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Drew Feustel, Astronaut, Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX

Feustel: What you said is true about the inability to rendezvous with the Space Station. However, in terms of the rescue capabilities, we’re going to be using the very same planning that we would for a Space Station rendezvous mission. We will have a vehicle on the other pad at Kennedy Space Center ready to go when we launch.

The difference between our mission and a Space Station mission is that a Space Station mission crew can remain on Space Station for a certain number of days before the Shuttle has to come and rescue them and bring them home. It’s no different between them and us. The only difference is the vehicle on the pad has to launch much sooner to get us. We have about 25 days that we can survive in orbit before our cryo – the fuel we use to create electricity – runs out and the Shuttle becomes uninhabitable.

The Space Station is exactly the same. They eventually run out of consumables like food and water if they don’t have a vehicle coming up to re-supply those people that would be onboard during that timeframe. So the impacts are the same. The difference is they can wait a little longer on Station, but we’ll have a vehicle on the pad, ready to go when we launch should the need arise for them to come and get us.

NTB: Earlier this year you got to go to Daytona International Speedway to participate in a joint celebration of NASA’s 50th anniversary and the 50th running of the Daytona 500. You met with some of the crews, you got an up-close look at some of the cars, and I understand you even got to take a few laps in a Stock Car. Having been a mechanic when you were in college, how does some of the technology you saw there compare with the technology you see every day at NASA?

Feustel: The similarities are that the techniques for fixing one vehicle are the same as they are for fixing another. They all involve tools and human intervention and human ingenuity to get the job done. I guess the difference with the Hubble Telescope, specifically, is that the tools are very different. They’re designed for astronauts in large spacesuits with limited mobility and dexterity to work on interfaces in a vacuum. With a mechanic, of course, you have much better dexterity, you’re typically wearing very thin gloves or using your bare hands, and working on much finer instruments.

The similarities are there in terms of the skills, but the techniques and the tools are very different.

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