Hi Reddit, I’m Col. Terry Virts. I’m an astronaut who commanded the International Space Station from 2014-2015. I also spent two weeks piloting the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2010. During my time in space, I took more than 300,000 photos of earth, conducted hundreds of experiments, did everything from shooting an IMAX movie, to replacing a crew mate's tooth filling. And I went on three spacewalks. I’m now a professional speaker, photographer and author. And today I’m here to answer your questions about anything and everything!

Proof: https://i.redd.it/ux2nxl3ce4s21.jpg

Edit: Hi all, I'm gonna leave it here because of the Notre Dame news. Thanks so much for all your questions, I've loved answering them. Anybody wanna do it again?

Comments: 1105 • Responses: 78  • Date: 

cowens89832 karma

When you did finally arrive back on earth, what would you say was the biggest struggle adjusting to being back on an actual planet?

Astro-Terry1230 karma

Being dizzy! Things felt heavy, but I was definitely dizzy. Felt like 🍷🍷🍷

deadfermata577 karma

One of the rare AMAs where the person is simply here to answer questions and not sell something.

Thanks for your service and being here. /r/spacex and /r/nasa should get in here!

What is your favorite space film? And why?

Astro-Terry712 karma

It was INTERSTELLAR, because I love the story about the father and his daughter. But now the new APOLLO 11 film, directed by Todd Miller, is my fave, as my heart was racing faster than when I first launched when I watched it!

dennismiller2024774 karma

You like space?

Astro-Terry1176 karma

oh yeah

Astro-Terry639 karma

Hi all, I'm gonna leave it here because of the Notre Dame news. Thanks so much for all your questions, I've loved answering them. Anybody wanna do it again?

Birdseeding561 karma

What's it like trying to fall asleep in microgravity? Is it easy or difficult to adjust to mentally?

Astro-Terry876 karma

I was worried about that at first, but it was actually the easiest and best sleep I've ever had in my life!

CheeseCurdCommunism310 karma

This is interesting. Is that because of the true complete weight distribution your body has in space where as on earth there are pressure points?

Astro-Terry553 karma

IDK why, but I think that's it. You're just floating, so no pressure points.

constantbonanza487 karma

Since you are a government employee, do you get to take off for federal holidays while in space?

Astro-Terry769 karma

They give us a few. We combine them between U.S. and Russian holidays. Orthodox Russia celebrates Xmas on Jan. 7, so we do a lot of holidaying between Dec. 25 and Jan. 7.

kufunuguh283 karma

What does xmas look like in the ISS?

The_Emerald_Archer_525 karma

It's really difficult to keep the gifts under the tree.

Astro-Terry423 karma

LOL!

Astro-Terry503 karma

Messy ;-) We have a tree and decorations and a Santa Claus. So yeah, lots of stuff.

shubhamsy777402 karma

What do you think about SpaceX?

Astro-Terry1056 karma

I'm a big fan of SpaceX. They sent up two cargo ships of food and clean underwear for me while I was up there, so I'm 100% supportive of commercial space flights!

OrganicDroid386 karma

What are some “next big things” that you think humans need to do or achieve in space in the coming decades?

Astro-Terry737 karma

I think getting to Mars is the 21st century goal, but we need to get back to the moon first and use it as a testing ground

CrashTheMexican309 karma

Hey Terry! I'm 21 years old and my dream is to be an Astronaut. I've decided that the best path I can take to do this would be to join the Air Force this year and try to become a pilot, before eventually applying at NASA. Is there anything you would recommend to a young man starting this journey? Things you had wish you had known or done differently? The biggest thing that concerns me is when I select from the variety of jobs that are available upon entering the Air Force, I imagine being any kind of aircraft mechanic, or an engineer would be the best job experience I could have before I'm a pilot, and ultimately try to get selected by NASA, but a few other jobs, such as SERE and Linguistics are very attractive to me as well. If I want to follow this dream, would you recommend that I all in on mechanics/aircraft maintenance jobs?

