.  That is how to live in the shuttle.  The other is the mission-specific training—simulated launches, landings, and timelines.

About one-third of their training is devoted to learning how to live in space.  “We’ve learned how to do things in zero gravity that we’d never think twice about doing on Earth:  how to prepare a meal, how to eat, how and where to turn on the lights,” Butterworth said.

Simulate, Simulate

All shuttle crews are trained for space flight in three different simulators.

“There is a one-g simulator,” Butterworth said, “which is a physical mockup of the shuttle.  It doesn’t work electrically.”

“There’s also a fixed-base simulator, which is stationary model of the shuttle.  Everything works electrically in this simulator”, he continued.  “The there is motion-base simulator that is like an airplane trainer.  It’s hooked up to a computer and responds much like the shuttle will during the mission.”

Training is a time-consuming and exacting process.  “Everything about a shuttle mission is extremely well orchestrated,” Jarvis said.  When we went down to Huston to train, the entire mission timeline was reviewed and rehearsed.  We knew what we were going to do, when we were going to do it, and how the orbiter would be configured.”

Time: Of the Essence

Before launch the entire crew will undergo 48-hour long simulations of two days of the shuttle mission.

“They pick it up on flight day three, for example, and we begin a minute-by-minute simulation of exactly what is supposed to happen,” Butterworth explained.

Jarvis was scheduled to fly on Mission 51-D this month.  When NASA combined the light with an earlier mission, Hughes’ first payload specialist was moved to Mission 51-I in August.  Jarvis and Butterworth will repeat some of the training they did for Mission 51-D with the Mission 51-I crew.

“Space flight may suggest a guy sitting back in seat and saying, “Okay, I’m ready to go,” Jarvis said.  “But, it’s really not that way at all.  There is a lot of detailed preparation and interaction involved in the mission.”

Does the excitement of training for the new frontier ever become routine?

“Never routine,” Jarvis attested.  “All of the astronauts believe that this is the greatest thing that could ever happen to them.  Once they’ve flown in space, they can’t wait to go again.”

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About Jack Fisher

Jack was a systems engineer at Hughes from 1961 to 1992. He contributed to various programs including Surveyor, Pioneer Venus, Galileo, Intelsat VI and innumerable proposals. He was the manager of of the Spacecraft Systems Engineering Lab until his retirement. Upon retirement Jack taught systems engineering at a number of national and international venues.