Charles Camarda est un astronaute de la NASA sélectionné en 1996 dans le groupe 16. Docteur en Ingénierie Aérospatiale, il vole sur la mission STS-114 qui marque le retour en vol des navettes spatiales après l'accident de Columbia.
Il est actuellement responsable du NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC).
Interview réalisée en 2009
Q : How many years were you connected to the space program before your flight ?
A : I have been connected with the space flight program over 22 years prior to my selection as astronaut. I began working for NASA's Langley research Center in 1974.
Q : How did you feel prior to the flight ?
A : I was very relaxated prior to launch because I felt I was very well prepared thanks to the multitude of the great trainers and support personnel and the hundreds of hour of simulations for our mission.
Q : What kinds of sensations did you experienced during take-off ?
A : It was pure excitement and exhilaration ! I think I was laughing and trying to jump out of my seat for the entire 8 minutes (of course I was on the middeck during launch and so my job was to sit back and enjoy)
Q : What does weightlessness feel like, and what did you think about during the flight ?
A : Weightlessness for extanded periods of time is a fun experience. Within hours to days it becomes second nature and tasks which seems difficult at first, quickly become routine. Since we were the first mission to space after Columbia accident, we had a very pack schedule of work, as is the case for the most shuttle missions. During the first several days my mind was totally on my job and my family. In the evenings we had some quiet time to gaze out windows and reflect. These were the times I felt very blessed to have a wonderful family, friends and colleagues helped me achieve my dream. It was a spiritual time.
Q : What were some of the problems you encountered and how did you fixed them ?
A : 1) Immediatly after liftoff our vehicule struck a very large buzzard, a flock of which was circling overhead prior to liftoff. We were very lucky it did not strike the Orbiter because it could have very easily caused critical damage.
2) Prior to docking the crew onboard the ISS photographed was turned out to be two gapfillers protruding from the forward section of the undersurface of the vehicule. Thanks to the experts researchers at the NASA Ames and NASA LaRC who conducted computational fluid dynamic analyses and predicted these protuding gapfillers could cause overheating of the wing leading edges during entry, the ground team at NASA orchestrated a spacewalk which we put in work to remove both gap fillers.
Q : What did you eat, and did it taste real ?
A : I ate very well in space, in fact, I thing I gained Weight ! Crewmate Soichi Noguchi had some great japanese food wich he shared with the crew. The curried chicken was out of the world (literatally and figuratively)
Q : What was Re-entry like ?
A : Earth entry was a little more stressful this flight, especially for our families, since the Columbia tragedy occured during entry due to debris damage from ET foam during launch. The 15 minutes during high heating during the entry trajectory were especially intense.
Q : Were you glad to be back Earth, or did you feel you could have spent the rest of your life up there ?
A : I was very glad to be back to thank the thousands of people on the ground who supported our mission and ensured our safety and sussess and to see my family who I knew were especially concerned and awaiting our safe return.