IAmAn Astronaut who has been to space twice and will be commanding the I.S.S. on Expedition 35. AMA.
Details: Well, I am technically the son of an astronaut, but as my dad doesn't have the time to hover around the thread as questions develop, I'll be moderating for him. As such, I'll be taking the questions that are not completely asinine and handing them over to him to answer, then relaying it back here. Alternatively, you can ask him a question on his facebook or twitter pages. He is really busy, but he's agreed to do this for redditors as long as they have patience with the speed of his answers.
Note: This is a continuation of a thread I made in the AMA subreddit. You can see the previous comments here: http://tinyurl.com/3zlxz5y
Edit: It appears that the questions received are taking a serious turn for the worse. Apparently, the anonymity of the internet is winning over the general desire for serious Q&A. As such, I'll be leaving the thread from here on out, and stop answering questions. If I didn't answer your question directly yet -- look around, because it may have been answered elsewhere (I had been informing people when their question had already been answered, but they got very rude very quickly so I quit), and if not don't be afraid to ask on twitter or facebook. That way, he'll be able to give you a bit more face time. Thanks to all who took it seriously and participated. For the most part, it was an enriching and enjoyable experience.
Comments: 2236 | Responses: 30 | Date: 2011-04-09 17:24:00 UTC source
jaksiemasz 595 points, 23 minutes after
Would you consider going on a one-way mission to Mars to be the first person to visit?
DoctorNose 1143 points, about 1 hour after
"Yes. I would be honoured to be given the opportunity."
CaptnHector 311 points, about 2 hours after
How do you (not your father) feel about that?
DoctorNose 830 points, about 2 hours after
I'd be sad to see him leave, proud to see him go.
johnnythebiochemist 88 points, about 2 hours after
Son, how would you feel about your dad leaving the planet forever? Obviously a mix of pride and sadness, but in the end, would you say "go?"
DoctorNose 358 points, about 2 hours after
In a tearful heartbeat.
BlorfMonger 471 points, 26 minutes after
What does the ISS smell like? Is it like fresh air conditioning, or like a locker room?
DoctorNose 825 points, about 2 hours after
"It smells clean, like a tidy laboratory, with a hint of machine."
emiteal 329 points, 41 minutes after
We always see photos of the Earth taken from the space station, but obviously any time the Earth or Moon are in the shot, you can't see any stars due to the exposure level.
What do the stars look like when you're physically in space looking at them? Is the arm of the Milky way visible from the space station? Is it as amazing or more amazing than a really clear night on the Earth?
I've been wondering about this for a while and haven't been able to Google up an answer. Obviously telescopes get amazing photos from up there, but I'm more curious about what the human eye can see.
DoctorNose 535 points, about 3 hours after
"Yes - that part of the sky is indeed milky. And with no air particles in the way, the stars don't twinkle - they shine as steady points of light."
NeverInformed 283 points, 9 minutes after
Please tell me what it's like to FLOAT ??
DoctorNose 479 points, 10 minutes after
"It is the most amazing experience you can know. Once you get over the sickness from your inner ear getting used to not having an up or down, that is."
emiteal 116 points, about 1 hour after
How similar is it to floating in a pool? NASA says it's similar in their explanations for the training you guys go through, but you mention inner ear sickness while adjusting, and I don't find that a common problem in a pool! :) If you can put any subtleties about the difference into words, 'twould be much appreciated!
DoctorNose 324 points, about 1 hour after
"Imagine floating in a pool without water, if you can. We train in the pool because it is the closest approximation we have on earth, but nothing can do it true justice. The inner ear problem comes from your body no longer having a judge of up and down. Without an up and down, your balance becomes out of whack, your body thinks you're poisoned and you vomit. Makes the first day less enjoyable."
Gaelach 216 points, about 1 hour after
Have you thrown up in space? Is that... messy?
DoctorNose 371 points, about 1 hour after
"Yes, and yes."
OccamsRizr 78 points, about 1 hour after
Did you throw up both times you were in space, or were you used to it enough a second time that you didn't get sick?
DoctorNose 154 points, about 2 hours after
Sorry to point you to wikipedia, but it does have a good explanation of space vomit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_adaptation_syndrome
Edit: He was better the second time, but the two flights were half a decade apart.
DoorknobSpeaking 242 points, about 3 hours after
You came to my school on a day I was absent and I've yet to forgive myself. I also did a project on you in the sixth grade. You're awesome :)
My question is, do you think the colonization of space is a viable possibility in the next hundred or so years?
Thanks for doing this AMA!
DoctorNose 46 points, about 21 hours after
"Of course! We have been permanently living off the planet on ISS for over a decade. It is our first permanent step away from home, as a species."
DashingLeech 203 points, 35 minutes after
As a Canadian astronaut, are there any Canadian space technologies he's particularly proud of? The Canadarm is an obvious one, but there is a lot of Canadian technology on the shuttles and space station. Are there others he finds impressive?
DoctorNose 349 points, about 1 hour after
Dad was the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm and did spacewalk to install the Canadarm 2. I can assure you without asking that they are his pride and joy.
ptsaq 182 points, 5 minutes after
What is more physically draining the launch or the landing? On the Shuttle if the pilots were to lose computer navigation would there be any real chance to manually land the craft safely?
DoctorNose 218 points, about 2 hours after
"Shuttle launch is harsher, Soyuz entry is harshest - very, very violent. We can purely manually fly both vehicles back from orbit."
admiralbones 179 points, 10 minutes after
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
DoctorNose 355 points, 12 minutes after
As the moderator, I am going to pull an answer from the other thread.
