The Canadian astronaut on training for life in space, tips from Chris Hadfield and why he’s packing a Rubik’s Cube.
HOW DO YOU EVEN BEGIN TO PREPARE FOR SPACE TRAVEL?
It’s everything from athletics to Russian language training to learning to fly and using the Canadarm. And we have to learn all the emergency procedures of the space station and the rocket. All in all, it’s like a mixture of getting a pilot’s licence, public speaking and prepping for a sports event.
WHAT’S THE PHYSICAL TRAINING LIKE?
Space takes a toll on your body, so you have to be in the best possible shape. Your shoulders need to be strong just to wear the spacesuit. We also train in a centrifuge, which simulates the same g-force that our bodies will experience during ascent and re-entry. For me, all the physical work is really new.
HOW DO YOU PACK FOR SIX MONTHS IN SPACE?
Your suitcase is the size of a shoebox. You only need to bring personal effects, like a wedding ring, or mementos you want from Earth. Everything else, like toiletries, is standard issue. I’m bringing something to remind me of my children and my wife, and a Rubik’s Cube that my parents gave me when I was a kid.
DID COMMANDER HADFIELD OFFER ANY TIPS?
He and Julie Payette have been very generous in sharing advice with the rookies. The most useful thing I gleaned from talking to them is that it’s called “human space flight” for a reason — you’ve got to be yourself.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO UP THERE?
Seeing our beautiful planet floating against the black velvet of space. Everybody knows it exists, but few have seen it.
WHAT DO ASTRONAUTS DO IN THEIR SPACE OFF-HOURS, FOR FUN?
Frankly, most people just look out the window.