First Spacewalk From Columbia

The other five STS-87 crew members had already been training for six months by the time Kadenyuk joined them in May 1997. Commander Kregel, who flew a year earlier on STS-78 and previously in July 1995, would be joined by Pilot Steve Lindsey and Mission Specialists Kalpana Chawla, Winston Scott and Takao Doi. Of these, only Scott - one of very few black members of NASA's astronaut corps, and one of only a handful to have completed a spacewalk - had flown before; his selection for STS-87 was partly to make what would become the historic first spacewalk ever performed from Columbia's airlock.

That excursion, which would be devoted to simulating tasks in support of International Space Station construction, was a repeat of the work planned for Tammy Jernigan and Tom Jones in late 1996; they had been forced to call off both STS-80 spacewalks because of a stuck airlock handle. As well as proving a milestone for Columbia, the STS-87 outing would also make history by featuring the first-ever Japanese spacewalker, Takao Doi. Not surprisingly, he was excited by the opportunity but, despite months of training, was aware that the real thing might be very different.

''In order to move from one place to another,'' he explained to an interviewer, ''you always have to grasp something to prevent yourself from floating away. But if your grip is too tight, your body will move in the other direction! You must softly touch the handrails and move along. That's the basic point of moving in space. It's impossible to make a complete simulation of the space environment during training. Even the training in the [water tank at JSC] is different, because the water generate[s] resistance and therefore body movements will be more stable and predictable than in space. The only way to master moving in space is to actually do this in space!" Doi got his chance on 25 November 1997, five days into the mission, although his tasks that night proved somewhat different from what he had trained for.

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