Astronauts

Thinking about being an astronaut?

Tomorrow marks 50 years since humans first walked on the Moon. Everyone seems to be talking about astronauts, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar mission, where we’ve been in space and where we may go next.

Stuck at the Airport is in Houston – Space City – this week to be part of the festivities. We’re meeting with former astronauts, visting the labs that train and prepare food for astronauts and getting a first look at the restored Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

If all this space talk has got you thinking about becoming an astronaut, consider taking this Astronaut Apitude quiz filled with questions based on the official NASA Astronaut Candidate requirements and real-life psychological tests. Let us know how you score.

Space tourism: do real astronauts want tourists in space?

Are real astronauts in favor of space tourism?

 Spaceship toy - space tourism

Space tourism is a modern-day reality and a bucket list item for many travelers who have already ticked off many of the awe-inspiring spots on earth.

But do professional astronauts want tourists up there with them?

Earlier this summer I had a chance to ask a dozen or more former and current astronauts that question  — and to gather their travel tips – during the shakedown cruise of the Viking Orion.

The ship is named after the prominent Orion constellation and has at its ceremonial godmother, American chemist, emergency room physician and retired NASA astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher. As the guest of honor on the cruise Fisher was able to invite dozens of her friends along for the ship’s maiden voyage.

Astronauts discuss space tourism and other topics

Non-astronauts can now contemplate how they want to visit space, thanks to private companies such as  Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, SpaceX and others, which are developing a variety of space tourism programs and out-of-this-world experiences.

To a one, every astronaut I spoke with is enthusiastic about untrained citizens heading to space.  I gathered their opinions about space tourism for a story just posted on Travel +Leisure. 

Here are some of the responses:

“I seriously believe that if more people had the opportunity to go into space and see the earth from that vantage point they would definitely stop thinking of themselves as being from this country or that country and slowly start feeling like they’re just from this planet,” said Anna Fisher, the first mother in space and one of the “original six” women accepted into NASA’s Astronaut Training Program.

While he wouldn’t have wanted extraneous people on board when he was flying multibillion-dollar missions, “That’s different than having a spacecraft designed from the get-go for tourists, which I applaud,” said former NASA astronaut Frederick (Rick) Hauck, a veteran of several Space Shuttle missions.

Jean-Francois Clervoy, a European Space Agency astronaut and veteran of three NASA Space Shuttle missions, is all for space tourism even if, for the foreseeable future, it’s an experience only available to rich people.

“The travelers who have the money, the time, and the courage to try space tourism are and will be great ambassadors” for the experience, said Clervoy, “They know people will want to hear about their adventure and that is what explorers and pioneers going first are supposed to do. Bring back the experience.”

Former NASA astronaut Sherwood (Woody) Spring, who logged 165 hours in space, 12 of them doing spacewalks, said while the views from space are great, space tourists need to keep the downsides of space travel in mind.

“When you get into orbit, 99 percent of astronauts go through what we call ‘space adaption syndrome’;” said Spring, “Some people throw up, some don’t, but you’re probably not going to feel well the first two days.

Spring said IMAX space movies offer the same great views without the high ticket price, but if getting out of this world is what you’re after “Go for it,” said Spring, “You don’t need my permission.”

Would you like to take a trip into space?

 

Travel Tips from Astronauts

Space pens ready? We have travel tips from astronauts.

Courtesy NASA

Courtesy NASA

In June I had the great honor of gathering travel tips and other advice from astronauts during a week-long voyage with astronauts and other space-minded people on the Viking Orion, the Viking Cruise line’s newest ship.

The Orion is named after the prominent Orion constellation and has at its ceremonial godmother, American chemist, emergency room physician and retired NASA astronaut Dr. Anna Fisher. As the guest of honor on the cruise Fisher was able to invite dozens of her friends along for the ship’s maiden voyage.

Anna Fisher – ceremonial godmother for the Viking Orion cruise ship.

Travel tips from astronauts

On the ship, I chatted many former astronauts and NASA employees about what it was like to be one of the 550 or so people who have been in space.

Among my questions: What does space travel teach you about being a traveler on earth?

Many of the answers are in my story on Travel + Leisure “9 Travel Tips Astronauts Have Taken From Space to Earth” and below:

Use a checklist

“There are many endeavors in this world that would be much better executed if people kept checklists,” said Frederick (Rick) Hauck, a former NASA astronaut who piloted and commanded several Space Shuttle missions, “I have one I refer to every time I travel.”

