Join Col. Carl Walz '79G (USAF Ret.) as he shares his experiences about flying on four NASA Space Shuttle Missions, his time in the International Space Station, and what the future of space exploration looks like.
Mr. Carl E. Walz is currently the Director of Business Development at Oceaneering Space Systems in Houston Texas.
Prior to coming to Oceaneering, Mr. Walz was the Vice President for Human Spaceflight Operations at Orbital Sciences Corporation in Dulles, Virginia, responsible for cargo and mission operations for Orbital's Commercial Resupply Services program from 2008 to 2015.
Mr. Walz has also held several positions within NASA. He had a distinguished career as an astronaut, and is a veteran of four space flights, logging a total of 231 days in space. He was a mission specialist on STS-51 (1993), where he deployed the Advanced Communications Technology satellite and performed a 7 hour spacewalk. He also served as the Orbiter flight engineer (MS-2) on STS-65 (1994), and was a mission specialist on the STS-79 (1996) mission to the Russian Mir Space Station. Mr. Walz was a flight engineer (FE-1) on ISS Expedition 4 (2001-2002), where he performed science experiments, assembly tasks, and maintenance tasks. He completed two spacewalks totaling almost 12 hours in both in the Russian and US spacesuits.
In addition to his NASA service as an astronaut, Mr. Walz served as the Director for the Advanced Capabilities Division in the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington D.C. from 2006 to 2008.
Mr. Walz is an Air Force veteran, retiring from active duty in 2003 after 24 years of service.
Mr. Walz received his Bachelor of Science in Physics from Kent State University in 1977, and his Master of Science in Physics from John Carroll University in 1979. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from John Carroll University in 2003.
Why isn't the waste hydrogen from electrolysis of water retained and used as an energy source on the ISS?
That is a very good question. When I was onboard the station, the ISS was under construction and the only closed loop life support system was the water system on the Russian segment. The Russian electron vented the Hydrogen gas overboard, as it did on the MIR station. The US side collected condensate water in water bags and sent it to the Russian segment to be fed into the electron. The US and the Russians scrubbed the CO2 out of the atmosphere and vented it overboard.
Since that time, the US has developed a system to produce electricity by electrolysis and a system that uses the electrolysis byproduct H2 with the waste CO2 to produce water by the Sabatier method.
Having worked in engineering research for the Airforce for five years, I have developed a somewhat skeptical perspective on government-private partnerships. You have spoken highly of this arrangement. Could you provide any cautions about these from your experience?
With respect to the government-private partnerships, it is important for the government to carefully monitor the private companies effort through an effective insight model, where NASA engineers are able to view the engineering performance of the team. The government should lay out milestones with the private company to ensure that the company is meeting their milestones sufficiently. In the early days of the commercial cargo program, one of the original companies, Kistler Rocketplane, missed several financing milestones and NASA had to end the partnership. They then selected Orbital Sciences (my team), who performed well, developing a spacecraft, a rocket and a launch site, with the company investing as much as NASA contributed for the development.
While in space how did you all deal with stir craziness from being in the same space for months at a time? Was it common among astronauts?
I really never went stir-crazy. I was able to communicate with my wife everyday, and received electronic newspapers so I kept track of current events at home. We had email, movies on DVD, and I of course had the musical instruments. And we had interesting work to do every day on the space station supporting science experiments and maintaining equipment.
Near the end of the mission, NASA extended our mission by 6 weeks due to delays in our return shuttle flight launch. That extension, and NASA’s reluctance to give us challenging new tasks, led to some boredom for our crew. However, we always had great views of Earth, and we were weightless, which was always entertaining.
On a trip to Mars, where crews would not have great views of Earth and potential communications delays, stir-craziness will be a much bigger factor for NASA to deal with.
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