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Preflight Interview: Paolo Nespoli
10.28.10
 
JSC2010-E-046849 -- Expedition 26/27 Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli

Expedition 26/27 Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli participates in an Extravehicular Mobility Unit spacesuit fit check in the Space Station Airlock Test Article in the Crew Systems Laboratory at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo credit: NASA

Q: Why do you want to be an astronaut?

A: Well, it was a little bit of a dream when I was a kid. I mean, I was watching these astronauts these images coming from the moon with these astronauts jumping around and I thought it was like, as many other people said, oh, you know, want to be an astronaut, I would like to be an astronaut when I grow up. Actually it turns out that later on, when I was actually growing up, I was I mean, my focus, my interest was in technical stuff. I was a decent in the scientific area, I was able to use my hands, understanding mechanics and taking everything apart—as my father and mother would say, and putting together having some leftovers, you know—this kind of stuff, and I always like challenging myself to try to do things that are almost impossible. I was drafted in the army when I was 20 and I decided to go in a paratrooper unit, I decided then to move in the special forces, so every day was a new challenge and I really tried to address this in a good way and solve this challenge. And I learned in that period that with enough training, enough knowledge, the right equipment and the right psychological disposition, you can do almost everything, almost anything and the dream of going in space came back again I decided to pursue it in a little bit more precise way, and eventually I was able and lucky to be selected as one of these astronauts.

I’m going to see if I can get you take us through some of those steps. Let’s start with your hometown. Tell me about where you grew up and what it was like there.

Well, I was born in Milan, which is one of the major city northern Italy, but my family was not from there—it’s about a little bit out from the town of Milan. It’s a small town and I actually grew up in this small town, 8000 people then and 8000 people today, also. It was a relatively close environment where people lived there, went to school there, shopped there and did not travel really much in summer maybe somewhere. There was everything revolved around the social activities that were organized by the church in there, so it was a pretty, very nice, cozy environment. We were shielded by a lot of those weird things happening in the bigger cities, you know, drug and things like this. Actually I grew up with the none of our people that have the same age, were in class with me, and it’s funny how each one of them still live in the same town, they’re all of them get married, mostly with people from the same town, they’re all there, and it’s funny that when I can I go back there and I know that every Friday evening they get together to socialize a little bit and I just call and say, "Hey, Mario, where are we tonight?" "Oh, we are at Roberto’s house." "OK, I’ll see you there, OK." And it’s interesting that I go back there and it’s like I never left, so it’s really interesting.

Did you get a chance to see it from space during, during your previous mission?

Well, it’s difficult to see because there are no geographic, or precise geographical indication of where the town is. It’s now the suburbs of Milan but I took pictures there and then Lake Como is not that far away, the Alps are right there and the mission that I was there was pretty hectic, I tried several times to have a free time when exactly we were passing over Italy. It quite never happened except for the last night when I made a point of waking up at four o’clock in the morning and actually sneak upstairs so I could have a peek on there and finally we were able to fly right over northern Italy and I took a film, I filmed the whole thing. It was really interesting and it’s interesting as I’m, I was up there looking down and I wanted to be down it’s really interesting.

Do you have a feeling that that place and the people that were there had a lot to do with the person you became?

Yes, absolutely. I mean it’s interesting ’cause this is a region of Italy where people are very concentrated on work and—by the way, it’s one of the richest regions in Europe also—but people are very work, work-minded it, until a hundred years ago, a hundred fifty years ago, it was under the German/Austrian domination so some other people in Italy say, you guys are more Germans than Italians though the cultural part I think is important. The way I behave I see it has a lot to do with that. I, both on the positive side and negative side: sometimes people tell me you behave in a certain way like this, and I say, no no no no, that’s not possible, it’s not me, then I go home and I see exactly the same behavior from my friends, my parents I think we are part of when we grow up we, we learn things and then we try, we behave in that way. I left there when I was 19 essentially so I’m a little bit more open but I think a good part of the way I am, the way I behave, is because of the education I got there.

You touched on it but I want you to fill in some more detail for me. Tell me about your education and your professional career and how that led you up to becoming an astronaut.

