In Their Own Words: Astronaut Michael Foale

Text Size

In Their Own Words: Astronaut Michael Foale
› View Now
Hi. I'm NASA astronaut Mike Foale.

Q: What is your earliest space-related memory?

Foale: My earliest space-related memory was at the age of about six-years-old. I went to the World State Fair in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, with my mom and grandma, American grandma, and I saw John Glenn's capsule there. It was back in the 60s, early 60s, and it was all blackened and it looked charred. One person only could fit in that capsule and they said that it had been in space. And I thought, wow I'd like to do that.

Q: How are the ISS and Mir different?

Foale: Well I've lived on the Mir space station for five months and I've lived on the ISS for six months. There was about eight year's difference in time between the missions. Mir was 1997 and I flew on the station in 2003-4. The Russian bit of the space station is the same, because the Russians had the same technology that they took from Mir and put it onto the International Space Station. Their spacesuits are similar, their rocket is similar. The American part, of course, and the international part, the Japanese pieces and the European pieces on the International Space Station, weren't there on Mir. So they're new and different. So there's a little bit of the old and a little bit of the new in the International Space Station. However, the experience of living in space for four-and-a-half months on Mir and six months on the International Space Station, pretty much the same.

Q: What are the benefits from international cooperation in space?

Foale: The good thing about being an astronaut today at NASA is being part of an international program. I was a terrible language student when I was a kid in school. However, when I was sent to Russia to study the Mir space station, and lived there with my family four-and-a-half years, I learned Russian, I had Russian friends, and I learned about the Russian culture and history. I've become much more humanistic and it's of great value to me. I'm still a good scientist. So taking part in other countries' missions is a positive thing and it lets me get new friends and learn new approaches to solving problems in space.

Q: How do you prepare to become an astronaut?

Foale: To get ready to become an astronaut, you need to study hard in school, math and science, physics. I thought quite hard about what it would take to be either a test pilot astronaut or a scientist astronaut. I chose the science route and did well on my exams. I also did the outdoor things like, scuba diving, and I learned to fly and I followed all of the interests that go around space flight. I put those together as well, to make myself a good candidate when I applied to NASA.

› View Now