Docking is Cooperation
Yesterday our STS-133 crew had a rendezvous and docking class in the simulator. My memories of docking with the space station on STS-128 stand out for me because of the first beautiful view you get of the ISS as you approach and how it changes from this tiny pinpoint of light to this incredible, shining spacecraft filling up the shuttle windows.
Of course the training we had was filled with all kinds of malfunctions to work through that you hope you’ll never have to work on the real day. It’s good to put the hardware and the flight and ground teams through this together – to develop the teamwork it will take for a successful rendezvous and docking.
Going through the simulation I was reminded of a t-shirt I have from the Shuttle-Mir program that says in Russian “Docking is Cooperation.” It’s not just that the hardware has to “cooperate”, but the same goes for the whole team. Our team for the space shuttle and space station programs isn’t just the flight crew on orbit and the flight controllers on the ground. As a bigger picture it is all of the international partners associated with the program. The ISS is an international success and should be highlighted as one. US, Russian, European and Japanese modules and engineering;
Canadian, Japanese and Russian robotic arms;
science and research activities completed and in progress from universities, private researchers, and commercial companies all over the world;
and astronauts from all partner countries that have been living and working together off our planet for the last 10 years.
Aside from all of the amazing developments for science and space exploration that have resulted from the ISS, we should be extremely proud of the way we have cooperated with our international partners to make this complex project happen and of the greater global good that has come from its success.
Docking is cooperation!