Astro-Terry434 karma

Do what you love and are passionate about -- that will give you your best chance to succeed. Being a mechanic is a great thing. When I was going through the last astronaut applications, one was a NASCAR mechanic and that stood out as something really interesting.

_aidanb299 karma

Is a hotdog a sandwich?

Astro-Terry781 karma

I think of it as a vegetable actually

Chaosritter297 karma

What kind of entertainment does the ISS have?

Astro-Terry659 karma

NASA uplinks us mp3 files to watch. Sports and movies and GOT and my Pandora radio stations.

Bluest_waters152 karma

Did you watch 2001 Space Odyssey? Or Alien?

I don't think I could handle it

Astro-Terry303 karma

Yes, I watched both while in space. I love great storytelling and that's why I want to work in the entertainment business in the future.

Chaosritter69 karma

I'm sure the crew would enjoy Gravity.

Astro-Terry219 karma

The guy who shot GRAVITY, Chivo (Emmanuel Lubezki), is a friend and hero of mine :) That was a fantastic movie!

Chaosritter44 karma

Ever watched the original Solaris?

Astro-Terry81 karma

Have only seen the Clooney one, but it's on my watch list :)

dasatain294 karma

What was unexpected or surprising about being in space? Something you didn’t expect until you were there?

Astro-Terry638 karma

Seeing a shade of blue I'd never seen before.

JediDovahkiin282 karma

What was the most badass thing you ever did in space?

Astro-Terry602 karma

Spacewalking is cool, cutting my crewmate Samantha's hair was pretty stressful, but filming the IMAX movie "A Beautiful Planet" was the most impactful

EgemenVonRichtofen266 karma

Scott Kelly wrote that you messed up that haircut. It was one of the funniest parts of the book.

Astro-Terry374 karma

It would be way less stressful to cut Scott's hair ;-)

MetaRoke250 karma

What was your biggest "oh shit!" moment while in space?

Astro-Terry550 karma

There were a few- but a small piece of equipment came loose during my first launch and it banged against the back wall and made a loud noise- we were all 😳😳😳. Luckily it was OK! we found it floating a few minutes later once we were in space)

nasa237 karma

What inspired you to become an astronaut?

Astro-Terry346 karma

Apollo. The first book I ever read when I was in kindergarten was about Apollo.

Skiie233 karma

Is there any competitive nature left vs the Russians?

Astro-Terry494 karma

Definitely - I watched the Hockey world championships with my Russian friends, that was a big friendly competition.

DEV0UR3R231 karma

  • What did you like the most about life on the ISS?

  • What did you dislike the most about life on the ISS?

Astro-Terry429 karma

Most- the view (floating was a close second)

Least- being gone from my family

dpjhyland203 karma

How did space affect your mental health?

Astro-Terry549 karma

Pretty badly, but then the voices in my head calmed me down. kidding

iAmOrangutan202 karma

What were your space walks like? Was it hard to get your bearings?

You've lived a dream life, sir! Thanks for your hard work and dedication to science!

Astro-Terry503 karma

They were 99% work and 1% OMG- this is incredible. When I had a chance to take a peek it was like I was seeing things that humans weren't meant to see

MilitantPasta170 karma

Do you guys still get Omega Speedmasters while deployed?

Astro-Terry212 karma

Yes, we wore Omega Speedmaster x33 watches. They are awesome!

Mrwalkinman163 karma

Do you believe there is a future in commercialized space travel in the next 100 years as far as being accessible to anyone other than the highest income earners? Do you think that any commercial/industrial opportunities aside from space tourism will arise within the next 100 years? Thank you very much for your time.

Astro-Terry262 karma

In the next few decades, it will be too expensive for ordinary humans to go to space. You need to go 25, 000 km an hour to stay in orbit, so the cost of fuel etc is prohibitive. It's going to be a long time until we can go as fast as we need to at affordable rates.

bnfy137 karma

Would you like to go back to space?

Astro-Terry185 karma

Yes!

Bluest_waters130 karma

I hear often about how viewing the earth from space changed the attitude/perspective some astronauts have towards people and politics and wars and such.

