NASA Astronaut Dr. Stanley Love Talks Spacewalk, Dextre and the Future of Space

ABC News' Amna Nawaz interviews NASA Astronaut Dr. Stanley Love as the spacewalk is underway.
20:18 | 08/19/16

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Transcript for NASA Astronaut Dr. Stanley Love Talks Spacewalk, Dextre and the Future of Space
Hey everybody I'm in an odd here in New York thanks so much for joining us something very cool is happening right now. History in the making. Up in outer space as we speak. Two NASA astronauts have ventured outside at the International Space Station on what could be an historic. Space walk. Joining me now to talk about it live from the Johnson Space Center in Houston Texas is the man who knows a lot more about that than any about had doctors and. Love NASA astronaut doctor love making so much for making the time. My pleasure thanks for coming over with a us. So listen at this ask spacewalk has been going on for a few hours right now Freddie went out there who want to take a look at it NASA has been live streaming over online channel you can check that out at any time. Help explain. How big a deal this is these two astronauts are going to be installing something called. The IATA. What does this mean and how is it gonna change space travel out there. Well I DA stands for inner the national docking adapter. When we built the space station most of the parts for that were brought up by the space shuttle and each time the space shuttle visited. It had to made up to a special adapter on the space station that exactly matched a tunnel on the space shuttle. So than we can help open up that tunnel and have crew members float back and forth between two vehicles. So the shuttles retire now. New vehicles are on the drawing pad some of them are going to be tested here shortly. And they're gonna start flying stations that space station right now William falcon came back. And try to dock to the space station could pull up next to it but there's no way the people could go from one vehicle to the other without having to put on spacesuits and and climb across. See you need a docking port that exactly matches what's on the spaceship. So while we were building the station years ago we got together with a all the international partners and decided on an exact design for that standard docking port. Just so that the like you're traveling internationally you don't want your plugs to not fit in the socket. Exactly the same things we've decided exactly what the plugs in the sockets are gonna look like. And this is that device so this basically enables. Future vehicles to come and docked to the space station and we're plugging that sort of plug adapter onto the docking port for the space shuttle used to use. Doctor love we're actually seeing that live feed it right now which let me in my every time we see it this is. He did the cameras outside of the highest that. As Stuart his colleagues commander Jeff Williams an engineer Kate Rubin. Undertake is incredible space walk and do exactly what you're describing there installing the IDA. But this this partners he we're talking about this is all part of this commercial crew program at NASA right. Since the shuttles were retired. You mentioned those partners Boeing and SpaceX in particular we expect to be testing flight. In the next year or two so how does this change. What's going on there back there now who virtual companies that are going to be essentially acting as they. Think that that there. That's pretty close. We used to do all of the resupply of space station with government vehicles. Government crews. And that was all sort of within the US government and then they governments of our international partners Russia Japan and Europe Canada. But now we're instead of having a government vehicle go to space station we are basically paying a third party. To build the transportation systems and operate those transportation systems. To take crews back and forth in the space station so that is one reason why this new docking adapter is important but it's actually bigger than now. International doesn't just mean commercial. Some day our international partners are going to have spacecraft of their own right now they have contract with the Russia or in a few years again the United States to fly their process the space station someday they may have their own launch vehicles and their own spacecraft. And this docking adapter will allow everybody to come and play on the space station. And the same design is going to be used for our vehicles in the future that we build after the space station. OK to doctor level walk us through what's happening right now it's images. They've been up there now commander Williams and and you ribbons for at about three hours I believe part of work out there you see in the live picture. What we are we in the nation how has it been going so aren't you being with us today. So so far it's been going great. There are a lot of critical points in a spacewalk this has gotten through many of the most important ones. One of the key operations that we just completed. Was getting and that docking adapter firmly bolted down to the surface that it sits on. It came in the in the trunk of a Dragon Spacecraft we pulled it out with the robot arm we sort it out in front of the space station where it was gonna go. Right near where it needed to be that then we had to drive some huge heavy metal