Well I went through a, I went to regular school as everybody in Italy, we have what is called elementary school, middle school, high school, and then after that I was actually drafted by the army. There was a draft in Italy at that time. I had to spend a year in the army so I decided to go into the paratrooper just to try this challenge of jumping out of a plane and interesting enough when I was there after my first year I decided to stay. Maybe it was a way to get away from the very interesting but confined place where I grew up, and I was there in the army and I started looking around and I learned that there are challenges in life. There are things that are impossible to do but if you really try to understand what is that you need to do and try to have to train for that, try to have the right mental disposition for it, the right equipment and you plan things can be done, even impossible things and, so that what I did for the next five years. I was in the army in the special forces, we got training on every possible thing, challenge in every possible way, and in fact after five years there I was sent to Lebanon with the multinational peacekeeping force and I was there for a year and a half while all the things were getting crazy up there. This was a very strong experience and at the end of it, when we finally came back to Italy, make me think, well, OK, I’ve done this, I’ve learned a lot; is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? Actually some good friend asked me those questions and it’s then that I took back from my pocket this dream of becoming an astronaut. It seems impossible: at that time I was 25, I did not speak English because I learned French in school, was speaking French in, in Lebanon; I no speak English, no university technical degree, so it seems far-fetched goal, but again with the right disposition, the right mentality and if you focus on it you can do it.

And you ended up now in a career where the pinnacle of the career, the flying in space part of your career, is a thing that has a lot of danger to it, so, Paolo, I want to know what it is you think that we get or what is it that we learn from flying people in space that makes it worth taking that risk?

Well, first of all, we do take risks every day. I mean, every day, when we go out of bed in the morning we made a choice to do something, and it can be something simple or something complicated but everything we do carry risks. There is a significant statistic of people that get injured or even die by going to work in a car and we decided we need to take risks to carry out our life. I feel that the risk I take to carry out what my job or of being an astronaut and going in space, is not that big, different than the risk that people take in their normal life. I have full confidence on the spacecraft, on the people that build it, the people that control it, on the processes that are there to trap possible dangerous situation, so I really don’t feel in danger when I carry out my work. Actually sometimes I feel a little bit frustrated because there are so many people looking at it that sometimes I would like to do certain things and I’m prevented then from doing it because of a possible safety situation.

With that said, though, what is it that you, that we get a result of flying people in space that makes it worth doing?

Well going in space from a technical point of view, it’s really important because in space we can find an environment that we do not have on Earth, namely a place where there is a microgravity. [Gravity] is such a strong force here on Earth and it covers up a lot of other little things that are important but they are simply so minute they cannot be seen here on Earth, and going in space, removing gravity, then all of this little things become apparently, can be measured, can be looked, can be changed, and by learning all these little details we can really forward our knowledge and our capability, build new equipment, build new materials that take advantage of this peculiar behavior that we cannot see here on Earth. Let alone in space we can look down and look at Earth from a point of view that we don’t have here and a look at the sky the heavens, in a way that we cannot do here. So it’s really unique place where you can do things that we cannot do here on Earth.

You’re a member of the International Space Station’s Expedition 26 and 27 crews. Paolo, summarize what the overall goals of your six month mission are and what your main responsibilities will be in space.

Well, I’m part of the six-member crew that will be up there for six months and our main goal there is to be available for carrying out experiments and use this laboratory that is up there and can let us do things that we cannot do on Earth. Most of our time will be spent in either being an operator or a subject for experiments. Of course space station is up there in the middle of nowhere, let’s say middle of space, and we need to maintain it do things that normally here on Earth we would call somebody else to do, a plumber, electrician and things like this, so a good part of our time will be also spent in maintaining this laboratory.

Now you have been to the International Space Station before on a shuttle flight in 2007; what are you looking forward to about this, your first long-duration flight?

Well long-duration flight is it’s interesting because you now have the opportunity, the capability of settling in the station and really be able to work, let’s say, in peace and from one side enjoy your flight and for the other side really make it a routine. I’m looking forward to really be up there, really carry out all the experiments and all the activities that were set for me, to do some of this practical thing that I like very much, do robotics operation, maybe a spacewalk, all this sort of things, and, of course, enjoy a little bit the view from up there.

Well, that’s, make a good point because that’s, it’s a place where you can see things that we can’t see on Earth. Let’s set the stage. Tell me about the International Space Station. Describe the station and the different laboratories and, and airlocks and other modules that are up there right now.