"I decided to become an astronaut on 20 Jul 69, when I was 9. I never doubted myself, just circumstances. I've been very lucky."
Cheesejaguar 164 points, 25 minutes after
Interesting coincidence, I decided to become an astronaut at age 9 as well. That's the year I was finally old enough to attend Space Camp. Not quite there yet :-) maybe about halfway there. Finishing up my degree in Aerospace Engineering and then we'll see where life takes me.
Any tips for the astronaut selection process?
DoctorNose 393 points, 37 minutes after
"Be better than the competition."
whats8 179 points, 13 minutes after
Astronomically, what do you think the greatest discovery will be before you die?
DoctorNose 710 points, 29 minutes after
"The beauty of exploration is that you don't know the discovery until it is discovered. I don't know."
the_shape 160 points, 24 minutes after
What type of fun games do astronauts play up there during the downtime? (the best answer will be what NASA hates the most)
DoctorNose 370 points, about 1 hour after
From the other thread:
"ISS end-end races, zero G hide and go seek, and velcro darts."
[deleted] 149 points, 15 minutes after
What's the biggest difference between the public image of the space program and how it actually is? Like what do the public not know about an organization that sends people into space.
How well does NASA calculate and communicate the chances of the loss of spacecraft? I've gotten the sense that they know this pretty well, but that it's hidden from the public. Like there was a 5% chance for the space shuttle and that was almost exactly when the Challenger was lost. Then it was lowered to ~1% and that was almost exactly when the when Columbia was lost (statistically).
PS - Thanks for what you do! I think it's amazing, liek the best thing humanity has done.
DoctorNose 247 points, 36 minutes after
Son's note: The funny thing about knowing all the info before reading a news article is you get to see how much shit they make up to fool the public. You can safely assume 99% of what is said in a newspaper article is made to make spaceflight look either more dangerous, less interesting, or more interesting than it actually is. In short, it is a pack of lies.
The public could know everything about NASA if they just looked at the thousand of blogs and articles published by NASA employees to inform the public. But people would rather try and make things seem more "out there".
DabnusShamer 144 points, 21 minutes after
What's the best non-obvious perk to being an astronaut?
DoctorNose 255 points, about 1 hour after
"Well, that's hard to say. I guess I'd say respect."
piejesus 143 points, 7 minutes after
How long do you think it will take for us walk on Mars?
DoctorNose 311 points, 18 minutes after
"It is a complicated question that is up to more than just those who want to see it done. We have the skills and the capacity. All we need now is the will."
[deleted] 27 points, 33 minutes after
DoctorNose 85 points, about 1 hour after
You'd be amazed.
Edit: It's either that or a terrible pun.
daybreaker 51 points, about 1 hour after
His dad is an astronaut. "Badass" is his middle name.
DoctorNose 140 points, about 1 hour after
DoctorNose 170 points, about 2 hours after
A second answer:
"It depends on our choices and needs. We could be there in just a couple years if Earth was fatally threatened, and we prioritized budgets that way. But for pure science and research it will be much longer. We really need to invent the next level of engine technology to make it practical - like from propellers to jets, from sail to steam."
kaltunes 115 points, 20 minutes after
How does it feel to do something that millions dream about every day?
DoctorNose 297 points, about 1 hour after
"It is a humbling thing to be able to live your dream, let alone the dreams of others."
alax_rang 111 points, 11 minutes after
What is your educational background?
Does a space mission require a several different specialists, or do you mostly have the same interests/expertise?
What are the physical requirements for going into space?
As I imagine you're actually in space for the most part, what kind of work do you do during "off" times?
DoctorNose 196 points, 21 minutes after
"The requirements for going to space are obviously rigorous, both physically and mentally. Physically, astronauts are expected to be in top shape. There are also height restrictions (due to shuttle and suit sizes). My background is in mechanical engineering, and I was a experimental test pilot before getting selected."
"There is no real off time. Astronauts train for flights upwards of four years in advance. On top of that, there is capcom, PR work, and a variety of conferences and other behind the scenes duties."
dicknickallen 109 points, about 1 hour after
How is sleeping in space? I imagine it would amazing not needing to toss and turn.
DoctorNose 134 points, about 2 hours after
Son's answer: You're strapped in a foldaway closet. To me, it has always looked uncomfortable.
DiggedToDeath 91 points, 19 minutes after
How well do space showers work? Does it start getting rank up there with the crew after a while? I imagine living up there being like living in a submarine, except much more cramped.
DoctorNose 169 points, about 1 hour after
There are no showers in space. You just get dirty.
From the other thread:
"It is just as awkward as being on an outdoor camping trip with five friends."
Edit: Sponge baths.
dave168 90 points, 19 minutes after
What would be your dream mission?
DoctorNose 183 points, about 1 hour after
"I would love to go to Mars. It is the next logical step for man, and obviously I would love to be a part of that."
redditor3000 74 points, 23 minutes after
What do you do for fun in space?
DoctorNose 166 points, about 1 hour after
"Well, to put it simply, everything. It is a job you train for years to do, and when you get there you simply relish it."
Jasonresno 73 points, 28 minutes after
First thoughts as you took off on your first launch?
DoctorNose 170 points, about 2 hours after
From the other thread:
"Launch is like being shaken in a huge dog's jaws, while pushed from the Earth by an unstoppable unseen giant force."