Comprehensive coverage

Interview with the astronaut Ilan Ramon - part XNUMX

The first Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon is interviewed by the editor of the science website, Avi Blizovsky, on the set of the film "Flight 107"

Avi Blizovsky

Ilan Ramon at a press conference 29/6/2002. Photo: Avi Blizovsky
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To the first part of the interview

To the third part of the interview

What is the most interesting thing about your training?

"The most interesting thing about training - it's really hard to say. The variety is so great. There were some interesting things. The most real part that simulates almost everything except that there is no gravity in space are five trainings we went through recently. On purpose they are planned for the last months. Where we take sections of the flight, literally days - up to 24 hours from the flight plan, and run it as it is done in space, in simulators, connected to the control center. The Israeli experiment also has a control center in Goddard and we are connected to it. And everything plays exactly as it does in space, except for the fact that we are on the ground.
NASA has a special plane that allows you to experience zero gravity for 20-25 seconds, 40 times during the maneuver that this plane does. You just float in the belly of the plane. It is empty of chairs and padded all around so that you don't get hit by the sides. And you hover there for 20-25 seconds each time. First time we did it just to get an impression. We did this one more time as part of our training to do short sections

Another interesting thing we went through as a team - more for team formation and team training in conditions quite similar to those we will be in on the ferry. This is survival training. They put us in the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming and we walked around there with 30 kilo backpacks on our backs and we were in high mountains over ten thousand feet. Not easy types. We were there something like ten days with a team of two guides who were with us. It was last summer and it remains an impressive experience for us. By the way, the conditions in the shuttle are similar to camping conditions or to the conditions of a trip in the field, so NASA recently decided to do this type of training.

What can you tell about a typical day on the space shuttle?

"A day flight program in space starts in the morning, they wake us up with wake-up music. Some kind of CD that an astronaut chooses. The shuttle's speakers play this music. By the way, we don't choose the music, but our spouses do. I don't even know what's in store for me. So that's how you wake up. As soon as you wake up you are thrown straight to work. There are some things we do about ourselves. We have to fill in a diary of how we slept at night and take samples of our saliva. These are the first things we do in the morning. Later there is a period of one hour called POST SLEEP. "

"We have an hour for recovery and things we do after sleep - this includes food, breakfast, they send us a fax upstairs with the updated agenda, usually there are changes, they send us an email on a printer we have upstairs and we go over the updated plan. We eat breakfast if there is time, all kinds of morning garden and then we get into the program. The work plan of each of us is different. Everyone has the experiments they need to perform."
There are many things that seem trivial and people ask what is so complicated....but once you are in a state of zero gravity things become not so simple. You are not in your natural environment. Let's take as an example. On earth if you open a bag and take what you need and close the bag if you want. If you don't want to, you leave it open.
With us in space you open a bag and if you don't pay attention then all the things fly out and start floating and you have to look for them. Even such a simple thing of taking something out of a bag requires attention, requires you to think first about what you want, open a small opening, put your hand in, take it out, you can't leave it, because it will run away. and close the bag. You must glue the bag itself to one of the sides because otherwise the bag itself will also start to rotate. Things are completely different than on Earth and therefore they also take a lot of time. Even from the experience of others, it usually takes a person two or three days to get used to this situation.
Food, eg drink. You can't drink like we drink here, but you have to drink in bags with a straw. The food itself is in bags that we put water back into and then if it is liquid you have to cut a small opening and eat it relatively close to your mouth so that it doesn't start to spread in the space.
In principle, we have completely normal toilets, but what helps things stay in the toilets is a low vacuum or a small suction that sucks the things and makes sure they stay there and don't float around with us.

What can you tell about the Madex experiment?

The Israeli experiment called MEIDEX - the Israeli-Middle Eastern dust experiment deals with small dust particles called dust aerosols, which rise from the Sahara desert in our case and also from China, and begin to float in the atmosphere with the winds, they rise above the Mediterranean Sea, above the Middle East. And also from the other side, over the Atlantic Ocean to Florida and Mexico. These particles affect the warming and cooling of the earth and the fall of rain and precipitation. The Israeli experiment came to try to understand the effect of these dust particles on these two things - warming and decreasing precipitation.