Did your time in space effect how you feel or think about people as a group? Or the earth itself?

Astro-Terry244 karma

I think I'm a lot less black-and-white than I used to be and I can see why we should be getting along and not having all this conflict we're having on this planet.

LeSeyb129 karma

Have you ever had to handle conflicts on the ISS? How was it solved in such a confined and dangerous place with only a handful of people for months?

Astro-Terry179 karma

I was really lucky on expedition 43. We had a great crew and we're all still friends. But we're all still human and we were there for many months. But we never had anything major!

brokenfragment120 karma

What did you do before being an Astronaut? Naval Pilot?

Astro-Terry197 karma

I was an Air Force test pilot.

Royale_guy116 karma

Did you get taller during the trip?

Astro-Terry282 karma

I gained about 5 cm while in space. I was finally six foot tall! Sadly, as soon as our feet hit the plant we go back to our original height :(

xerberos83 karma

😳 Was that your spine extending? Didn't it hurt once you got back on the ground?

Astro-Terry197 karma

Yep. All your joints open up. And yes, even though we train hard for a couple of hours a day, being back on earth is HEAVY for a while.

Shibbi_Shwing38 karma

Does that come with any unique sensations or feelings?

Astro-Terry148 karma

My back was in a lot of pain for the first week or two while I was in space. I could tap my feel on the floor, and I would have a feeling of electric shocks running up my legs and back. It was my nerves stretching out. It hurt and was really bizarre.

Caffeinatedprefect109 karma

Now that you've been to space -- do you think extraterrestrial life exists?

Astro-Terry272 karma

This requires a long answer- there are billions of planets out there, so you would think yes. But life is so complicated that I think it requires a creator- so maybe. At any rate, those planets are SOOOO far away that I doubt that we will ever meet them.

Actuality546106 karma

How often did you get distracted by the view on a spacewalk?

Astro-Terry297 karma

Not very often, because 99% of the time I was extremely busy. But when I did it was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. It was like I was seeing God's view of creation

Dvanpat103 karma

What is the most awe-inspiring experience you had while aboard the ISS or during your time in space in general?

Astro-Terry297 karma

One moment on a spacework, I got to stop my work and I turned around and got to watch the sun rise. It was the most awe-inspiring moment I've ever experienced.

budsonguy101 karma

Was there ever a time when you were in space, that you regretted being there?

Astro-Terry209 karma

Never. I knew I'd be back to earth in a short time and I'd have the rest of my life down here, so I tried to enjoy it

TearsDontFall101 karma

Now that you can speak freely, tell us the truth...

Do you really not have astronaut ice cream?!?!

Astro-Terry188 karma

No I had Ben & Jerry's and Klondike. That astronaut ice cream was a marketing ploy.

AquaticSnail99 karma

In your opinion, what was the most important experiment you conducted, and why was it performed in space?

Astro-Terry150 karma

I did some experiments for a major drug company that were focused on bone and muscle health. We had to do them in space because weightlessness intensified problems with our bones and muscles.

FaithfulNihilist96 karma

- Did being in space change your perspective on the human condition (if so, how)?

- How long did it take for the view from orbit to stop impressing you (if ever)?

- If you could give one piece of advice to an astronaut going up for the first time, what would it be?

- What experiment(s) that you conducted in space stands out to you as most interesting?

- What do you think about the shift of space travel technology from government agencies to commercial companies?

Astro-Terry168 karma

It did. I realized that we're all primates on this spaceship together and we need to focus on working together and less on dividing ourselves.

- Never.

- Have a good idea of the pictures you want to take, because the time will fly by faster than you think. Even if you're there for six months

- Capillary Flow Experiment!

- I think it's a great thing and commercial companies are much better at being innovative and making things happen. The government has the primary job of keeping itself employed and not losing jobs or budget, but private companies have to make things happen or they go out of business.

RedRabbit1894 karma

How did it feel like being in a rocket going so fast and so high? Also, did you feel the "rollercoaster drop feeling" when you went up to space, and went down to earth?

