Bill Shepherd, the first commander of the International Space Station, was at the show yesterday. He took time off from a busy schedule yesterday to recount some of his experiences in orbit to Flight Daily News in the Lockheed Martin chalet.

Shepherd, a veteran Space Shuttle mission specialist, was selected in 1995 to command Expedition 1 to the Station. In the end he didn't fly until October 2000 because of delays to the ISS schedule.

He went into space in the right-hand seat of a Soyuz TM spacecraft launched by a Soyuz U booster from Baikonur. He was only the second American to ride a Soyuz. Expedition 1 flight engineer Sergei Krikalev, who has flown two Shuttle missions as well as performing long-duration flights in Russia's now-defunct Mir station, was named with Shepherd. Yuri Gidzenko joined the crew in 1996.

The long period of training didn't worry Shepherd too much. Much of the training hardware "was fairly immature" and the crew spent time developing it for themselves. "Sergei and I like technical work," said Shepherd.


The eventual Soyuz launch in thick fog demonstrated the vehicle's ability to fly in almost all weather. It has also been launched in high winds and snowstorms. "It was a real smooth, hands-off ride," recalled Shepherd. "There is really very little crew intervention in failures. The vehicle's abort capability is excellent.

The first challenge the crew faced when they boarded the Station - then comprising the US Unity module and the Russian Zarya and Zvezda modules - was their exclusion from Unity because it was initially too hot for human habitation. The interior of the Russian modules was filled with cargo delivered by two previous Space Shuttle logistics missions. The material had to be carefully unpacked and the Station brought on line. "We had to sort that out and didn't have much practice on the ground, but it was no big surprise", said Shepherd. "Sergei and Yuri are extremely capable space travellers - they really contributed to getting it shipshape."

The crew did some modest science experiments but on the whole it was an installation and checkout job that was completed in May when a Space Shuttle brought them home.

Shepherd may have achieved lasting fame as the crewman who named the Station. Giving his crew's callsign as "Alpha," Shepherd was accused at the time of pre-empting the Nasa Adminstrator.

Source: Flight Daily News