A special camera will be placed in the luggage compartment of the shuttle that takes pictures simultaneously in six wavelengths, six frequencies. Such a device has not flown in space to date. The camera will allow researchers to collect information from these dust particles in a maximum way. In addition, we have a computerized plane that will fly down into the dust storm that we will photograph from space and collect additional information from the atmosphere, from the dust storm. In addition, there will be ground stations that will collect more information about the dust storms. This is a complex experiment in terms of the combination of several collection factors that have to happen at the same time in order for us to be able to collect the information from that area and from that time. This is the uniqueness of the experiment, that the information is gathered from several mediums at the same time from the same place. I don't like to call it the "dust experiment" they will soon think I am wiping dust. We will call it the "Atmospheric Dust Particles Experiment."
In addition, there are other experiments that were conducted in Israel, we called them secondary, but at least one of them became important and main and aroused interest in an incredible way all over the world. It's an experiment called Sprites. This is a relatively new phenomenon that was discovered in the last ten years of lightning with special shapes, like spirits and demons, that actually rise from the tops of the clouds upwards into the atmosphere, to a height of 100 kilometers. Now we are trying to understand and investigate them and what they affect. The international cooperation is with ground stations that receive echoes of radio waves from these lightnings and are scattered all over the world. We have cooperation in this experiment with stations from Australia, Japan, China, Alaska, Antarctica, literally the whole world is showing interest in this. We also have secondary experiments, such as an experiment of oblique visibility from the atmosphere depending on the weather conditions. In some data, for example, there will be small islands that we know we are going to see shortly, and we will be asked to look out and see when exactly we see them. This will allow researchers to know about the oblique visibility through the atmosphere. This is something that is of great interest to both the Air Force and civilian entities that use remote sensing of the Earth, both from space and from airplanes. In total we have a main experiment and some other experiments that have joined. Some of them over time have become large and interesting.

You were used to being an independent pilot, and now you depend on teamwork. how does it work out

"My experience as a pilot requires me to work as a team. Pilots don't fly alone. Although they are often alone in the cockpit. Many times they are with one other person in the team. And if not, then he is with friends in the building. A very complex and complicated issue because things happen much faster there. The teamwork on the ferry is of a different nature, perhaps closer to the teamwork of transport planes or El Al planes for example, but working in a team is great, especially a father in this team.

You mentioned the staff, can you elaborate?
I was lucky and we have a wonderful team of lovely people one by one. We have been together for two years, we are in the same office and we have other events outside the office. It's fun to work with a team, especially a team like this.
Our team consists of six Americans. The commander is Rick Hasband, a US Air Force man. He is a test pilot who flew the Phantom for many years. He has experience of one flight in space. I think he flew in '99.
The pilot who serves as the shuttle pilot and helps Rick is named Willie McCall. He is an A6 pilot from the Navy. He traveled the world, including in Israel while on aircraft carriers and four others serve as a flight specialist, although two of them are also pilots in the background. Mark Anderson is the Payload Commander and is basically responsible for all the shuttle experiments in our flight. He is a transport pilot who flew KC135 planes in the Air Force - refueling planes, and instructed T38 in their pilot course.
Dave Brown - Doctor of Medicine who, during his service in the Navy, took a pilot's course and is also a Navy pilot.
Laurel Clark is also a doctor - in the Navy and Marines. She is a doctor who dealt with the medicine of divers. And Casey, Kalpama Chandra in India is of Indian origin, a doctor of aeronautics who came to the US after completing her bachelor's degree in India and is now an American. Mark Anderson, Casey and Rick have already flown one space flight in the past.

Yedan, the first Israeli astronaut
Yidan Israel in space

The continuation of the interview next week - in preparation for the flight on Thursday 16/1/2003

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