Astro-Terry200 karma

A drop makes you feel weightless, on a roller coaster it only lasts for 20 seconds and in space, it lasted for 2 months.

LegoSkywalker72 karma

I've heard from Russian cosmonauts (on the Mir), that Space smells like burning metal and that it is VERY loud. Is the ISS loud?

Also, who's your favorite fictional space related character?

Astro-Terry163 karma

It depends on the module. They've improved the fans so some of the Russian modules used to be very loud, but now they can be quieter than the American ones. but it depends on the location -- in some areas it can be pretty loud, and in others, like our sleep stations, it's pretty quiet.

Jar Jar Binks Luke Skywalker!

ifeeltherain68 karma

What was your biggest roadblock to becoming an astronaut, and how did you overcome it?

Astro-Terry154 karma

being able to be brave enough to actually apply. Too many people are too shy or afraid of failure. If there's something you want to do you just have to go for it.

NuclearWarhead62 karma

How do you perform dentistry (in space) while not being a dentist? Did you train for that particular assignment? Have you replaced your own fillings since then?

Astro-Terry111 karma

Absolutely at the UT dental school in Houston. We learned to do the basics and I actually did the first ever filling replacement in space- it was fun!

rchaserr50 karma

What was the thing that you thought when you looked at earth from space for the first time?

Astro-Terry160 karma

About 15 minutes after launch I flew into my first sunrise- and I had the distinct thought "I've never seen that shade of blue before"- it was the most intense bluish color

FurryPornAccount47 karma

Which would you say is worse, leaving earth, or coming to earth?

Astro-Terry73 karma

Leaving Earth is loud, exciting, thrilling and dynamic, unlike, returning to Earth which requires more time because gravity is so disorientating.

BenBishopsButt46 karma

Did anything happen while you were in space that you weren't expecting/hadn't prepared for?

Astro-Terry160 karma

Seeing the planet. I thought I was prepared for everything, but you can't prepare for the emotional impact of seeing your planet down there and realizing you aren't on it. Plus it's just such a beautiful planet.

yummy_yummy943 karma

Colonel,

I’m a senior in college and was selected for naval aviation last semester. I am still holding onto the dream of being an astronaut one day... any advice? Test pilot school necessary? Thank you, sir!

Astro-Terry49 karma

Congrats! Not necessary but it is a HUGE help

claymachine41 karma

how quiet space is? are you feeling lonely there?

Astro-Terry80 karma

Inside the space station there's fans running constantly, and that's what you hear. Outside, of course there's no sound, but you do hear the sound of the fan running inside the space suit

wonderin1738 karma

what is it like to get back to your casual meals on Earth? Was it easy to adapt?

Astro-Terry62 karma

It was like a light switch, I went from space to earth immediately. Which surprised me – I thought it would be harder, but it wasn't.

Hellcowz38 karma

Do you ever see any debris from previous missions floating around orbit? I always heard there is a belt of essentially garbage in orbit. That true?

Astro-Terry66 karma

you could always see a cloud of debris around the shuttle, dust or frozen water or something from the payload bay, all small and harmless. But you can't see debris flying around from other orbits because it is moving at miles per second

Generic_Reddit-Guy34 karma

What was it like going back to gravity on earth?

Astro-Terry71 karma

HEAVY! I felt like a super hero who was being pulled down to earth with a big magnetic ray

phalseid28 karma

What personal item did you want to bring with you, but you couldn't because it wouldn't fit under your seat?

Astro-Terry53 karma

my golf clubs

qdobaisbetter26 karma

Do they still have to quarantine you all when you get back to Earth? If so, how long and for what?

Astro-Terry44 karma

Not anymore, the Apollo guys had to be in quarantine, but now we just do quarantine before launch to make sure we don't bring germs with us. When we get back to earth they give us a room in "crew quarters" that gives us some personal space, but it's not a proper quarantine

IbanezHand25 karma

Would You Rather Fight a Horse-Sized Duck in space or a Hundred Duck-Sized Horses in space?