hooks. Both on the docking adapter and on the space station side to hold those elements together remember that when we pressurized that tunnel. Every square inch of that thing is gonna have fourteen or fifteen pounds of force pushing on a trying to blow it out into space. Kind you don't want that to happen. So getting that structural link with those hooks super important and that's complete now. And I'm sure everybody in mission control and up in the stationed read the big sigh of relief when we got that done. Now the spacewalkers are out there completing electrical connections on T taking covers off of things there's some very sensitive. Optical reflectors up there when our spacecraft comes flying up to the space station. We don't want to hit hard. He needs to go exactly in the right spot and it's going to do that in part using lasers. That will bounce light off of little reflectors on board the space station. To help that vehicle know exactly where it is as it comes up to that docking port there's only a few inches of slop that it can have in order to meet up correctly. So they're taking the covers off of those optical devices have to be careful not to bump them of course he prophet out of alignment that's not going to work. So still a lot of important precision work and again all this is going on 200 miles above the year. Going 171000 miles per hour. Flying around the earth once every ninety minutes and getting a sunrise and a sunset each one of those orbits and oh by the way don't bump the optics. No big deal not at all will look after look you have been up there you have been in one of those fees if you had. Being outside the diet that's like it we're looking at papers here which is just incredible. For the tighter shot. The astronaut hand as they work and complete their mission out there but just a layman's perspective a lot of stuff. Flying around that they have to try to handle it offensive when it like when you're actually up there. In his suits you know as hundreds of pounds are tens of pounded here you've got on you. And you've got to conduct missions by my English isn't centimeter in some cases patty actually do that. Well that's what training is for. Nobody who walks in the door at Nashua new astronaut knows how to do any of that kind that we spend. Dozens of hours in a swimming pool. 200 feet long and a hundred feet wide with a full scale model the space station sunken it. Every hand rail every cable is in its position in that pool we put on the real spacesuit which isn't tens of pounds of 350. Pounds. You get. Don't into the pool. Divers hang weights on you so that you float just as he would in space. And then you go to work you do this over and over and over again. I flew on the space shuttle we practiced each one of our spacewalks at the exact choreography that you do in space 78910. Times in that pool. Each time it's six and a half hours or so of really hard physical work the city's stiff you don't feel its weight especially in space the weight means nothing. But it's still heavy and to started moving or stop it moving is hard. Closing your hand to hold on to anything is like trying to squeeze a tennis ball in your hand because the pressure inside the seat and no pressure outside. So it's tough physical work but you practice over and over and over again. Get those skills down he used to working at environment so that when you're really up in space and you really have those sun rises and sunsets don't get in the pool. Instead of a comforting concrete pool deck six feet below your feet it's a 200 mile drop for the Swiss Alps you say all right I'm gonna get to work an imminent do what I have to. Why let want to ask you about that because I think every reading you were selected as an astronaut in 1980s you to hear first. Spacewalk in 2008. The Levy completed two. It's been several hours there on spacewalk. What is that might be worth a look we'll likely never go out there Burke that you sat out. In Sydney event like fat. What did that feel like what if that moment my. Well it's kinda scary. To make it even better the hatch where you go out of on the space station. To leave the airlock and go outside work. Point streak down and there's no part of space station that's visible if you look out down that hole as we get ready outside. The first thing you'd get a reached out through that whole grab onto him really kind of do a back flip over yourself. And then your hanging. On the underside of the space station and it's a long way down it also. It's normal for people to feel a little but we Cole we don't like think rightly concerned. Burned at this point. And what we hear stories of the quote death grip that people have but again. Any normal person would have that reaction it's a crazy unnatural environment and you know it's dangerous there's so many different ways to kill you faster than you could react. But again train train train train. You come out that hatch. And yet to crazy environment yes it's scary yes I could I guess is this is the most important work they have my entire white I dreamed about this since I was six years old. All right time to get to work. That's what training Victoria. I want to bring you back to the mission of that you want people to understand exactly what is happening here it's worth pointing out that is commander William at this point. They spot but it is an engineer he Rubin. Burns at the first time that she