The station has been essentially completed right now. There are a lot of laboratories and parts that have been built on ground and then assembled on space. A lot of these come from different countries, different places, and it’s now grown as a real multinational, multicultural environment where we can carry out experiments. There’s a U.S. laboratory, there’s a Japanese laboratory, there is a European laboratories, so each one of these laboratories has some facilities which means that we can carry out experiments in certain areas and it’s interesting that this facility can be brought anywhere in the station which means then a U.S. experiment can be carried out in the European laboratory or vice versa, so it’s really a nice environment where irrespectively of boundaries and where things have been produced, designed we really focus on achieving the objective that we have been sent up there to which means discover new things, get new stuff that will help us both in space and on Earth.

Of course, along with the laboratories there are modules for you to, in which to live and sleep and eat, etc.

Well the priority I would say is in laboratory. There is no habitation module. We thought and we talked about it—actually Italy was thinking to build a laboratory but then a habitation module—but then we actually went away from this and the priority is actually on carrying out experiments. There are certain places where we can sleep or we can have a meal together these are, of course, very important because otherwise we could not be up there but again our priority is really having space to carry out things. There are many contributions, I mean, one of the problems with station for example is where to stow equipment—it’s like you buy a house and then you bring in anything and whatever you can bring in your house for ten years stays there and after a while, even when we throw out stuff, the house get clogged up, and station is a little bit like that with a lot of things and we are using every little place to put stuff and lately with the addition of another module, again built by Italian Space Agency, we had the opportunities to make a little better use of space up there.

Today’s space station is dramatically different than the one that the Expedition 1 crew found when they got there ten years ago. What do you think is the best thing that has happened in the ten years that there have been people on board the International Space Station?

Well, at the beginning the focus was on actually building the space station and have it up there. Also the number of the crew members up there was a little bit limited, so their effort was mainly concentrating on building this laboratory. Now we have all the pieces together and we can really focus on carrying out experiments and use it as laboratory outside of this world.

We’ve mentioned that now you have six crew members on board the station and more laboratories so, combining those two things, there’s a lot more science work that’s being done on the space station these days. A lot of the experiments are designed to find out how people can live in that environment. Can you give me a sense of what you and your crewmates will be doing to further that research into how people can live in the space environment?

Well, here on Earth we have an environment where gravity, which is the force that Earth pulls us with it’s really our main force and does a lot of things that we take for granted in a certain way. When we go in space and we remove this force, then a lot of things happen both on our bodies and our body feels and behaves differently, than regular things, regular everyday things and the study of this, figuring out exactly what happens to our body how our body reacts, it’s extremely important. For example astronaut go in space and almost immediately they have the same feeling of, or the same metabolic reaction that people have when they lose skeletal mass, osteoporosis and so you take a healthy astronaut, you bring him in space and immediately it shows the signs. By studying this on a healthy, essentially a healthy person, we can actually try to figure out exactly the mechanism of this phenomenon and try to block it both from a chemical and countermeasure point of view, and this, of course, is going to help us on Earth. This is one of the examples.

As well as help people who are going to space for long periods of time as they will in future missions.

JSC2010-E-132355 -- Expedition 26/27 Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli

Expedition 26/27 Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli participates in a routine operations training session in an International Space Station mock-up/trainer in the Space Vehicle Mock-up Facility at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo credit: NASA

Well, yes, the space station is a good laboratory to let us see for long period of time what happens to our body when it’s up there, take the countermeasure to make it to soften some of these things that are pretty heavy, and at the same time learn. There are also other sides that have to do more with psychology, how the crew interacts together, how they work together, how the crew can work and talk to the ground because you are essentially you are up there, you are, quote and unquote, executing a plan that is put together by people on the ground, and we need support, we need all sort of activities. The station now is controlled by flight controllers on the ground so a lot of the daily minute controlling of the station is done from ground, but let’s think about what happens if we go to Mars where the delay, time delay its substantial so this cannot happen anymore. We need to learn all of this and the space station is one of the places that allow us to do this very effectively.

Space station is also a laboratory for research in a lot of other kinds of science; in this case you and your crewmates will be the operators in the laboratories. Give me a taste of what kind of science, other science work you guys are going to be doing during your Expedition.

Well, this is an interesting question because I get, I will not say I get lost but it’s very difficult for me to keep track to what I’m going to be doing up there because we do training the space station training lasts a couple of years if not more, so you end up doing experiments that have been trained some time earlier. I have a table here that actually shows [holds up chart] the list of all the experiments that are going to be planned for my mission, so I counted them, there are more than 60 in various discipline, human research, fluid physics, material science radiation monitoring, biology, education, Earth observation, technology, facility operation. I mean, it’s a very complex operation. Also, it’s interest, like, interesting that I’m an aerospace engineer and I like to do manual things, I like to do practical things. But then I’m thrown sometimes into do, for example, medical things, of being an operator. For example, I’m operating an echo[cardiogram] machine to look at the art, hearts of one of my colleague and see how this structure of the heart actually change in space, and this really interesting, learning all of this and carrying out all of this is extremely interesting and from one side it’s very useful and from the other side is also fun.

