Spending Time Outside
Rex Walheim in a training version of his orange launch and entry spacesuit

The STS-122 space shuttle mission will be Rex Walheim's second spaceflight. Image Credit: NASA

In his free time, Rex Walheim likes being outside. He skis, hikes and plays softball.

He also likes being outside for his job. Rex Walheim is an astronaut.

Five years ago, Walheim flew on the STS-110 space shuttle mission. The shuttle went to the International Space Station. Walheim spent 14 hours working outside the space station. He helped add a new part to the station.

Soon, Walheim will go back to the space station. He is part of the crew of the STS-122 space shuttle mission. Once again, Walheim will work outside the space station. He will go on three spacewalks to add another new part to the space station.

The STS-122 crew will add the Columbus laboratory to the space station. Many nations work together on the space station. Columbus was made by the European Space Agency. It will add more room for space station crew members to do science experiments.

Walheim said he really enjoys working outside the space station. One thing he likes to do is look at Earth. Our planet is very pretty from space, he said. The oceans are very blue. "The views from space are pretty spectacular," he said. "I could see from Wyoming all the way to southern California."

Because the space station is going around Earth so quickly, the sun rises and sets several times a day. That means that when an astronaut is on a spacewalk, "the lights keep going on and off every 45 minutes," Walheim said.

Walheim said he really enjoyed visiting the space station. "The station is an absolutely beautiful place," he said. "There's lots of room. It’s fun to see how far you can just float before you run into a wall. There's lots of floating room."

Walheim enjoys being outside, but he says he enjoys something else even more. "My number one hobby is my kids," he said. The last time he traveled into space, in 2002, his children were only 4 and 5 years old. Now that they are older, they will likely be able to follow and understand more about their father's mission.

The seven crew members stand in front of a space shuttle trainer

The members of the STS-122 crew are (from left) Hans Schlegel, Leopold Eyharts, Stanley Love, Stephen Frick, Alan Poindexter, Leland Melvin and Rex Walheim. Image Credit: NASA

Before becoming an astronaut, Walheim was an Air Force pilot. "I always liked to fly," he said. While in the Air Force, he started to work with NASA. He decided to try to become an astronaut. On his second try, NASA picked him to be one. "There (are) lots of paths to becoming an astronaut, and I took the flying path."

Students who would like to be a part of NASA should study math and science, he said. Even if they do not become astronauts, students can do many different jobs that use those subjects. "You'll have a background that you can use in some exciting fields," he said.

Math and science were Walheim's favorite subjects in school. He said it is important to do something you like. It's easier to be good at something if you enjoy it. "What you love is what you'll excel in," he said.

Students who study hard in math and science today may go on their own spacewalks in the future. In fact, someday some of them could walk on the moon and Mars!

Related Resources
Rex Walheim  →
NASA Education Web Site  →

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services