'How To Astronaut' – A Memoir To Inspire Future Space Travelers

Sep 15, 2020

From Texas Standard:

As private space companies begin to send more astronauts to the International Space Station, it's easy to imagine how they could one day send civilian travelers into space, too.

When that day comes, retired NASA astronaut, Col. Terry Virts, wants space travelers to be prepared. His new book, "How to Astronaut: An Insider's Guide to Leaving Planet Earth," is a humorous how-to, of sorts, for the space curious.

Virts told Texas Standard that his two goals for the book were to "wow" people and make them laugh.

"There's a million astronaut memoirs, so this is not that," Virts said. "I wanted to make a fun book that's accessible to everybody ... anybody who's interested in space, I hope, will enjoy it."

On how an astronaut's role has changed over the decades:

Back in the day, the space shuttle missions had specialists. I was a pilot, and I did robotics; we had a couple guys who did spacewalks; we would fly medical doctors, so everybody kind of had their role. ... But on the space station, I had to do everything; I was the crew doctor, and the crew scientist, and I was the TV personality doing interviews.

On the pitfalls of weightlessness:

There's a chapter in my book called "The Vomit Comet." ... It was awesome; I loved flying on that thing. But I did it without taking [nausea] medicine, and I did it with taking medicine, and you are much happier taking the medicine ... because If you've never flown in space, if you're not used to that kind of thing, you're not going to feel good.

On other "unusual" topics in his book:

I talk about how to get to Mars; I talk about "Are there aliens?"; some other unusual topics like, what do you do it your crewmate dies? What do you do with their body? That's something that I don't remember formally training on, but people don't last forever, and if we fly in space for a long time then, eventually, that's going to happen. Anyway, some interesting topics that you don't normally hear about in a typical NASA interview.

On what he missed most while in space:

Your friends and family, of course – that's the one thing that you just can't have. ... The food in space was actually really good – it was better than what I cooked for myself as a bachelor. But I remember when I landed ... my flight surgeon went over and bought me a chicken sandwich, and that thing tasted better than any food I've ever had in my life.

On his (surprisingly) scariest moment as an astronaut:

I spent two and a half hours learning how to cut [astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti's] hair. And then when we got in space, after a few months, she's like, "Hey, it's time to cut my hair."... Cutting Samantha's hair was, by far, the most stressful thing I've ever done in my life.

On his advice to young people:

Do what you love. Everybody has gifts and talents, and so pursue that and you won't be going to work for your whole life; you'll be doing that you love and that's really important. ... If you tell yourself "No," you're never going to get to do the dream.