MONTREAL – Canadian astronaut Julie Payette suggests the Space Shuttle Endeavour is not a vehicle for the technologically faint of heart.
“With more than 10 million physical parts, five onboard computers and one-of-a-kind flight software, the space shuttle is by far the most sophisticated and versatile transport vehicle ever built by mankind,” Payette said in a posting Tuesday on the Canadian Space Agency’s website.
“It may appear as routine to some, but everything needs to converge and work perfectly for a mission to succeed, and there is nothing, and will never be at least in the near future, ordinary about defeating gravity and putting human beings in space.”
Payette and six other astronauts were scheduled to blast off in the space shuttle Wednesday morning on their way to the International Space Station for a 16-day mission.
David Saint-Jacques, one of Canada’s two newest astronaut recruits, says the seven space travellers have had to shift their sleep and working habits and will “sleep in the day and live at night.”
“They’re living basically on Russian time because that’s where the International Space Station mission is controlled from,” the 39-year-old rookie told The Canadian Press in an interview from Florida.
NASA engineers had to repair a hydrogen gas leak that thwarted the first attempt to launch the space shuttle on Saturday. Payette said she was impressed about how quickly the valve was repaired.
Some 500 friends and relatives of Payette were ready to watch Saturday’s takeoff but many left after the delay.
“People have responsibilities so they had to go back home,” Saint-Jacques added.
After the launch was scrubbed, Payette posted a note apologizing publicly to all those who came down to see her blast off.
Payette will be greeted by fellow Canadian Bob Thirsk when Endeavour eventually reaches the space station. It will be the first time Canada has had two astronauts in space at the same time.
Saint-Jacques said it was “awe-inspiring to see the (Kennedy) space center, to see the huge dedicated crews and technicians who are there.”
“It was my first contact with the real stuff.”
Saint-Jacques said it all hit home when he went for a swim in the ocean last Friday.
“As I came out I looked in the horizon and, looking north, you can distinguish the launch pad several miles away,” he said.
“That was a moment of recognizance for me. I thought: this is real!”