And for, because as you say there are so many different kinds of things, you rely on the help that you get from the flight controllers on the, on the ground in several places.

Yes, of course we cannot work without the people and the team on ground that from one side plan what we are doing, from the other side make sure that the resources on board are available, make sure that we collect the proper data. Some of the data are just soft data, numbers, and they can be transferred very easily, but some of the other data are actually physical, physical samples that need to be properly stowed, some of them at very low temperature, they need to be brought back to Earth. I mean, it’s a very complex organization, it have to work together and we are a small part, a very visible but a small part, of a big organization that actually has to work in a certain way so that we can produce our results.

As you mentioned a few minutes ago, along with doing science work, you and your crewmates are responsible for taking care of the station inside and out. Well, the current plan for your time on orbit calls for spacewalks in January, February and in May, out of the Russian section of the station. Can you tell me what, in general, what’s in the plan for those spacewalks and, and what kind of work’s going to be done?

Well, the spacewalks are going to be carried out by our Russian colleagues using Russian hardware and assets. We usually tend to have Russian go out and do spacewalk when things have to be done on the Russian segment, and USOS [U.S. operating segment] astronauts, they go out with American assets in the other side. At the moment I’m not planned for having a nominal spacewalk, although I’m part of the, let’s say, the emergency team that is ready to jump in action in case there is any problems, and there are 14 major cases that have been analyzed on ground that could lead us to have an emergency spacewalk. But we are involved on any activity that happens on board. We are involved I will be looking and helping my Russian colleagues in going out. I know they have to do reassembling of some equipment up there, rerouting some of the cable, moving some of the equipment up there, and bringing out and carrying back in some of the experiments. We’ll be there with them, making sure to provide them all the support needed. For example, there is the need to move out a robotic arm and look at what they are doing and supporting them. We are there, and I’m a little bit envious now that they get to go outside, so I don’t really hope that nothing breaks in the station when I’m up there but if it does, we are ready to go.

Based on the current launch schedule, you should see one visit from a space shuttle during your time on the station. Tell me about what the plans are for the joint operations with the Endeavour crew during STS-134.

Well space shuttle flights to the space station are really hectic flights. I mean, I was on one earlier and they get packed with activities, one after the other, I mean, these guys work 15 days nonstop because they have very high goals and they need to do this because it’s an essential part of building of the station or transferring material and everything. From a station point of view, we are a little bit more relaxed, I mean, in that, that if we don’t do something today we can do it tomorrow and it’s more important getting the things done but also quality-wise and preserve the crew and our capability. We don’t want to burn ourselves up in 15 days of crazy work, then we still have six months to go and so I’ve seen when I was up there before, I’ve seen as part of the crew that we were kind of running around and I saw the guys on the station kind of relaxed and ready to help us. Actually, their help was extremely important and effective because, essentially, it’s like that if you go to your neighbor house and you need to do something but you don’t know where things are and so you need this, you need that, and I remember, I mean, reading procedures, says, OK, get this tool and, you know, look around the station for half an hour and I could not find it; I would get something else and then I would just ask somebody else, one of the station guys—Clay [Anderson] in that case—Clay, do you know what this is and what it is, and he’d just look around, grabs it and gives it to me, and so at the end I learn if I want to get something that is part of the station, I need to talk to this guy because they know everything, and I’m looking forward to receiving the shuttle guys there and be of help so that they can carry out their activities at best and as quick as possible.

The big payload that this mission is delivering to the station is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. Tell me about this instrument and what it will do once it’s installed out on the station’s truss.

Well I read things about AMS, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, and I am an engineer and I like to look at things and this guy are talking about cosmic ray, dark matter, these things that are almost science fiction for me, so I’m kind of thinking, wow, it’s great to be part of this thing so I hope this things work so we can actually get data and I mean, the purpose of the AMS is to actually acquire data on this dark matter, cosmic ray, antimatter and prove some of the theories that have been, we have used for the last year but we don’t have an actual proof of this so this visit I think this will, if we’ll be able to collect this data we’ll be able to really open up science and lead us maybe to other directions. I’m just looking forward to this, to see this experiments going up there and seeing outside of the station and it’s going to be very interesting from a practical point of view to set it up and commission it, and there is no, it doesn’t really glow when it works but I’m pretty sure I will look at it outside there and I will be interesting to look at all of this.

