HOUSTON — Football isn’t the only attraction in the Lone Star State this week. Houston is known for many things, including the Johnson Space Center, the home of NASA. We got a behind-the-scenes tour of the training facility.
The first stop was the mission control center, where employees train to work on problems that could arise on the International Space Station, and learn how to think through situations while remaining calm.
The next stop was Building 9, where astronauts learn how to be in space. That’s where we caught up with astronaut Tom Marshburn, who has been on several flights and lived on the space station for six months.
“When you come in as a new astronaut, you will spend about two years learning spacecraft systems, orbital mechanics, everything you need to know in general about flying in space,” Marshburn said.
“You have to learn how to be a plumber, an electrician, an IT specialist, etcetera, because whatever breaks on the space station, you’ve got to be able to fix it,” he said. “They have wonderful high-fidelity, we call it mock-ups, that come very close to replicating what’s on the space station. When I arrived on the space station and flew through the hatch for the first time, I felt like I was back in one of the buildings here–except I was floating–here at the Johnson Space Center.”
The astronauts work five days a week and get weekends off. Every five minutes of their day is scheduled, which Marshburn said can be challenging.
“Your day is packed,” he said. “It’s a punishing schedule. You are in a laboratory. You want to do the right thing, do a good job. You’re moving from one experiment to another experiment that you’re very unfamiliar with, and I think staying on point, staying focused all day is one of the biggest challenges there.”
Marshburn said reaching space is an incredible feeling he will never forget.
“The combination of viewing the Earth with one of my crewmates, when we have enough time–which is very rare–enough time for both of us to take about 10, 15 minutes to look out the window together and discuss what we see out the window, that’s probably my most favorite memory.”
Marshburn has a special message for all the future astronauts in Colorado Springs.
“Start being an astronaut right now,” he said. “So that means taking care of your body. That means doing well in school and doing as best as you can, and never, ever give up.”
Marshburn majored in medical studies and physics in college. He said a lot of astronauts have degrees dealing with some type of technical math or science.