Volume: 04, Issue: 22 07/07/2006 
STS-121 Mission Specialist Mike Fossum in a NASA T-38 trainer jet. Image credit: NASA.
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STS-121 Mission Specialist Mike Fossum participates in an Extravehicular Mobility Unit spacesuit fit check. Image credit: NASA.
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STS-121 Mission Specialist Mike Fossum uses virtual reality hardware in the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility at the Johnson Space Center, Houston. Image credit: NASA.
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Other Articles in This Issue:
Space Shuttle Discovery
Commander Steve Lindsey
Pilot Mark Kelly
Mission Specialist Lisa Nowak
Mission Specialist Stephanie Wilson
Mission Specialist Piers Sellers
Mission Specialist Thomas Reiter

Mission Specialist Mike Fossum

Mike Fossum is assigned to the crew of STS-121 as a mission specialist. Fossum was born December 19, 1957, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and grew up in McAllen, Texas. He is married with four children and enjoys family activities, jogging, fishing, and backpacking. Fossum attended McAllen High School, graduated from the University of Texas A & M with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering, and then received two Masters Degrees of Science in Systems Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1981, and in Physical Science from the University of Houston-Clear Lake in 1997.

In January 1993, Fossum was employed by NASA as a systems engineer. Selected in June 1998 to be an astronaut, he reported for training in August 1998. Fossum served as the Astronaut Office Lead for Space Station flight software development. He worked as a Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) in Mission Control, Fossum supported several flights, including Lead CAPCOM for Space Station Expedition-6.

When asked in a 2006 interview, “This is your first spaceflight, and it is also going to be your first time as a spacewalker. Tell me about what it takes to prepare to become a little spaceship of your own,” Fossum replied,

There’s a lot of work involved with that. It actually surprised me—I worked space station assembly operations as an engineer here at Johnson Space Center for several years before I was selected as an astronaut, and we taught the EVA, the spacewalk things, what it takes. And even though I worked in it for several years, I didn’t have a feel for just how challenging it is to get that work done inside this suit that’s inflated to 4.2 pounds per square inch. It looks like you’re trying to do automotive mechanic work in the winter in Michigan with all the layers built up and the gloves. In fact, it’s very similar to that in ways. You just add in standing on some slick ice, so that as you’re trying to exert some force you’re slipping around. You have to brace yourself so that you can react to any forces that you’re trying to put into a bolt or a latch, anything that you’re working on. We train for it in a number of different ways. The one that people are most familiar with is our big training pool, the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. It’s a 40-foot-deep facility where they weigh us out in the suits so that we are neutrally buoyant—we don’t, we don’t float or sink in there—and that gives us a chance to practice things. We have a payload bay of the space shuttle that’s sitting, you know, down at one end of this facility, and we’ve got most of the space station is set up kind of around the rest of the facility, and so we can come out of the airlock of the space station, work with all of our tethers and tools, move around outside, actually translate down the side of the station and go down into the payload bay of the shuttle. So we practice moving around and moving our tethers and tools, the equipment. We also do some work in a virtual reality laboratory where we put on the funny-looking helmets and practice different kind of tasks. One in particular that we practice a lot is the choreography of the spacewalk work with the robotic arm work that Lisa and Stephanie will be doing while we’re outside, because there are times when we will be handing things back and forth to the robot arm or they’ll be moving us around. We can’t really practice that in the pool so we practice it in virtual reality. And it’s amazing how much you can learn and, and what a feel you can get for the operations through that process.

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