And there’s a European pedigree for the hardware, right?

Well, yes, they, a good part of the AMS, both from the technical and scientific point of view, then the hardware point of view has been built in Europe, so this is a true international, multicultural, multi language experiments that really bring us in space together as a human race and allow us to further our knowledge in that direction. I think this is very good.

STS-134 is the last scheduled flight of the space shuttle Endeavour. Paolo, what are your thoughts about the space shuttle’s place in the history of human space flight and its role in building this space station?

Well, the space shuttle has grabbed a primary spot on this. I mean it has been the workhorse of going in space for the last 30 years. I mean, it has done great mission, it’s still the only vehicle that allow us to bring in space a big cargo with six, seven, eight astronauts, and bring it back if necessary. There is no match on Earth right now, and it’s actually interesting because when people ask me about this and they say, well, it’s time to retire the shuttle and put it in pension I usually tell them well we retire the shuttle not because it’s old, but we retire it because it’s too new: I mean, 30 years later the shuttle is still too new. There are certain areas where things did not progress in the last 30 years and we thought, OK, this solution is good enough but we surely find a different solution the next couple of years and 30 years later we still don’t have a technical solution for it so after the shuttle we go back to, we will go back to capsule, like the Apollo type, so I think the shuttle will come back again later on in the future when we will find a new technical solution, new materials, and we can address some of the issues that we’re having now with the shuttle, we can address them in a better way. We’ll send away the shuttle because, I think, it’s too new for today. It has done a great deal of work and, I’m looking forward to see its last flight, but in the future I’m looking forward to see it coming back.

From the station’s point of view, even after the shuttle stops flying, there are still three other proven cargo ships that are supplying the station. Each one of them is scheduled to make a visit to the station during Expedition 26. Tell me a little bit about the capabilities if you have a European, a Japanese, and a Russian cargo ship, and what it is that the crew members do when they make their arrivals?

JSC2010-E-132955 -- Expedition 26/27 Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli

Expedition 26/27 Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli and Expedition 26 Flight Engineer and Expedition 27 Commander Dmitry Kondratyev participate in a Robonaut familiarization training session in the Space Environment Simulation Laboratory at NASA's Johnson Space Center. Photo credit: NASA

Well, we are really lucky because, again now, as you mention it, now our flight we will see everything and every single possible spacecraft coming and visiting us. Of course, the Russian supply vehicle Progress has been flying for many, many years now and it’s a very reliable spacecraft, it is essentially fully automatic capsule. The crew has some kind of role for monitoring the approach of the spacecraft and can intervene in case a problem, can take manual control of the spacecraft as has been done several time. The size of the capsule is, this instrument can have fairly good size of cargo but it’s not that huge and an important point is that can also carry fuel and liquid back to the station. Then we will have ATV, the European Automated Transfer Vehicle. It will be the second flight of this vehicle. It was interesting because on its first flight the vehicle actually approached and docked automatically to the station. Of course, for this we had a lot of people with their hair standing up like this because on the first flight you have this 20-ton vehicle approaching the station with possibly problems there while the vehicle docks totally automatically, the astronauts were in charge of monitoring the docking, making sure with independent means that the vehicle was actually doing what it was supposed to do and the only thing they had was the capability of stopping the docking and sending away the vehicle in case a situation was strange. We do not have the capability to manually control this docking and this scenario will be the same for ATV 2. Then we will have HTV [H-II Transfer Vehicle], the Japanese cargo vehicle. That also is very interesting, very big vehicle. It actually gets to the station and doesn’t dock to the station: it stops at about 10 meters, 30 feet, below the station, and stops there and the control mechanism controls so this stays in a little box in there, and then we are supposed to take the robotic arm, go and grab the vehicle and bring it up to station. That’s a very good, interesting solution because the last few meters are very, very delicate and if we do it with the robotic arms then we can be really precise and we take away this fact there are two vehicles flying independently because not only the vehicle moves, but the station moves so you can have all sort of problems. Obviously we are not stopped; it looks like we are stopped but you are flying in space at seven kilometers a second, so things need to be controlled carefully and the fact that you go and grab it with the arms takes away a lot of these problems. Of course, we need to do the grabbing, we need to go, do the berthing; the vehicle has an external platform that we need to grab and brought up in station, so it’s a very interesting vehicle, multifaceted and has a lot of capability. With all these three vehicles, the station really can get effective support and we can have from one side material to live, the food, water, clothing and other things and very important, there can be a lot of equipment, experiments carried up in station so the station can keep working and the station can keep produce results.

