Astronauts Share Stories at AIAA's SPACE 2015

  • Sep 3, 2015 11:10pm GMT

From a hostile take over of the ISS using inflatable pirate swords, to stupid astronaut tricks, to moving accounts of going from Cold War enemies to trusted crew mates last nights astronaut panel hit all the right notes.

The astronauts kept the stories coming and Garrett Reisman found ways to sprinkle in jokes about his height.

Sandy Magnus, who got her PhD in Material Science and Engineering from Georgia Tech before becoming a NASA Astronaut and flying a long duration mission on the International Space Station (in addition to her Shuttle flights) kicked off the evening with a story about some of her laundry getting loose one night (see YouTube video below). Magnus is now the Executive Director of the AIAA, the host for the panel and the SPACE 2015 conference.

Reisman told the swashbuckling story of how he and Cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko, over threw the tyrannical ISS Commander Peggy Whitson with inflatable pirate swords and radioed their demands down to Mission Control in Houston. They wanted 1) pizza, 2) a wet bar flown up on the new Japanese Kibo module, and 3) they were sick of flying to the East they wanted to turn around and fly West. He said he enjoyed the full ten minutes of Houston referring to him as "Commander Reisman" before they figured out that it was April 1.

Rominger was a former military pilot who went on to be a Shuttle Commander. He told a story of how before they return to Earth they need to "fluid load" to make sure they don't get light headed when they stand up when they return to the feeling their full weight. It requires drinking 40 ounces of fluid and taking a salt tablet (for retention). He dared Story Musgrave to let him use the water hose to push a floating salt tablet into his mouth. To Kent surprise it actually worked, Story apparently got a bit soaked in the process, but he was glad that at least he hadn't choked.

Kent told Story Musgrave that he wanted to bike around the world. Story said ok, but you have to stop on the country you start on. Kent set his timer for 90 minutes, the amount of time it take the Shuttle to do one orbit and asked Story what they were flying over. “India,” he called back. 90 minutes later Rominger was huffing and puffing, wiping sweat off his brow before it could detach and really gross someone out. He asked Story where they were now. “Libya,” came back the answer. Story smiled, Kent had forgotten to account for that the Earth is turning underneath the Shuttle as it flies. He had to ride for another 7-8 minutes to get back to India.

Steve Lindsey, a former Air Force pilot and Shuttle Commander shared about the stupid human tricks they did using the power tools on the shuttle mid deck. One person would hold one end and the other grab the opposite end. Hit the button and you could really get yourselves spinning opposite directions.

He also shared my favorite story of the night. On STS-87 he flew with a former Soviet Cosmonaut now flying for the Ukrainian Space Agency, Leonid Kadenyuk. Leonid and been showing his country on the map and the base he used to fly missions out of during the Cold War. The STS-87 Commander Kevin Kregel recognized the base that Leonid was pointing out. It was the strike target that Kregel had trained on during his time in the military. If World War III had ever broken out. Kregel’s job would have been to bomb that base in the first 24 hours of the war. The two marveled they they had gone from being enemies to being crewmates. Quite an extraordinary leap for humankind…