posted 09-12-2009 08:30 AM
Random thoughts, some of which didn't make the story I wrote for the paper:
Cenker was the guest speaker of the Astronomical Society of the Toms River Area (ASTRA). For those who weren't fmiliar with him, he showed a photo of him from his 61C flight and said, "That was when I had glasses and a lot more hair."
I had a poster showing New Jersey from space (taking during STS-3), which Cenker recognized as "Terry Hart's poster". (I had received the poster from Hart five years ago.) Ever so dutiful, I uncapped the Sharpie before handing it to Cenker to sign the poster with. He didn't notice and tried a few moments to uncap the marker - thereby getting ink on his hand. Heh heh heh. Sorry.
His cost of getting into space: $80,000, paid by RCA. His training at JSC: six months, which he jokingly described as "what not to touch, which gave my wife a warm fuzzy feeling, because we engineers love to twiddle dials." In actuality, Cenker said his training consisted basically of health and safety training, since he wouldn't be flying the shuttle. Payload specialists wouldn't be doing spacewalks as well, he later said, so no EVA training.
"Words don't do it justice," Cenker said of his spaceflight and of the view of Earth from the shuttle. "You cannot realize what it is like until you've been there."
On the same note: "I would like to go back and find out how long it would take me to get bored."
Furthermore: "I'd like to do it again. But realistically, I've accepted that I've done one thing that people only dream of."
Cenker said he adapted to zero-G after Flight Day One. His reaction to weightlessness was that he felt like he had been upside-down for four hours, not nausea.
Back on Earth, he dropped the toothpaste tube cap and instinctively reached out his hand in the air, expecting it to float away. He also leaned too far forward on the first day back while putting his daughter in a high chair and felt dizzy. By the second day, however, he was running.
The worst part about space was not being able to adequately wash. Cenker said that within five minutes of the postflight exam being done, everyone was in the shower for half an hour.
No overtime paid for the launch delays, Cenker told one questioner. RCA was really accomodating during that time with the expenses, and Cenker said he was tempted to stick in a travel expense voucher for 2-1/2 million miles but didn't because they were so accomodating.
Cenker acknowledged that there have been some differences of opinion between the professional Astronauts and the payload specialists. But RCA was interested and involved in the space station planned at that time, and Cenker viewed his role as a PS as taking his knowledge about space and the shuttle back to the working world. I don't have the exact quote, but he described it as akin to having a car designed by someone who was a driver.