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CNN Today

Space Shuttle Atlantis Crew Speaks About Mission

Aired February 13, 2001 - 2:38 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: But the International Space Station has been abuzz with all sorts of new construction this week and gizmos. CNN's space correspondent Miles O'Brien has been following the astronauts and their progress and we go to him now as he is about to speak with the crew of the Atlantis.

Good for you, Miles.

MILE O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, as a matter of fact, I'm just about to here from Houston Mission Control and they're going to ask me to call up and see if Atlantis can hear me. And here I go, Atlantis, this is CNN, how do you hear me?

MARK POLANSKY, ATLANTIS CREW MEMBER: This is Atlantis and we have you loud and clear.

O'BRIEN: All right. Pilot Mark Polansky there on the left. Marsh Ivins right next to him. Tom Jones in the middle, Bob Curbeam to the right. They're on the middeck of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Congratulations, thus far, a good mission.

Folks, we have a chat group joining us on cnn.com/chat. And let me just get right to the questions. Matt would like to know, and Mark, you can take it away, ask the astronaut they hope the station will do for the future of NASA?

POLANSKY: Well, the short answer is as you know, we're building in the International Space Station and the lab for us is going to be the centerpiece of the research that we do on board the station in the future.

And we're hoping that besides providing international cooperation throughout the world with our international partners, that we're going to get some great science which is going to help us do things that that get us out of lower orbit, where we are now, and go to other worlds like Mars and beyond with humans.

O'BRIEN: All right, why don't you pass the microphone over to Marsha. This one comes from another one of our chatters, Marsha. What do you do when you get very sick, and you need to go to the hospital and you're in space?

MARSHA IVINS, ATLANTIS CREW MEMBER: I'm the designated -- one of the two designated doctors on this flight. We hope that you don't get very sick and have to go to the hospital. We carry a pretty extensive medical kit on board, and two of us are alway trained on the mission to administer some kind of first aid or emergency aid. And in the absolute worst case, we can deorbit probably within an hour or so to someplace, hopefully, where we can get somebody some aid if they really need it.

O'BRIEN: All right. Let me sneak one of my own questions in.

IVINS: You can see some of my handiwork here. You can see I've put a band-aid on Tom.

O'BRIEN: Oh, good job. Congratulations. I hope everything is OK, Tom. Let me pass it along to Tom, and I'm going to sneak in one of my own questions here. Tom, we've been having a great time the past two days watching the NEAR spacecraft descend down to Eros, and against all odds it's still sending telemetry back from the surface of that asteroid. I know you spent a good deal of time studying asteroids and I'm just curious, how soon do you think it'll be and when do you think it might be appropriate to send human beings on such a mission?

TOM JONES, ATLANTIS CREW MEMBER: I think all of us would like to get started in that direction right away. Mark said next week would be good for him. You know, remember back in the moon landing program, Apollo, we had rehearsal missions before the actual landings and we sent a spacecraft all the way to the moon and around it and then came back without actually landing on Apollo 10.

We need the same kind of practice before we go to Mars or to even more distant destinations. And a good way to get that practice, I think, is to send humans and their machine our to near-Earth asteroid where the round trip might be anywhere from six months to a year, but you wouldn't be gone as long or as far away as on a trip to Mars.

So, I would like to see that happen, you know, right after we finish the construction of the space station in the next five to 10 years.

O'BRIEN: All right, send it over to Bob Curbeam. Beamer, this question comes from a person with the handle of Skinner. The question is: Will the space station conduct amateur radio operations as Mir and the space shuttle occasionally have? And as I understand it, they already are, aren't they, Beamer?

BOB CURBEAM, ATLANTIS CREW MEMBER: That's exactly right, Miles. They already do ham radio calls from the space station and if you're lucky enough to be the recipient of one of those calls, consider yourself fortunate.

O'BRIEN: You guys have had fun mission. I want to ask one of the space walkers, might as well send -- Beamer, you keep it. Working outside that huge Destiny laboratory, what was going through your mind? Was it a tense moment as that -- as Marsha brought it in and berthed it and you guys went through the procedure of connecting it or did it seem like it went off without a hitch almost as if it was in training? CURBEAM: I think it went off really well. I had complete confidence in Marsha, as you can imagine, and it was just absolutely fascinating watching her flip it over and bring it in close to the node. That was really, really impressive to see 30,000 pounds flipped like that.

O'BRIEN: All right, there was a lot of talk about the goodies you brought to the space station crew. Why don't you pass the mike on down, give it to Tom this time, Beamer. Everybody wants to know about the DVD titles. Who knows how many DVDs they got and some of the titles they got?

IVINS: When we bring the crew something in their crew care package, it's personal items for them and I think we'll just leave it at that.

O'BRIEN: OK, we do -- we can confirm, however, they did get the movie "Thirteen Days." And as the old question that comes back time and again and let's ask the rookie, Mark Polansky, they call him Roman, how is the view up there, Mark? Try to describe it, try to put it into words, if you can.

POLANSKY: Well, I know everybody who comes up says this, it's something that's unique, fantastic, outstanding. You just can't put words to describe it. We're really busy when we first get to orbit, and the veterans, especially Marsha, made sure that when the first chance I had to get out of my pilot's seat and have a free moment, she stuck my face in the window so I could see the Earth.

And, you know, it's kind of an emotional thing. Space is blacker than you can imagine and you see the Earth and a very thin layer of atmosphere and the brightest blue, and it's just a very fantastic sight.

O'BRIEN: Atlantis crew members, Polansky, Ivins, Jones and Curbeam, thank you all for joining us here on CNN, joining our chat group. We appreciate you spending a little bit of time answering our questions and Houston, this is CNN. That concludes our portion of the event.

ALLEN: Oh, we're still just watching. We're so interested, thank you.

WATERS: Watching you conclude.

ALLEN: Watching you conclude. Oh, it's our turn. Got caught up in that. Thanks, Miles.

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