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  STS-134: NASA appoints backup commander

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Author Topic:   STS-134: NASA appoints backup commander
Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-13-2011 12:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA Announces Backup Commander For STS-134

NASA announced Thursday that astronaut Rick Sturckow will serve as a backup commander for the STS-134 space shuttle mission to facilitate continued training for the crew and support teams during STS-134 Commander Mark Kelly's absence.

  

Kelly's wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was wounded in a shooting on Jan. 8 in Tucson, Ariz.

Kelly remains commander of the mission, which is targeted for launch on April 19 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"I recommended to my management that we take steps now to prepare to complete the mission in my absence, if necessary," Kelly said. "I am very hopeful that I will be in a position to rejoin my STS-134 crew members to finish our training."

"Mark is still the commander of STS-134," said Peggy Whitson, chief of the Astronaut Office. "He is facing many uncertainties now as he supports Gabrielle, and our goal is to allow him to keep his undistracted attention on his family while allowing preparations for the mission to progress. Designating a backup allows the crew and support team to continue training, and enables Mark to focus on his wife's care."

Sturckow will begin training next week at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston with the rest of the STS-134 crew, which includes Pilot Greg H. Johnson, Michael Fincke, Roberto Vittori, Andrew Feustel and Greg Chamitoff. The 14-day mission to the International Space Station will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and spare parts that include two S-band communications antennas, a high-pressure gas tank, additional spare parts for the Dextre robot and micrometeoroid debris shields.

OV-105
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posted 01-13-2011 08:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for OV-105   Click Here to Email OV-105     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was thinking that someone might have to step in being so near the launch date. I would have bet that they would have moved up Chris Ferguson from 335/135 or Ken Ham from STS-132 since he was the last CDR to fly.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-13-2011 08:48 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ken Ham is no longer with the Astronaut Office. He has moved to the Aircraft Operations Division at Ellington Field where he is flying NASA's WB-57.

Reassigning Chris Ferguson from STS-135 still leaves NASA in need of a commander for that mission.

Rick Sturckow is deputy chief of the Astronaut Office. Assigning him as backup prevents NASA from having to take an otherwise flight eligible astronaut out of rotation for what may only be a backup role.

music_space
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posted 01-13-2011 09:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for music_space   Click Here to Email music_space     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I hadn't realized that a back-up commander (let alone a full back-up crew) was no longer assigned to a mission from its inception, as was the case for pre-shuttle missions. When did the practice stop?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-13-2011 09:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Backup crew assignments ceased with the first "operational" space shuttle mission, STS-5 STS-4 in 1982. To quote (myself) from an earlier thread, though:
There were exceptions, though. Most of the payload specialists had backups, though some did not (e.g. John Glenn). NASA also assigned backup crew members for time sensitive missions (e.g. Greg Harbaugh on STS-61, less an EVA prime crew member needed to be replaced).

Delta7
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posted 01-14-2011 05:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sturckow makes sense in that he is the most experienced unassigned shuttle CDR in the office, with four flights (two as PLT; two as CDR), all to the ISS. He also flies the STA as weather observation pilot, so he's very current and proficient I would assume. He's probably in the best position to jump into the training program and be ready to fly on such short notice.

Hart Sastrowardoyo
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posted 01-14-2011 10:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hart Sastrowardoyo   Click Here to Email Hart Sastrowardoyo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
And Cady Coleman served as backup to Don Thomas on STS-83, when he injured his ankle (I believe.)

jasonelam
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From: Monticello, KY USA
Registered: Mar 2007

posted 01-14-2011 02:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jasonelam   Click Here to Email jasonelam     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Hart Sastrowardoyo:
And Cady Coleman served as backup to Don Thomas on STS-83, when he injured his ankle (I believe.)
Yes, that is correct. He broke his ankle towards the end of training for the flight, so she served as his backup. However, the injury healed in time.

Neil Aldrin
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posted 01-16-2011 08:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Neil Aldrin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How do you think NASA would handle it if something tragic were to happen to a family member(s) of an astronaut while a mission was under way?

Is there any chance that they would cut the mission short to allow the astronaut to come home and deal with the issues?

What if it was the CDR who received this type of news while in orbit? This would likely have an impact on his/her ability to carry out duties while in space and during decent/landing.

Delta7
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posted 01-16-2011 09:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Delta7   Click Here to Email Delta7     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It happened with Dan Tani aboard the ISS when his mother died in an accident. He continued with the mission.

In the case of a Shuttle CDR, or any crewmember for that matter, there isn't much that could be done. I presume that if the CDR were so overcome with grief that he couldn't function, the PLT would assume CDR duties, and the entire crew would deal with it as best possible. But given the nature of people that become astronauts, I don't really see that happening.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-16-2011 09:14 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Astronaut Jim Voss, in a 2007 interview with CBS News, spoke about losing someone while in space.
NASA understands there is a possibility of things like this happening while someone is on orbit. And they actually get the crew member's permission to either tell them or not tell them when something happens like this. It's particularly difficult to have a loss like that when you're in orbit because you're kind of helpless, you can't do anything, you can't be there to be with the family, you feel very, very isolated...

Even in the military, when people are very isolated and far away, they make every effort possible when there's a death in the family to return the service member to be back with their family. And that probably is not a possibility in this case. You just can't do that. It's something you just have to endure.

Robert Pearlman
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From: Houston, TX
Registered: Nov 1999

posted 02-04-2011 10:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA: NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly Resumes Training For STS-134 Mission

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