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  Who was this (upset) payload specialist?

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Author Topic:   Who was this (upset) payload specialist?
BobbyA
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Posts: 146
From: Northern Virginia
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posted 11-17-2008 03:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for BobbyA   Click Here to Email BobbyA     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I had heard a story of a payload specialist in the early days of shuttle program that had a failed experiment. The story goes that this failed experiment caused him to get really depressed, and caused the rest of the crew some concern. Does anyone know who this might have been and/or which mission?

ilbasso
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From: Greensboro, NC USA
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posted 11-17-2008 03:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
There was an urban legend floating around that one person had become so depressed that the crew duct-taped the crew hatch so that he couldn't blow it in orbit. That was debunked.

mjanovec
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From: Midwest, USA
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posted 11-17-2008 05:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I suspect you saw the episode of The Universe that I saw last night on the History Channel.

Mike Mullane also discusses this incident in his book (Riding Rockets) but also holds back from telling us the name (since there is no need to embarrass the person in question... who probably now regrets his/her actions and statements from the time).

Mullane's main argument was the program to fly payload specialists in the 80s was flawed, because many of the payload specialists didn't go through the same screening and training that the pilot astronauts and mission specialists went through (even while expressing respect for certain payload specialists like Charlie Walker, whom he flew with). He viewed the payload specialists as somewhat of an unknown factor for the missions... especially the ones picked to fly for political or PR reasons.

If nothing else, one could argue that perhaps not all of the payload specialists were fully trained to appreciate the dangers and risks inherent to spaceflight... especially in an era when NASA was trying hard to make spaceflight appear to be safe-enough and routine-enough for the "average" person (such as a teacher or a congressman) to participate in.

I don't recall a story of the hatch being duct-taped shut (nor could I envision how one could even do such a thing effectively), though it has been discussed elsewhere that duct tape is a tool available for restraining an astronaut who is out of control (especially around the time when the Nowak incident was in the news).

There has been concern about finding ways to prevent the hatch from being opened by an upset crew member, including discussion of putting a lock on the hatch. Perhaps the stories have gotten blended somehow to become urban legend.

KSCartist
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From: Titusville, FL USA
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posted 11-17-2008 06:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for KSCartist   Click Here to Email KSCartist     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It wasn't duct tape used to secure the hatch, it was padlocked by the commander.

John Charles
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From: Houston, Texas, USA
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posted 11-17-2008 07:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Charles     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by KSCartist:
It wasn't duct tape used to secure the hatch, it was padlocked by the CDR.
In fact, the padlock incident was mentioned briefly during NASA TV's STS-126 pre-launch coverage. A former close-out crewmember (apologies, I didn't catch his name) peppered his description of the close-out crew activities then occurring with vignettes from his long career, such as the padlock story.

Given subsequent events illustrating irrational behaviors among actual career astronauts, I wonder if Mike Mullane would still be concerned only about payload specialists.

mjanovec
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From: Midwest, USA
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posted 11-18-2008 08:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mjanovec   Click Here to Email mjanovec     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by John Charles:
Given subsequent events illustrating irrational behaviors among actual career astronauts, I wonder if Mike Mullane would still be concerned only about PS's.

He wasn't so concerned about irrational behaviors among the PS's (though he did mention the incident described above) as he was about the different level of training the PS's went through. He felt it was wrong to expose these people to spaceflight without fully training them to understand and accept the risks and hazards of spaceflight. (Keep in mind this was a time when NASA wanted people to think spaceflight was becoming safe and routine.)

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-18-2008 09:08 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Taylor Wang, provides his side of the story on pages 232 and 233 of Space Shuttle: The First 20 Years. An excerpt:
So finally, in desperation, I said, "Hey, if you guys don't give me a chance to repair my instrument, I'm not coming back."

Well, NASA got very nervous at that point. They actually got a psychologist to talk to the other crew members and ask, "Is Taylor going nuts?" Fortunately, my commander, Bob Overmyer, said, "No, he's okay. He's just depressed, and he really wants to repair the experiment. We'll help out." They were on my side. Finally NASA said okay...

...I was relieved, because I hadn't really figured out how not to come back if they'd called my bluff. The Asian tradition of honorable suicide, seppuku, would have failed, since everything on the shuttle is designed for safety. The knife on-board can't even cut the bread. You could put your head in the oven, but it's really just a food warmer. You wouldn't even burn yourself. And if you tried to hang yourself with no gravity, you'd just dangle there and look like an idiot.

BobbyA
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posted 11-18-2008 10:48 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for BobbyA   Click Here to Email BobbyA     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the input. I was in fact watching The Universe on the History Channel, but I had heard some of the story before as well. It seems that the story has been exaggerated at times. But if Wang talks about the Asian tradition of honorable suicide... well, that is kind of scary.

SpaceAholic
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From: Sierra Vista, Arizona
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posted 11-18-2008 11:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wasn't it access to the Soyuz that was secured to prevent access to a firearm stowed on the spacecraft?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-18-2008 11:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by LCDR Scott Schneeweis:
Wasnt it access to the Soyuz that was secured to prevent access to a firearm stowed on the spacecraft?
Perhaps the firearm itself is restrained, but free access to the Soyuz has to be maintained in case of an emergency evacuation (you wouldn't want the incapacitation of whoever held the keys to be the reason why the crew was lost).

