Key: Unchanged text, ,
h2. Say What, Now?
If you have ever wondered what kind of training astronauts get before they actually participate in missions, well, I can't really help you with that. But I _did_ get to fly the fancy simluator that prospective shuttle pilots use to practice.
Let's just say, I know a guy.
h2. The Shuttle Mission Simulator
This motion-base simulator is built on actuators that allow the vehicle to move as you move the controls. It allows for shaking and movement as well as tilting 90 degrees for take off, to add to the realism of the activity.
During the entire practice flight, a coach pilot is in the co-pilot's seat to give advice and instructions on what to do during the exercise.
A simulator flight has three phases:
# Take off
# Abort Launch
The reason for the Abort launch step is so the pilot can experience launch and landing in the same exercise. The abort step recreates a problem about 4-5 minutes into launch requiring the shuttle to bank and return to the landing strip. Then it is just a normal landing routine.
The simulator is a complete recreation of the cockpit of the shuttle, right down to the seatbelts and headsets. The windows are filled with computer generated scenery that changes during the flight. As you get higher, you are treated to an overhead view of Florida and everything resolves into more and more detail as you get closer. Very cool.
h2. Jackson, Shuttle Pilot
Now, if you get the chance to do this (unlikely, as it will soon follow the shuttle program into oblivion), don't make the mistake that my coworker and I did. We flew the simulator with one other rider, a woman, that also got to come along for the ride. We both decided that the gentlemanly thing to do would be to let her go first. Besides, that way we could see what it all entailed so we didn't embarrass ourselves when our turn came around. Little did we know that the simluation only goes through the take-off sequence once. All we got to do was land the thing. Don't get me wrong, even being in the cockpit for launch was awesome, but she spent like 25 minutes flying the SMS while I only got a measley 10.
Flying the shuttle is suprisingly simple.
I figure anyone who has played any kind of flight video game could successfully land the shuttle safely under normal conditions*. The whole act consists of keeping, first, a square within a circle and then, once you are closer to actually landing, keeping a diamond between two triangles on the heads up display. There is surprisingly little space in the cockpit of the shuttle. That's gotta be a real comfortable position to be in for the multiple day journey through space.
One interesting thing about the shuttle is that there is no dedicated steering device once the shuttle is on the ground. All steering must be accomplished through the use of two break pedals (one for the right and one for the left). The goal, after landing, it to have the fuselage lined up directly over the dashed lines of the run way.
This was far more difficult than landing the shuttle in the first place. [[Image:jack-the-pilot-2. jpg]]
You may find yourself asking, "sure, hotshot, but how did you really do?"
Well, not only _booya_, but *super booya*:
If you are wondering what all of these numbers mean, well, the short form is that I am awesome and ready to be a shuttle pilot. But it really means that I landed the shuttle within the parameters to be considered a "safe" landing. Not necessarily a _good_ landing, but a safe one. Needless to say, it was an awesome experience.
h2. *Real Training
Remember back there, when I said "under normal conditions"? Well, one of the SMS managers was along for our flight and he landed the shuttle last. The guys in the control room had a bit more fun with him. The scenario he had to land in was called "Stormy, Stormy Night".
Besides having no outside visibility, they decided to blow all four of the the shuttles tires out upon touch down and, losing control, the guy rolled us right into a ditch and a fiery death (recreated nicely in the cockpit window displays).
We were informed that real training requires a successful landing under those conditions. So maybe I need to wait just a little longer before submitting my name to be a shuttle pilot.