Don’t pack too much and be ready for anything

Charles Walker, who flew on three Space Shuttle missions and was the first non-government individual to fly in space, suggests travelers keep in mind what may be available at their destinations.

“Both volume and weight are critical for both space travel and terrestrial travel,” said Walker, “Pack lightly.” Keeping a composed attitude is helpful as well. “Be open to what’s around you,” said Walker, “And try to be mentally ready to take in anything and react to it in a calm fashion.”

Get along

Jay Honeycutt, former Director of the NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center, said his years of observing astronauts and training them for space travel taught him that successful travelers are those who are comfortable with all sorts of people and those who are willing to pitch in when needed.

“Learn to do your fair share of the work that has to be done to make the trip successful and safe,” said Honeycutt, “And make sure you always have some fun.”

Be sure to take in the sights

“In space, you can look out the window and really get to know earth,” said veteran NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, (The Artistic Astronaut), whose was on two spaceflights and spent 104 days living and working in space.

Stott says while space travelers get unique views, there are plenty of awe-inspiring sights here on earth.

“You can go three miles down the road, go to the top of a building, get on a boat or on an airplane and get a new perspective on who you are,” said Stott, who is always disappointed when fellow airplane passengers go straight to the movies, to work or to sleep.

“It’s important to be awake and experience the journey,” said Stott, “And to be surprised by what you can see and feel along the way.”

Have some tips to add? Please add them in the comments section below.

 

Airline food that’s out of this world

When astronauts do a stint on the International Space Station they may request and bring along “bonus” snacks and meals for special occasions.

This summer, passengers departing on Lufthansa’s long-haul flights from Germany can “Eat like an astronaut” by ordering one of the dishes, Chicken Ragout with Mushrooms, that the airline’s kitchens prepared for German European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, who set out for the International Space Station (ISS) on June 6.

Keeping in mind the special requirements of space food – i.e. that it will be consumed in zero gravity – Lufthansa says its LSG Group Culinary Excellence Team worked with the European Space Agency to provide six special meals for Gerst and the Horizons mission.

“The collection includes typical dishes from the astronaut’s home region, Swabia, such as Maultaschen and Spätzle,” said Lufthansa in a statement, “In order to ensure that the meals fulfilled the specific health and safety requirements of the mission, the LSG Group team designed them as low sodium and able to maintain a shelf life of two years.”

Not flying Lufthansa this summer? Through late October, the business premier menu on Air New Zealand flights from Los Angeles to Auckland will include the popular vegetarian hamburger called the Impossible Burger.

Courtesy Air New Zealand

“Impossible Burger’s magic ingredient is an iron-containing molecule called heme which comes from the roots of soy plants,” notes ANZ, “The heme in the Impossible Burger is the same as the heme found in animal meat. The result is a plant-based burger patty that cooks, smells and tastes like beef but contains no animal products whatsoever.”

Sounds like space food to me.

Ohio astronomy park honors astronaut John Glenn

I’ve spent the last week chatting with astronauts and other whip smart folks who work for NASA and its international equivalents on the shakedown cruise for the new Viking Orion ocean ship that boasts retired astronaut Anna Fisher as its godmother.

Fisher was able to invite about 100 of her friends on board this cruise and I was among a small group of incredibly fortunate journalists to tag along for the adventure.

In a panel and in one-on-one chats many of the more than two dozen current and former astronauts on board shared stories about being in space and, throughout the cruise, astronauts and non-astronauts alike had a chance to check out the skies from the ship’s decks and in its high-tech planetarium.

Today I leave the ship and all the astronauts behind and fly home on an airplane – not a rocket ship. But I’ve got my eyes on the skies and I’m pleased to learn that on Thursday, June 21 – just in time for the summer solstice – a new astronomy park honoring super-hero astronaut and Ohio native John Glenn will open in rural Logan, Ohio, about forty miles southeast of Columbus.

Courtesy NASA

The John Glenn Astronomy Park (JGAP) will not only allows visitors to explore the night sky, but it will also offers daytime study with a  Solar Plaza to study the Sun, Earth and the North Celestial Pole, among other celestial features. The 80-foot in diameter Solar Plaza highlights the Sun’s orientation to the Earth as it changes throughout the year and is encircled by a low wall with notches offering framed views of the Sun on key days.  The new park also has an enclosed 540-square-foot observatory with a retractable roof  to  permit night sky viewing.

(All photos courtesy of the John Glenn Astronomy Park, except for photo of John Glenn, which is courtesy of NASA and the  planetarium photo, which is courtesy of Viking Cruises).