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It takes a NASA Village … to train an astronaut

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Posted August 11, 2015

Until now, the training of an astronaut has been somewhat of a mystery to the general public. How an astronaut trains, who trains them and what is included in their training is just the beginning of the new NASA Village campaign launching this August. For the first time, an astronaut will bring the public along with her as she trains for her third trip to the International Space Station (ISS).

Thomas Sheene and Jason Kish instruct astronaut Peggy Whitson on science racks in a space station mock-up. Credits: NASA

Thomas Sheene and Jason Kish instruct astronaut Peggy Whitson on science racks in a space station mock-up. Credits: NASA

When asked how she felt about returning to station, spaceflight veteran Peggy Whitson said she looked forward to her return because she gets to make daily, hands-on contributions to science, the space program and future exploration.

The NASA Village campaign will further Whitson’s contribution to all three of these subjects, spotlighting the dedication and drive of the NASA community. Who to better explain the work being done at NASA than the specialists themselves?

This will be Whitson’s very first foray in reaching out to the world through social media.

“I consider myself a social media ‘virgin,’” Whitson said, “but I am hoping that by highlighting all the different people that make spaceflight possible, we will inform the public on the variety of jobs and people that play critical roles in spaceflight and our future in exploration. I have worked at NASA for 29 years and continue to be amazed by the magnitude of details that must be ‘handled’ in order for a single mission to be a success, let alone the 24/7 operations required for almost 16 years of continuous ISS support. I hope that by exposing the public to even a fraction of this that we might inspire a younger generation to pursue education and future job potential in science, technology, engineering and math-related fields.”

David Fuller escorts astronauts Whitson and Reid Wiseman to a T-38 jet. Credits: NASA

David Fuller escorts astronauts Whitson and Reid Wiseman to a T-38 jet. Credits: NASA

As one of the most groundbreaking women to have ever worked at NASA, there is perhaps no better guide to the NASA underworld than Whitson. She has logged 377 days in space during two expeditions.  An immensely proficient spacewalker, Whitson is currently in the top 20 category for both men and women with a log of 39 hours and 46 minutes. Whitson was the first female/nonmilitary chief of the Astronaut Office. On Oct. 19, 2007, she had the distinction of becoming the first woman to command an expedition aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Despite her many achievements, Whitson understands that it is the “NASA Village” supporting her that can be credited for much of her success with the space agency—a true team effort. She has decided to enter the world of social media to highlight the larger story of NASA with a compilation of individual perspectives on what is currently taking place to propel spaceflight forward. Like the many parts of a rocket, NASA couldn’t exist without its passionate employees. Each NASA Village participant carries the mission and dream of NASA in their own story, which will shed light on the importance of NASA’s Journey to Mars. This campaign will be an opportunity for future NASA villagers to get the inside scoop on how to achieve their dreams, see funny behind-the-story scenes and understand the complexity of the many projects the community works on.

Stephanie Johnston, crouching, does a tool check with astronauts Whitson and Shane Kimbrough before a Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory training session.

Stephanie Johnston, crouching, does a tool check with astronauts Whitson and Shane Kimbrough before a Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory training session.

Also for the first time, a NASA astronaut will be using the platform Tumblr to inspire greater communication between an astronaut and audience than has occurred before. Whitson wants to unite the NASA Village community and create engagement between with the public about the exciting, cutting-edge projects also taking place on the ground floor. Whitson also intends to communicate her experience aboard the space station with her first Twitter and Facebook  accounts. Using the #NASAvillage hashtag, Whitson hopes to create communication and interaction between the different platforms and maximize her outreach efforts, inspiring space lovers of all demographics by sharing the multitude of lives touched by NASA.

“I am inspired by the people who continue to come up with new ideas for training, on-orbit operations and options for our future exploration,” Whitson said. “I feel extremely lucky to have a job in which I am exposed to so many of our people who make all the tiniest details and all the future plans into something concrete. I am hoping that via social media we can highlight not only how cool our jobs are, but some of the individual stories from our village of people that make spaceflight possible. I hope that personal stories from the individuals that make up the NASA Village will inspire our next generation of explorers.”

Source: NASA

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