Spaceflight Now: STS-106 Mission Report

Commander Wilcutt: Zvezda a nice place to live

Posted: September 14, 2000

Wearing masks and safety glasses, cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko and commander Terry Wilcutt enter into the Zvezda service module for the first time earlier this week. Photo: NASA TV/Spaceflight Now
Despite pre-flight concern in some quarters, the new Russian command module Zvezda is not too loud, too smelly or otherwise uncomfortable, Atlantis commander Terrence Wilcutt said today. In fact, the new module's temperature and humidity remind the commander of a nice day in San Diego.

"I think this is as solid and safe as you'll ever get up here," Wilcutt told a reporter. "It's well built."

In other words, not a bad place to work, if you can get there.

The 42,000-pound Zvezda module, which will provide the station's crew quarters, computer control and propulsion, was launched in July from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Critics said the module failed to meet U.S. safety standards and that internal noise levels might be unhealthy over long periods.

Wilcutt said today as far as he's concerned, the critics were wrong.

"We measured it, we took some readings with an acoustic dosimeter," he said. "And it's not very loud, it's certainly no louder than the shuttle, in my experience. We're not yelling at each other when we talk from end to end of the module, so I don't think it's very bad."

As for the quality of the air in Zvezda, Wilcutt said "there wasn't any musty smell at all" when the crew first entered the module.

"There was a little bit of lint or something like that in the air," he said. "We wore goggles in since this was a new module and the air filtration system hadn't had a chance to filter all that out yet.

"But the place smelled great, it looked great, it was well lit - the ground had already turned the lights on for us - it was really beautiful. I think those were my first words when we came inside. It was very nice."

Wilcutt said it initially felt a bit warm inside Zvezda, "but right now, I think it's about 72 degrees, it's about 50 percent relative humidity. So it's very, very comfortable. It makes me think of San Diego."

The space station is now equipped with three pressurized modules stretching 143 feet end to end. Wilcutt said his biggest thrill was floating from one end of the structure to the other.

"When you float from one end to the other - again, it's the equivalent of a 13-story buildling - you just can't imagine what it's like to float for that long without running into anything."

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