Astro-Terry50 karma

As long as it had its wings tied back, I'd take the horse-sized duck.

IbanezHand62 karma

The wings are part of the package, Terry. Adapt and overcome, you were picked for space travel for a reason!

Astro-Terry62 karma

Then I need my lightsaber if I'm gonna fight that thing!

2cool4life25 karma

Have you ever seen a UFO?

Astro-Terry49 karma

nope

DiceMaster24 karma

Besides friends and family, what did you miss most about Earth when you were in space?

Astro-Terry46 karma

Pizza!!

bighero3118 karma

Did your brain ever do that falling thing when you were trying to sleep?

Astro-Terry28 karma

whenever I closed my eyes I would feel like I was pitching forward and rolling left, it was very bizarre, but I felt that for months. I would feel that for 10-20 seconds and then it would end

resonantSoul18 karma

How much Russian did you know before you went up? How much did you pick up while you were there?

Astro-Terry51 karma

До полета я знал русский немного. А на станции мы вместе общались, смотрели кино и я узнал много нового! I guess I have to translate too) My russian was okay when I launched. And on ISS we spend time together with our Russian crewmates, enjoyed our meals and watched movies together and I think my Russian got better!

catalyst51814 karma

What is your favorite picture you took from space and what is your favorite picture you've taken on Earth?

Astro-Terry52 karma

So hard to say cause I took so many (over 300k!). The last picture I took from space was pretty awesome though, it's a sun over the earth, wide angle shot, with "starburst" effect (f/22 aperture). I loved that one. And on earth- soooo many. I took some cool pics of the Sheikh Zayid Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and also in Antarctica and also of the Eclipse last year that were pretty cool.

CodyTheKit14 karma

Being in space were you anxious about any medical issues? Obviously you cannot go to a hospital in space, so I'd imagine if I randomly had pain anywhere my anxiety would be through the roof.

Astro-Terry41 karma

There are a lot of medical issues you deal with- back pain from stretching out, skin rashes, eyesight changes, dizziness. The most concerning one is radiation and cancer- there's nothing that's really been done about this, and it's a risk for long term astronaut spaceflight

thereisnocenter13 karma

Thoughts on SLS and the latest plans for moon landings?

Astro-Terry22 karma

I'm hopeful we can make it happen but a lot of things have to go right in order to do this within 5 years. SLS has been in development since 2005 and it isn't that close to flying yet. I think building the gateway will just slow us down.

canibeadogpls10 karma

How did u survive without pizza?

Astro-Terry30 karma

I barely did

thewhitewolf44883 karma

Whats the best song about space?

Astro-Terry10 karma

The new movie, Apollo 11, soundtrack!

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Astro-Terry8 karma

Hey everyone! I'm getting read to start our AMA at 10:15 PDT. Get read for blast off!

erhymeswithz2 karma

If you could suggest one thing for an aspiring astronaut, what would it be and, more importantly, why?

Astro-Terry8 karma

Do what you love and do it well- that's most important.

Cat_City_Bitch1 karma

What is the anxiety level like in the arc of pre-flight, time in space, and return? Were there moments that you were surprised by feeling fear when you didn't expect, or feeling calm about things you expected to be anxious about?

Astro-Terry2 karma

I was actually surprised how un-stressed I was, I fell asleep on the launchpad waiting for my STS_130 launch But once the engines lit it was of course all business. I really think the two "scariest" moments I face were cutting my female crew mate's hair (no kidding) and robotically moving Node 3 out of Endeavour's payload bay, it had "settled" a few inches from the wall and I had to be really careful

Sir_Lazz1 karma

Hello ! I've always wondered: how does it feel like to finally being able to breathe all sorts of diffenrnt odors, after being trapped in a tin can for 6 month ? I guess that there is not a lot of scents in the recicled air of the ISS...

Astro-Terry2 karma

Actually there isn't really an odor on the ISS, it's pretty sterile and clean

jmos_811 karma

Any advice for astronaut hopefuls? Thanks for your service!

Astro-Terry2 karma

do what you love and DON'T TELL YOURSELF NO