This week astronaut Ronald Garan participated in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session on reddit in the popular IAmA subreddit, where experts on any topic can hold an open forum for questions. The astronaut answered questions primarily about his six month stay on the International Space Station, which was his second trip into space since he began astronaut training back in 2000. Garan provided some interesting insights into the mentality of an astronaut and shared details of his experience living on the International Space Station.
ON BEING AN ASTRONAUT
Garan wrote that he first wanted to be an astronaut when NASA launched Apollo 11 into space on July 20th, 1969. He encouraged others who wanted to get into the field, recommending a concentration in Science Technology Engineering Math. Garan told an enthusiastic but skeptical high school sophomore “you can accomplish anything you set your mind to – nothing is impossible.”
SPACE TRAVEL IS ESSENTIAL FOR THE FUTURE OF HUMANITY
The astronaut emphasized the importance of establishing a permanent moon base to utilize its resources and commercially developing space travel into becoming “as common place as flying on an airline.” Garan said that he would be willing to undergo the enormous risks astronauts will face when traveling to Mars, “for the same reason I accept the risk of flying to the ISS – because it is important for our future.”
THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION IS QUITE COMFORTABLE
Though space stations in general look to be extremely tight quarters, Garan wrote that the ISS is “huge.” Garan recognized the inherent need for privacy, writing that “you can find some ‘quiet time’ if you need it.” He also wrote that when not doing scientific research, astronauts passed time by watching movies and TV shows, though he personally liked spending his free time taking pictures of our planet. Garan admitted that being away from his family was tough, but the astronauts were allowed to have a video conference with their family once per week.
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GAINING PERSPECTIVE FROM 220 MILES AWAY
Several times throughout the AMA Garan shared his thoughts on how a human’s perspective of the planet can change for the better when removed from it for some time, a viewpoint he calls “orbital perspective.”
It was sad to look at the indescribable beauty of the planet we have been given while thinking about the unfortunate realities of life on our planet for a significant number of her inhabitants (those that don’t have clean water to drink, food to eat and the poverty and conflict that exists). It really is a sobering contradiction.
Garan said that what he still misses the most about being in space is the wonderful, unique view of our planet.
ON THE PHYSICAL TOLLS OF SPACE TRAVEL
When asked about the stress endured over six months of living in space, physically Garan said that the extreme environment had very little effect on him: “Because of our physical counter measures (exercise) I had no bone or muscle loss.” Further down Garan admitted to some eyesight changes, which is common in astronauts who endure long-term missions. The astronaut gave credit to their two hours of daily exercise on the ISS for a speedy recovery once back on earth.
REENTRY IS SCARY, EVEN FOR AN ASTRONAUT
Garan compared the experience of reentering earth’s atmosphere, a process that takes place in one of these, to “going over Niagara falls in a barrel (that’s on fire) followed by a high speed crash.” When asked what was going through his mind at the time the astronaut simply wrote, “I hope the heat shield and parachutes work.”
This is reddit after all, so there are some weird gems worth mentioning from the thread. On farts being more potent in space, Garan wrote “no comment.” On the best tasting space food: “lasagna.” On his sleeping methods, Garan said that he free floated, often waking upside down. Garan said the first thing he did when he got back to Earth was hug his family. The first thing he ate: pizza. A spaceman after my own heart.