by Pamela Melroy, Antelope Valley Chapter
Hello to all my friends in The 99s! This is a great time to update all my sisters in the sky about the next 99 to go to space. I will be flying my first space shuttle mission, STS-92, in September. The launch has been changed from No. 99 to No. 100 due to launch on September 21. They say that good things are worth waiting for. If that's true, my first flight to space should be really incredible!
I was originally assigned to this flight more than two years ago. It usually takes about a year to prepare for a shuttle mission. Since our mission is to the International Space Station (ISS), we've had a few delays to contend with. We hope that Russia will launch the next piece of the ISS, a module called the Zvezda ("Star," in Russian), this summer. Once that is in place, we can finally get going. I am very eager, as you can imagine. As the only "rookie" (first-timer), I feel anxious to get my first flight under my belt so I can progress to becoming a left-seater.
My mission is the next assembly flight to the ISS, meaning that we are bringing up pieces to attach and leave behind. I will be the pilot, and my primary responsibilities will be keeping all the shuttle systems operating perfectly, and helping the commander to fly the rendezvous with the station. I also will be commanding the berthing mechanism we use to attach the pieces to the station through a laptop computer. This is the first time we will use this berthing mechanism, which will eventually become standard for attaching pieces to the station. Having a test pilot background has been handy as we test and prepare for all possible contingencies. It will be so exciting to see the station grow before our eyes.
The first piece we are bringing up is called the ZI truss. It's going to be berthed on the zenith, or top, of the Unity module (hence its name). It's extremely important because it's the structural truss that the solar arrays will rest on. The solar arrays will provide most of the power for the station, and they will be sent up and attached on the flight right after ours. The truss is a really essential element in preparing for a crew to live aboard full time.
The second piece we are bringing up is called Permanent Mating Adaptor 3 (PMA 3), and we will be attaching it to the nadir, or underside, of the Unity module. It will functionally become another door into the station; currently there is only one place for a shuttle to dock. PMA 3 will become the side door. Once we have both pieces attached via the berthing mechanism, we will send our mission specialists out on spacewalks (a total of four) to hook up equipment and cables.
Right now, my training is very heavily focused on shuttle systems. Every week I have at least one four-hour simulator session with the commander, myself and two mission specialists who act as flight engineer and backup. The training team gives us increasingly difficult scenarios as we get better at working procedures and at working together. Sometimes it seems like they're always trying to kill us! But there's nothing like the great feeling you get when you survive a tough scenario, like landing with limited flight instruments and flight controls and multiple electrical shorts. Can you telI I love my job?!
I have always felt I will take a little bit of everyone I've ever met to space with me. So I hope that you will watch when Discovery rockets up to space in September and know that you are there, too!
United States Air Force Lt. Col. and NASA Astronaut Pamela Ann Melroy was born September 17, 1961, in Palo Alto, California, but she considers Rochester, New York, to be her hometown. She is married to Christopher Wallace of Wilton, Connecticut.
Pam received her bachelor of science degree in physics and astronomy from Wellesley College in 1983 and a master of science degree in earth and planetary sciences from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1984, where she was commissioned through the school's Air Force ROTC program.
She attended undergraduate pilot training at Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock, Texas. She flew the KC-1 0 for six years at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana. Pam is a veteran of "Just Cause" and "Desert Shield/Desert Storm," with more than 200 combat and combat support hours.
In June 1991, she attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Pam was assigned to the C-1 7 Combined Test Force, where she served as a test pilot until her selection for the astronaut program. She has logged over 4,000 hours flight time in over 45 different aircraft.
Pam was elected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in December 1994, and reported to the Johnson Space Center in March 1995 where she completed a year of training and evaluation.