Week 10
August 16 - 20, 2004

This week was what I expect many of my weeks to be like over the next year and a half - full of briefings and classroom training. Whenever we are in town, our weeks will always start out with the astronaut office staff meeting first thing Monday morning. This week was no exception. Following the staff meeting, we had a briefing by the head of JSC Exploration Office. This organization is working on the big picture planning and management associated with implementing NASA's vision of going back to the moon and on to Mars. Simply put, they are trying to figure out what it is really going to take, when things need to happen, and how it is going to be done. Of course, Congress hasn't funded this vision yet (minor details), but when they do, NASA will be ready to press on with the plans.

After the exploration briefing I had a small break in my schedule so I decided to take advantage of the very un-August-like weather and go for a jog. The weather was great and it sure is handy having a gym available in which to get cleaned up after exercising. That is the beauty of my job (among other things) - staying fit is a requirement. So, going to the gym during the work day is acceptable when it fits in your schedule. How great is that?

For the rest of the day I did a few of odds and ends. I had some hands on training on the emergency air bottles in use at the Kennedy Space Center should there be an emergency when we are there and we need air to safely get out of whatever building we are in - basically turn the valve to on, put the plastic bag over your head and breathe. I reckon it is important to make sure you do the steps in that order. . . I also went out to Ellington Field to get fitted for my flight harness. Since we fly jets with ejection seats, we don't have to lug around parachutes as they are incorporated in the ejection seats. So, the flight harnesses we wear that have our flotation devices (remember the water survival training?) and our small survival kits are much less bulky that what we had with the T-34s. They are still no fashion statement, though. Lest anyone think that we are left without survival gear, the seat of the ejection seat is filled with all kinds of survival items. At any rate, I have my own harness and it is now cinched up properly. The rest of the day I did some straightening in my office (yes, very exciting stuff).

Tuesday was a pretty low key day. It started out with my whole class posing for our class picture. Standard drill - get placed in rows. . . 1-2-3 - smile. . . do it again since someone had their eyes closed, do it again because someone sneezed, do it again just because... Hopefully with all the takes we did there is at least one good one to choose from. The afternoon was interesting.   I went out to the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (the giant pool where they train for the space walks) and was measured for a space suit. I won't actually get to do the spacewalk training for quite some time (probably not during our basic training), but we are all getting measured nonetheless. It is a pretty thorough set of measurements; they take nearly 60 measurements of various body lengths, everything from arm lengths to leg lengths to all the lengths of the various joints in your fingers. Can't wait until I get to strap on a suit and try it all out.

Wednesday and Thursday were two full days of media training. This was round two from what we had a couple of months ago. It was more in depth training and we had the added fun of being video taped Thursday while doing a presentation that we had to put together Wednesday night. After being taped we got to watch ourselves and have the entire class (as well as the instructor) critique us. I found it all very interesting. I also found it interesting that as we were doing the presentations there were folks in another room watching us. I found this out later. I am not sure why - I guess they just want to see how we are doing. I figure I'd just better get used to ALWAYS being watched. . . no sleeping in class allowed. . .

Also on Wednesday we got to go shopping on NASA's dime. Since we have the survival training coming up next week as well as other outdoor training in our future, NASA wants us to have the proper footwear (guess I can't really argue with that). We trooped over to the local outdoor/sporting goods store and got some NASA approved hiking boots. And, the best part is that the store was having a sale - buy one pair, get one for half price. NASA got a good deal.

Friday morning began with a briefing by the trainers at the gym. Yet another nice aspect of the job - not only do I have access to a gym, I have access to athletic trainers. Yes, NASA is quite serious about its astronauts being fit since the spacewalks can be quite physically demanding (not to mention that it wouldn't be good if an astronaut had a heart attack in space). We even have yearly fitness evaluations. Our first fitness eval is coming up in a couple weeks. I'd better start practicing my pushups and sit-ups. I am afraid, though, that I'm going to have to throw in the towel on the chin ups.

The trainers do everything from setting up programs for fitness, weight training, etc., to working with you to ensure that you do the right type of physical training in preparation for spacewalks (apparently the space suits aren't as ergonomically designed as one would like and if you don't build up the right muscles you can hurt yourself). We also found out that our class is going to have a special bonus - we get to do a fitness boot camp in a couple of weeks. I can't wait to get up early every day for a number of weeks and do group exercise. Did I ever mention that I wasn't a morning person?

After the briefing by the trainers we had a briefing on the International Space Station. This was just to cover the basics of the ISS - what modules are already in space, what the plans are once the Shuttle starts flying again, etc. Yes, I already knew most of that, but it is always good to hear it again. We were then supposed to have a briefing on what it took to get to the moon by Chris Kraft. For those that aren't up on NASA history, Chris Kraft was one of the engineers from the early days. And, when I say early days, I mean from the days before there was a JSC. He was a flight director for the Mercury launches as well as some of the Gemini launches. He ultimately became JSC's Center Director. Suffice it to say, a lot of history there. Unfortunately, something came up and he wasn't able to come to talk to us. Hopefully we will be able to reschedule this briefing again in the future.

Since that briefing was cancelled, the rest of my day was free. I did a little more office straightening and then headed over to the gym. And, thus, another week of astronaut training came to a close.

© Shannon Walker   2004

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Revised 09-24-04