Training Hits High Gear for Next Space Station Astronaut

Training Hits High Gear for Next Space Station Astronaut
Astronaut Clayton Anderson, Expedition 15 flight engineer, participates in an Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit fit check in the Space Station Airlock Test Article (SSATA) in the Crew Systems Laboratory at Johnson Space Center. Astronaut Christopher Cassidy (left) assisted Anderson, who will join Expedition 15 as flight engineer after launching to the International Space Station aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-117. (Image credit: NASA.)

NASAastronaut Clayton Anderson, a late addition to the agency's next shuttle crew,is ramping up for a planned June 8 launch towards the International Space Station(ISS).

Originally assignedto NASA's STS-118 shuttle flight, which is due to launch in early August,Anderson movedto an earlier flight and joined the STS-117 crew last month after mission managersdecided he should relieve Expedition 15 flight engineer Sunita Williams, the station'scurrent U.S. resident, a few months early.

"It's goingwell," Anderson, 48, told of his training. "It's kind of piecemeal because we're trying to figure out parts thatI trained on for STS-118 that I don't need to repeat, and which parts that I doneed to take...on 117."

Thattraining regimen swings into high gear this week, Anderson said, adding that heand STS-117 commander Rick Sturckow have been working together to decide which taskshe must rehearse for the upcoming launch of NASA's space shuttle Atlantis.

Unlike, Anderson'soriginal shuttle flight -- which will deliver a relatively small spacer piece,storage platform and a pod full of supplies to the ISS -- NASA'sSTS-117 mission is hauling a massive pair of new solar arrays to theorbital laboratory. The planned 11-day spaceflight was delayed from a March 15 liftoffdue to hail damage to Atlantis' external tank. Mission managers later opted toadd Anderson to the mission in order to assure a return triphome for Williams, who has lived aboard the ISS since December 2006.

"We kind ofknew it was coming," said Anderson, who will make his first spaceflight withthe STS-117 and Expedition 15 crews. "I'll go whenever they want me to go."

Andersonsaid he expects to assist with robotics work using Atlantis' 50-foot (15-meter)robotic arm to deliver the space station's 17.5-ton Starboard 3/Starboard 4 trusssegment and solar arrays during the STS-117 mission. He also plans to help outon Atlantis' middeck filling water bags for later transfer to the ISS alongsideother cargo.

Thespaceflight comes after more than two decades of NASA service by Anderson, whofirst began work for the space agency as an intern before securing a full-time positionwith the Mission Planning and Analysis Division at the Johnson Space Center inHouston, Texas in 1983.

"The mostchallenging part is just simply adapting to a new crew and they way theyinteract with each other," Anderson said of his mission switch.

Launching inJune did add some scheduling challenges for Anderson's wife Susan and other familymembers and friends, who plan to travel to Florida for the space shot, thoughit does make it easier for his two children to attend the planned liftoff.

"We don'thave to worry about taking them out of school...or disrupting to the start of their next yearof school to go to a launch event," Anderson said of his son Cole and daughterSutton Marie.

Some ofAnderson's supplies are either already aboard the ISS or arriving early Tuesdayaboard the unmannedProgress 25 cargo ship, Anderson said, adding that his Russian-built Sokolspacesuit and Soyuz seat liner will ride into space aboard Atlantis. Only asmall number of items will have to wait for the STS-118 launch later thissummer, he added.

Andersonplans to spend about five months in orbit, and is slated to be relieved in late Octoberby fellow NASA astronaut Daniel Tani during the STS-120mission to the ISS.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.