There is, in fact, another cargo ship that’s being developed under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program that has got test flights that are scheduled currently coming up during your time on board. Describe for me what is going on with the Dragon fly-by mission in March and then later the rendezvous flight in May.

Yes the idea of opening up this capabilities to the industries is, of course, one of the results of the work that we do in the space, so things are mature enough now that not only governments can do this but industries can start doing it and provide a service and be paid for SpaceX Dragon is one of the first vehicles that will be tested up there. The first flight will just go close to the station. From inside the station we will activate the special transmitter that talks to the vehicle itself and we’ll check the capability of sending and receiving data. This is very important because if the vehicle can talk to the station, then it can approach. If not, then there is a problem there. So this is a very important test flight both from a point of view of showing that the capability of the vehicle that the vehicle can fly up to space, approach the station, go around executing a set of maneuvers, and then re-enter the atmosphere. By the way Dragon, differently than Progress, HTV and ATV, has also return capability so this is going to be demonstrated, too, so we can, we will be able via Dragon to bring back things from the station. And then the second flight, it will be actually a docking flight. The vehicle will approach the station as the Japanese vehicle, stop at about 10 meters, and we will go and grab it and bring it to station. That will be really interesting, looking forward to do all of this.

From the station, from the arm operator’s point of view, is that a difficult task to, to reach out and grab that other spaceship?

Well I hope it’s not as difficult as the simulation that they have us doing here on ground where you look at this vehicle and it’s dancing around like a possessed, crazy guy and we try to go and grab it and so we are chasing it and you need to be really careful because you don’t want to bump the vehicle or you don’t want to have problems with the arm. The arm can only stretch up to a certain point, so the training that we do here foresee that we are able to really grab it in an extreme situation. I’m looking forward to a more stable vehicle, as ATV and HTV as demonstrated, and we are now able to have a control algorithms and a way to control the vehicle so they’re really stable in space and I’m, and I think Dragon will be the same. We will not be needed to go and chase this crazy cat around the sky.

Near the end of your flight there are a couple of significant anniversaries coming up on April the 12th, which this year will be the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s spaceflight and the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle flight. What are your thoughts about reaching these milestones?

Well I was a kid when I saw the first images coming from the moon with these astronauts bouncing around, and there’s when I thought I really would like to be an astronaut and of course it was a dream that got thrown in there but then little by little it became this dream became a reality and it’s now thinking that I’m essentially in space and following the footsteps of Yuri Gagarin or the space shuttle, being able to fly in a space shuttle it’s almost, still almost a dream. I mean, it still seems impossible but this is what we’re doing and essentially we have been able in the last 50 years to really progress from a little suborbital flight—extremely important, but if we look for today’s standard was it a relatively small minor thing—to being able to in, on orbit for six months and planning to go to space. I think in 50 years we did enormous, gigantic steps these people, Yuri Gagarin, all the people that work on the shuttle and all the other vehicle, have done incredible things. We went to the moon. It’s incredible. But there are even more incredible things looking there, waiting for us and, and I feel good and happy to be part of this I feel satisfied. It’s very interesting.

I have to ask, where do you think we’ll be in the next 50 years, and what role will the International Space Station play in helping get there?

Well, International Space Station is a reality today. It will be in space at least for another ten years, I’m convinced more than that. It will provide us with a lot of data on how to live in space, work in space, how to best use this weightless environment to achieve results and understanding both basic concepts and other more complicated concepts. I think it’s essential. It’s one of the necessary steps so we can acquire knowledge and know-how, so we can plan this more complex future steps. I think I’m convinced we will go back to the moon but we will go to Mars. I mean, it’s, something that we will be doing and I’m not sure exactly how long it will take—20, 30 years—but we will be there, and it’s a long way. I mean, it’s seems relatively easy, we’ve been to the moon, we can go anywhere, but going to Mars is another, it’s an order of magnitude of effort or complexity than going to the moon, and there is a lot of things that we need to really figure out before we can go there. Space station has a central role now in letting us acquiring data so can we can plan for that.