NASA Hometown Heroes 2008: Reisman Takes a Bite Out of the Big Apple
In April, astronaut Garrett Reisman performed an unprecedented event in space when he threw out the first pitch at a Yankees game from onboard the International Space Station. But for this New Jersey native and avid Yankees fan, throwing out the first pitch on the field of Yankee stadium on Aug. 26 was a real out-of-this-world experience.
Reisman’s Aug. 25-27 visit to New York City was the fifth stop on NASA’s Hometown Heroes 2008 campaign. Throughout the summer, astronauts have been traveling back to their home regions to throw out the first pitch at Major League Baseball games as part of NASA’s celebration of the station’s 10th year in orbit.
The three-day tour started early Monday morning with an interview at the New York CBS affiliate. Reisman talked to Maurice DuBois about his life in space and his new mission - throwing out the first pitch at a Yankees game without the assistance of zero gravity.
“Throwing the first pitch in space was actually kind of easy because the great thing about weightlessness is that you can’t bounce it,” Reisman said. “Tomorrow, I'm not going to have that safety net. I'm going to have to throw it for real, and I'm a little terrified.”
After the television interview, Reisman headed up two floors to WCBS Newsradio 880 to talk with anchors Steve Scott and Pat Carroll. Scott, who interviewed Reisman while he was onboard the station, was ecstatic to have him in the studio.
“A lot of us as kids dream of growing up to be an astronaut, but very few of us ever get to realize that dream” said Scott. “For me, talking with Garrett was the next best thing! Talking to him while he was in space was incredible, and it was a big thrill to have him in the WCBS studios after he came back to earth.”
Next, Reisman traveled downtown to Sirius Satellite Radio. The first of two interviews was on the educational comedy program “Sounds from Space,” hosted by Michael Weingartner, a Carl Sagan impersonator. Immediately afterwards, Reisman was interviewed by John Devore of the “Devore and Diana Show.”
The next stop was across the East River to Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Reisman met with Joe Gould from the New York Daily News at his favorite pizza place in Brooklyn, Peter Pizza. A colorful staple in this Brooklyn neighborhood, it provided the ideal backdrop to discuss Reisman’s love of the borough and the Yankees. Reisman signed autographs for patrons while he enjoyed his favorite slice of pie.
Reisman ended the day with a meeting with Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough president and icon of New York politics.
The next day started at the New York Daily News where Reisman met with their editorial board. Reisman fielded questions ranging from NASA’s relationship with Russia to how he was personally affected by long duration spaceflight.
“Scientist, explorer, bold adventurer, solid contributor to the sum total of what humankind’s knowledge will ultimately become,” said New York Daily News editor Jay Maeder. “Many a bright kid would want to grow up to be as cool as Reisman is. NASA should put him on a speaking tour of the nation’s schools.”
Later that afternoon, it was on to the main event of the trip – the New York Yankees game. During the opening ceremony, Reisman presented the team with dirt from the pitcher’s mound and a Yankees banner, both of which were flown in space during his mission. He also presented a picture of the old and new stadiums that he took during his mission onboard the station.
After a short break, Reisman ran out to the field with the team to throw out the first pitch of the game. Reisman soaked in the moment for a few seconds before throwing out a hard strike right over home plate, proving there was no need for a safety net. He then went on to do a live interview on Yankees radio during the bottom of the second inning.
The final day of the trip included a presentation to a crowd of about 200 people at the American Museum of Natural History Cullman Hall of the Universe. Reisman gave his post flight presentation to the audience, which included 40 participants of their summer high school science program.
“Our students were very excited to meet Dr. Reisman” said Brian Levine, Astrophysics Educator for the museum. “It was great for our students to see that he's a regular guy from New Jersey - and that anyone with a passion for science, coupled with the motivation to succeed, could follow his example.”
Following the presentation, Reisman answered questions from the audience and signed autographs for visitors, often stopping to pose for photos with excited fans.
“Dr. Reisman was awe-inspiring and fun” said Dr. Edith Gonzalez de Scollard, Associate Director of Federal Programs for the museum. “It is through this kind of personal interaction with scientists that students begin to embrace their own potential and envision their path to success in science careers."
Johnson Space Center, Houston