(CBS Seattle) — Dr. Drew Feustel can’t conceal his enthusiasm. “It’s a dream. It’s an amazing opportunity to get to explore space,” he says. A grin starts to spread across his face as he talks, reminiscent of a boy describing his favorite Christmas present.
And why shouldn’t he be excited? He must have one of the coolest jobs on the planet: NASA Astronaut. I met Feustel at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle early Monday morning at a preview of a new exhibit about the International Space Station called Destination Station. Feustel has been to space twice and seems to be hooked on the zero gravity lifestyle, despite the distance from his family. “I guess you could say it’s like living in an outpost somewhere. You’re isolated from everyone else,” he says. And that’s
basically the point of Destination Station, to bring the far off realities of life in space down to earth.
Unfortunately, actual astronauts aren’t part of this exhibit. That would be awesome, right? Instead there are several interactive ways for you to learn about life in space. Hold your hand up next to the bulky space suit gloves and try to envision manipulating small tools while floating in space. Every piece was built down here, then launched into space and assembled more than 200 miles above Earth’s surface.
Or you can peer down on a model of the space station hovering over a football field meant to show how massive this thing is. Just imagine Marshawn Lynch running the ball 90 yards into the end zone. Well, the ISS is even longer than that.
Feustel’s first time in space was in 2009; he was part of a crew doing maintenance on the Hubble Telescope, followed by a 2011 mission to the ISS, which was also Endeavour’s final flight. Now his goal is to be one of the guys who goes up to the space station to live for six months. It takes more than two years of training before any astronaut steps aboard the ISS.
Once there, they stay pretty busy. “The days are planned in basically five-minute increments,” explains NASA spokesperson Josh Byerly. “They’re doing all the science and the maintenance work that has to be done, but at the end of the day, they’ve got a heck of a view outside the window.” Can’t argue with that.
Those experiments they’re conducting aren’t just busy work. The ISS scientists are learning how the human body reacts to extended time in space. Their research could eventually help NASA prepare for a possible mission to Mars.
“There’s also some salmonella studies taking place that could lead to a vaccine, or possibly that could cure it,” says Byerly.
And that’s the kind of work Feustel wants to be a part of, “In life when you only get two opportunities to do something, it’s still very special and I hope to have the chance to do it again.”
If you’re looking for an excuse to “geek out” over space stuff, this is it. Destination Station will stay at the Pacific Science Center until September 2. On September 6, you can see it at the Museum of Flight where it will stay until December 4.
– Rachel Ayres, CBS Seattle
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