NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman is one of only 538 humans to ever visit space. In 2014, he spent six months orbiting Earth aboard the International Space Station. Recently, I spoke with Wiseman about astronaut food, exercising in zero-gravity and his all-time favorite space movie.
What’s your best memory from your time in space?
There are so many. The first look out the window after getting to Earth orbit has to be among the top.
Opening the hatch for my first spacewalk and seeing the Earth 250 miles below us and thinking, “Wow, that is beautiful!” When I knew I should be thinking, “Wow, this is scary!”
What is the strangest thing about spending time in space?
How quickly your body and mind adapt to being off the planet. Within a week our brains had already ‘normalized’ floating and looking back at the Earth. It showed me how incredibly adaptive our bodies are.
What did you eat while onboard the ISS?
Actually the food was quite good. In general, we have two types of food. Shelf stabilized, which simply need to be heated and eaten. And dehydrated food, which we add hot water to, wait about 10 minutes, and then eat.
We were eating chicken dishes, veggies, fruit, dessert … etc. I gained about 10 pounds, which is a bit more than normal.
I would take photos throughout the workday. During breaks I would download, review, pick a favorite or two and email the photos with the caption to a NASA employee who would load them onto Twitter.
For time sensitive photos or comments, they would typically hit Twitter within a minute of the photo actually occurring.
Which landmarks could you recognize from space?
Occasionally you can see borders. The border between San Diego and Mexico is very obvious at night.
I’ve heard lengthy space travel can have long-term effects on the human body. Is that true?
Certainly. We have invented a very good set of countermeasures to bone and muscle loss that are working well. I would exercise about two hours a day using a treadmill, bicycle and a weight lifting machine.
There are also temporary changes to the eyes, blood, heart … etc. For me, everything has returned to normal since landing back on Earth last November.
Do you have a favorite space movie?
I think Apollo 13 is the current winner. It is very realistic, tells a superb story of human achievement in the face of adversity and shows the good and bad sides of flying off the planet.
The one that changed my thinking of our planet involved looking out at the atmosphere over Brazil. The sky over the entire country looked dirty, dusty and polluted. As we tracked eastward across the Atlantic Ocean, I realized it was actually sand from a sandstorm in the Sahara Desert in Africa. Can you imagine, all that sand and dust was from a different continent several thousand miles away? That shifted my mental picture of the power of nature on our planet.