It was an exciting time in America. The manned space program was in full throttle when the first orbital flight was made by John Glenn in 1962 in a space capsule barely large enough to seat one person. Today, large crews and spacious craft like the space shuttle and ISS (International Space Station) require specialized jobs from astronauts as we gather information to help us navigate and understand our world.
From the beginning, NASA determined to assess man's ability to function and perform in space. Piloting the spacecraft and bringing crew and craft safely back to earth was the primary function in the early flights, but as NASA documented and understood man's ability to function in space, the challenges became greater, the spacecraft and crews grew larger, and astronauts became specialists.
Commander and Pilots:
Shuttle crews typically consist of a commander and pilot with three mission specialists. Crews may also include payload specialists from science, engineering, technicians, physicians, or any number of specialized fields of discipline depending on the mission objectives.
Commanding and piloting spacecraft are highly specialized jobs with a crew of two pilots that focus on the vehicle and crew. They're
primarily responsible for the safety and success of the mission, and returning vehicle and crew safely home. Pilots supervise the crew, maneuver the craft, operate remote control systems, and sometimes work outside the spacecraft as required.
One of the early objectives of the space program was to perfect docking and space maneuvers. This was a crucial aspect of the early manned space program that led up advanced space missions. Docking with satellites, installing equipment, performing maintenance or maneuvering a satellite to a new orbit were types of the early jobs pilots performed.
By the time the early programs ended, pilot astronauts had perfected docking and maneuver.
Mission Specialists are experts in shuttle craft equipment, systems, and operations. They assist pilots with systems and operations, scheduled and unscheduled maintenance to ensure completion of the mission, and they oversee the payload specialists by planning and coordinating activities. They also supervise payload activities and are qualified space walkers.
Payload specialists represent many fields of discipline from meteorologists, to biologists and teachers. They typically do not work for NASA. Their job is to conduct studies and perform experiments performing valuable work for space travel. Engineers and technicians may be called upon to install or modify systems on satellites and space stations.
Walking and working in space is a must for many payload specialists and their NASA training includes intense flight training that contributes to the success of the mission. A payload specialist might launch a satellite, gather samples, data, and perform space walks as required by the mission. Crews are cross-trained to perform the work of one or more associates.
All jobs aboard a space vehicle are a critical part of the success of a space mission, but performing jobs while space walking is one of the most fascinating to earthbound people.
Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made the first walk in space in March of1965. A number of problems with his suit and mobility occurred and the walk was cut to ten minutes. While we're not privy to the early procedures,
Leonov took initiative to solve his problems and his quick improvised solutions allowed the two-man crew to return to earth with a successful mission.
Ed White was the first American to walk in space on June 9, 1965. His 21 minute space walk was a great success and from all accounts, it was the thrill of a lifetime for White.
ISS (International Space Station) is one of the most ambitious jobs in space projects. The ISS is a combined effort of several countries. Assembly began in 1998 with the first piece delivered in an unmanned space launch. Shuttle spacecraft deliver components that are installed and serviced by robots or by humans, in space walk. ISS is due to be completed in 2010.
Read more about space station history at TheSpaceSite.com
Through space travel, we've learned more about our solar system, performed experiments and research, and we've gained a massive amount of knowledge about our planet and space navigation. When the ISS is completed, mankind will have taken another giant step as we prepare for the next phase of deep space travel with spacecraft launches from the ISS. It's an exciting time for our planet.