Besides, payload specialists (of the traditional industry sense) stopped flying long before American astronauts were on Soyuz...

kr4mula
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From: Cinci, OH
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posted 11-18-2008 02:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for kr4mula   Click Here to Email kr4mula     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Was this instance perhaps separate from the padlock one? Brewster Shaw claims to be the commander that used it, with Rudolpho Neri Vela as the PS in question. I don't hesistate to use the names since Shaw goes on to say Neri Vela turned out great.

From Shaw's JSC oral history:

SHAW: Anyhow, that was a fun flight. We also had Rodolfo Neri Vela on that flight. This was really the first -- I don't remember if it was the first time we flew somebody like that or not, to tell you the truth. The first time I had flown with somebody that we didn't know very well. You know, Ulf Merbold was a German, but he'd been training with those guys a long time. They knew him well. We didn't know Rodolfo very well. He kind of showed up late in the process and wasn't here all the time and stuff, and so you didn't really get to know him well. So I wasn't too sure about his human reliability. I'm probably a paranoid kind of guy, but I didn't know what he was going to do on orbit.

So I remember I got this padlock, and when we got on orbit, I went down to the hatch on the side of the Orbiter, and I padlocked the hatch control so that you could not open the hatch. I mean, on the Orbiter on orbit you can go down there and you just flip this little thing and you crank that handle once [demonstrates], the hatch opens and all the air goes out and everybody goes out with it, just like that. And I thought to myself, "Jeez, I don't know this guy very well. He might flip out or something." So I padlocked the hatch shut right after we got on orbit, and I didn't take the padlock off until we were in de-orbit prep. I don't know if I was supposed to do that or not, but that's a decision I made as being responsible for my crew and I just did it.

RUSNAK: Did any of the rest of the crew notice it?

SHAW: Yes. I don't think Rodolfo noticed it, but some of the other crew noticed it. But everything went just fine. He turned out to be a great guy, and we had a lot of fun on that mission. That was a very successful mission, as were all three of the times I got to fly. In fact, we have not really had an unsuccessful Space Shuttle mission except for Challenger.

Greggy_D
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posted 11-18-2008 06:54 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Greggy_D   Click Here to Email Greggy_D     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If I recall correctly, Shaw heard about Overmyer's 51-B events and requested the padlock for 61-B.

In my opinion, Wang's account listed above still sounds absolutely nutty.

Jay Chladek
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From: Bellevue, NE, USA
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posted 11-19-2008 10:13 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I wouldn't make too much of Taylor's reaction as I think he was kidding about trying to off himself. It sounds pretty humorous actually.

More then likely it is one of those deals where when things were done to get a person into orbit, they want to do a good job up there because it is their reason for being up there. Some take it more seriously then others and cultural background can enter into it as well. As such if your piece of equipment breaks on the first day and it is your only experiment and given that you are just as goal oriented as the MSes, you would probably want to get permission to fix it as well rather then sit back, twiddle your thumbs and watch the world go by.

ilbasso
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From: Greensboro, NC USA
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posted 11-28-2008 06:40 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ilbasso   Click Here to Email ilbasso     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Was very interested to read this quote from Alan Bean's Skylab diary in "Homesteading Space" (p. 297):
Sometimes, like on a tall building, get a controllable urge similar to jumping off which is to open a hatch to vacuum - or to take off a glove or pop a helmet - fortunately, these are passing impulses that you can control but it is interesting to know they take place.
Isn't it interesting that even one of the most terminally upbeat of all astronauts would get these urges on occasion?

Peter downunder
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From: Lancefield, Victoria, Australia
Registered: Apr 2012

posted 09-12-2013 05:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Peter downunder   Click Here to Email Peter downunder     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Isn't it one of those things everyone experiences when looking over the 'edge'? I've seen questions addressing that phenomena, but I've never dared to answer it honestly. In fact, I don't think I'd admit it to anyone... hang on.

garymilgrom
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posted 09-12-2013 02:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for garymilgrom   Click Here to Email garymilgrom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I don't think Bean was talking about a suicidal impulse. I think it was more curiosity than anything else, along the lines of "I wonder what would happen if...." even when you (he) know the outcome would be threatening or disastrous.

SkyMan1958
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posted 09-12-2013 05:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
+1

I suspect that most people that have been at the edge of something tall have wondered what it would be like to jump, not to kill oneself, just that oddball feeling.

YankeeClipper
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From: Dublin, Ireland
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posted 09-15-2013 04:16 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for YankeeClipper   Click Here to Email YankeeClipper     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Reminds me of September 1998 when I found myself inverted in the dark at 9pm on a Saturday night below the Leukerbad Gemmi Bahn cablecar in Switzerland - a 1,000ft BASE-Bungee jump.

It had been preceded earlier that day with a jump off the Pont de l'Araignée (Spider Bridge) at Niouc (623ft) and followed up on the Sunday with a jump off the Verzasca "007 Goldeneye" Dam Wall (722ft).

It is definitely a strange experience stepping off into a void like that from an edge. You don't really jump as the weight of the cord wants to pull you off and once the safety line is disarmed, your grip on a handrail is the last remaining brake on the jump. The initial sensation is of nothing really - just unrestrained freefall. After a few seconds wind rush builds in your ears and you become acutely aware of the ground rush sensation. Best bit is when you out-bounce back up to neutral gravity and are floating in the air for a few milliseconds before getting to repeat the sensations except this time you know exactly what is coming!

Peter downunder
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From: Lancefield, Victoria, Australia
Registered: Apr 2012

posted 09-19-2013 02:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Peter downunder   Click Here to Email Peter downunder     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I've taken a number of psych evaluations for different jobs over the years. They always seem to have a question about jumping from buildings. And I've always lied. I wonder if those checking the answer know...

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