While Dextre was being developed, I advised the engineers on how it would be operated. For the mission itself, we were responsible for developing operational procedures, meaning the procedures used by the astronauts and the mission controllers on the ground when operating Dextre.
With on orbit operations, it’s often… we deal with the unexpected, with problems that we try to imagine in advance, but we’re often confronted with situations that we didn’t anticipate in the beginning. So it’s finding solutions to those problems, often in very, very short time frames… and that’s a really interesting part of it.
The arrival of Dextre is the start of a decade of work for us. The system gives it a lot of flexibility, but also makes it very complex, so we need to make sure that everything is ready for its arrival. But even after the shuttle returns to Earth, we’ll keep operating Dextre; we’ll keep learning how to operate it.
During the last mission, when we had to deal with a torn solar panel, we had to use Canadarm2 and the inspection boom in a way we never thought we would. That tells us that we think we know how we’ll use Dextre, but in the coming years, I’m sure that there will be situations where we’ll say, “Oh, I never thought we’d use Dextre like that!”