is doing this so far by all accounts both getting remarkable job. But he ended the process of this mission I was watching a little bit earlier. It is literally a game of inches and centimeters victory on call and response and communication command center and there's a lot of period just waiting. For a response or something happened. So at what point I do we know that were over the hump that you know we'll wait could things could still potentially go wrong. We are not over the hump until the crew is back inside and their suits are off and even then. Checklist mistake. In taking the seat back apart once the crews are inside their cleaning everything up. Can still damage a piece of hardware that costs millions of dollars don't wanna do that even though people's lives are no longer a risk once we get them inside. It's is still super important and of course at the end of the day like this when everybody's been practicing and preparing for this for years say this didn't just happen today. This has been in the planning and practicing for years. That day after you've done all the work and everyone takes it big sigh of relief. That's when the mistakes happen. So we have to be vigilant. We have to take ultimate care we have to look over each other's shoulders that's the control center is doing their washing everything the crews doing. Making sure that it's right backing them up putting their own check on the checklist even though the priest in the same thing. So we really don't wanna make any mistakes even late in the game there's an analogy here with mountaineering most accidents and mountaineering happen on the east. Folks have gotten to the summit they got their yea moment here on their way back down in there relaxing already and that's from the accident happens. So we were seeing pictured. Your two colleagues at work out there but there is a third person her third identity we mentioned at the robot named Dextre. It's kind of a big deal that he's involved in this mission right he lived outside of the diet that can you explain what his role is and how he worked on the. Absolutely if you've ever been working on a car something your house and you needed somebody hey hold this if that's what Dexter did. Oh. When we have our human hands outside we like to use those as much as possible. What robot Dextre which is has fairly high manual dexterity. It's being held on the end of the robot arm which has lower deck security that has a fifty foot reach. So the big arm grabbed Dexter swung it around so that Dextre could pull that docking adapter out of the cargo bay of the dragon ship that brought it up. And then swung it into position in the front of the space station where it needed to be installed. And then it basically held it there. And there's a complex choreography of telling the shuttle are arbor the station arm to relax its brakes for instance. As the books are driving so that is that the strive to meet these two things together the arm isn't trying to hold it back. And everybody in mission control on the station and all the systems on station happy and perfect concert for all that happened correctly. That's what you're waiting for a lot of times. System a says okay I'm done I'm ready for you to take your step system becomes on says okay I'm taking my step hang on I'm waiting for my hopes to drive and so on so what looks. Maybe kind of boring it together for attention span there's something going on there and everybody's got to wait because if we mess up the order. We're gonna mess a PDA and we really don't wanna have to go out do this again. If anything but boring for people like me or watch this stuff but I'm curious to get your take on that because it as a pitcher you watch these missions take place now and now you can actually. Watch them live streaming as they're unfolding there. Do you remember back to when you're out there you revert back to what it felt like CB floating out there and out work. In that suit up in space. Well of course you know and yet always a part of you can't wishes it was you up there. But these guys are doing a great job my hat's off to on and I'm really enjoying watching them do their work. Lot they want to ask you about this on this they point commander Williams gave an interview thing that sometimes when you're up there because of image and it is his morning walk. And I think you're out there you're so involved in the details. And and just in the new shout what needs to be done that you kind of forget where you are. And then all of a sudden you turn around and you realize 00 right I'm I'm planning pounded outer bay. Do you have a moment like that when the enormity of it just struck you. Everybody who has a space walk past that moment doubt that. The experience that Jeff Williams described is exactly the experience I had several times on my space walk. Normally when you're working your hands or in front of you write for your helmet whatever your work on his right there you don't even see the scenery around you. And you're working working working you know the clock is ticking you know you have limited oxygen in your suit limited time to get the space walk done it's super important that you get it done. And then every once in awhile you moving around somewhere else and suddenly the for a comes into view in the spectacular Vista. Rolling underneath his 171000 miles per hour comments and oceans come and by the clouds the incredible