Spacewalker Seems to Be Right Man for Job

Flight director: Choice means "that it is one piece that you don't worry about."

February 18, 2009, 6:13 PM

Nov. 3, 2007 — -- Scott Parazynski is the right man in the right place, by all accounts.

Flight Director Derek Hassman says having Parazynski perform today's most challenging of spacewalks solved one problem for him.

"The beauty of having Scott available to us is that it is one piece that you don't worry about," Hassman said. "I cannot overstate the significance of his experience and just his approach to the job."

It also helps that Parazynski is 6-foot-2 and has a longer reach, very important when he will be on the end of a 90-foot station arm/boom trying to reach a damaged solar array to repair it.

Parazynski woke up today to the music from the movie "Star Wars," dedicated to him by his son Luke.

"That was a great great way to wake up", said Parazynski, before he gave his best impression of Darth Vader "I just have to say, 'Luke, I'm your father. Use the force Luke.'"

His background is eclectic: He is an emergency medical doctor and a mountaineer who once coached the luge team from the Philippines for the 1988 Olympics. He volunteered his services as a doctor after Hurricane Katrina, helping treat the thousands of evacuees who flooded into the Astrodome in Houston.

This is Parazynski's fourth shuttle mission and his seventh spacewalk. He sat down with ABC News for an interview before the STS 120 mission launched.

ABC News: How lucky do you feel to be assigned to this mission?

Scott Parazynski: I am just so thrilled. This mission, from a personal perspective, is just beyond my wildest imagination. I looked at this flight several years ago, and I said several years ago out of all the flights I would like to be associated with it is the P6 relocation flight, because that is the most dramatic, complex thing I could possibly imagine. I did not have any glimmer of a hope that I would one day be assigned to it.

ABC News: What is scary about that first step out into space?

.Parazynski: On the space station, you drop open the thermal cover and there it is, you are traveling over the world at 17,500 miles an hour. And it is a huge glass-bottom boat, and people have described at as a real eye-opening experience.

ABC News: Why is the international space station important?

Parazynski: This is the single most complex vehicle ever built by human beings, and it is being built off the planet at 17,500 miles an hour in vacuum, with huge temperature extremes, pieces of hardware coming together for the very first time in space. They have never had fit checks or check-outs on Earth, very complex systems that are analogous to things we will need on the Moon, on Mars, inter-planetary travel. So this is a very vital and important test bed for the things we plan to do in the future. I think once we assemble the space station we are going to be able to utilize it in ways to continue to map global environmental change, to look at biotechnologies and material sciences that are unique about the space environment. We can use it as a test bed for many things that will improve the quality of life on Earth.

ABC News: What do you carry into space for good luck?

Parazynski: I have always carried a little tiny photo album of my family, a little ringed photo album that has pictures of my kids when they were six months old that will probably travel with me. You are in this unique wonderful environment, but the Earth is always beneath you and you think of the people that are down there and you think about home and you are very excited to get home and tell them all your stories as well. There is a very strong connection with home even though you are thousands and thousands of miles away.

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