colors of the year the blue oceans white clouds agreement brown landings go. I can't believe this is me. The I do ask you about this program. Though because it was tested and hurt for an app that. It to start this commercial crew program from going in faith that cannot be playing the role that they aren't Windows Phone company in the future. How do you see that changing the way that Americans looked at space travel space exploration think it makes it more accessible and. It will eventually it's still very expensive to get this base the hardware is really expensive. Very few of us can we use our hardware all of its aspects is working hard on that part. Basically did to send a rocket to space now without reusing it is like building a jetliner. Flying it to a nearby city and scrapping it. Now you're gonna try to sell tickets on that jet liner in the company's gonna make money the tickets are fabulously expensive only national governments can work. If the commercial companies though can start making a real profit. Off selling services selling tickets that's not just to the government but actually to the public space travel is gonna take off the week deviation. Hand and NASA will be struggling to catch up. Because once the power. The United States economy is behind that in these businesses could start making a profit. Space travel become open to everybody and that's that's really my sincere hope for the future it's an amazing experience. Hardly anybody gets to do it because only governments can afford tickets and hugely expensive. And it's a shame that more people don't have this experience I'm really really cheering for our commercial partners for international partners to try to open up space to everybody. The doctor haven't mentioned you've been with NASA in nineteen did your purse. And FaceBook. About it obviously makes travel industry in the long way. In that decade alone but look at that I've got to look at it right I haven't you think your old and a nine month old when they Art Bell. What you think space travelers like what's going to be different. I think will be senate people to Mars. I think we'll have people climbing around on asteroids not too far from the earth. Which is going to be cool because those asteroids are so small they have almost no gravity it's the be like doing a space walk. Except on a natural object cover rocks and gravel dust. We might have people landing on the moon again at that point is well not even have a piece there the way we have bases in Antarctica today. So I think the future spaces theory exciting so tell your kids to study their math and science. Maybe get some flying experience and they can be part of it. Dun dun and then have written all those things that paper anybody out there who's gonna take a look at a live stream now there's still. About an hour to go in the nation to doctor love just tell people out there what should they be watching for. As they tune in to that lives street. Nothing special just watch what the astronauts are doing. A lot of people dream of being astronauts. Actual work is pretty darn hard pay attention to that. Listen to the talking in the communication between the crew and mission control between the two crewmates outside. Listen how carefully they worked together that's orchestrated that's training. Years and years of practice working together with and how they communicate with their colleagues inside the space station. Then watch as they finish up their tasks. Cleanup their work sites come on back to the airlock and again trying really hard not to make any mistakes even though this scary part is supposedly over. Just listen to how they get everything done it's an amazing choreography and we make it look easy but it isn't. You certainly do make it look easy but I promise I felt I wasn't gonna ask you this question but I'm going to anyway. As an enemy to be the interview without mentioning anabolic or Matt Damon. But do you watch movies about space travel and about it you watched as it is rolling her eyes and I can agree our. As you think. Depends on the movies. Armageddon. Oh my goodness. Not even go in there gravity. Suits tools spacecraft interiors are perfect. The exception that what we really Wear under that space suit not even Sandra Bullock can make look sexy. And the marsh and was awesome the book got 90% of the science right I've never seen in a parade in the science fiction story since Arthur C Clark okay. Wow the movie they had a stress more things but it was still. Who it but I watch them for entertainment I'm always sort of in my mind is working in the back or not they got that wrong yet they got that right they do their homework that's wonderful. So I watch him and depending on the movie I roll my eyes are not. Wouldn't that we got us space travel explainer in a movie review and went. Hey doctor love thank you so so much for making the time that it NASA astronaut doctor Sam lovely. I live. From the Johnson speak and I thanked them to you. And thanks all of you for joining us if you want to stay tuned there's still about forty minutes to go on that historic space walk it is live streaming. Right now on live channel for you can tune in and watch it unfold. Stay here for the latest from here and around the country for all of us here at ABC news now I'm on the Nevada.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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