Life in Space
New address for Astronaut Tim Kopra is ISS, Outer Space
NASA Astronaut Timothy Kopra’s ride home will soon be on its way! Kopra has been living on the International Space Station (ISS) since the space shuttle Endeavour crew left him there in mid-July. The space shuttle Discovery is scheduled to blast off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday, August 28, with his replacement, Astronaut Nicole Stott, on board.
Kopra is part of a historic crew of six astronauts from around the world now living in space. The ISS has never had more than two or three full-time astronauts at a time. He has been on several space walks to make repairs outside the space station, as well as busy conducting experiments on board.
Before blastoff, Kopra talked to Kid Reporters Bailey and Mason Pownall of Austin, Texas, about his life in space. Kopra is a Captain in the Army and a graduate of West Point.
Q: As a child, was it your dream to become an astronaut?
KOPRA: When I was about six, it was pretty normal for kids to want to grow up to become an astronaut, because we were landing men on the moon and it was a really exciting time for the space program.
Q: What would your advice be to kids who want to be an astronaut?
KOPRA: I think the primary way to achieve goals like that is really through perseverance and hard work. You can apply that to any major goal that you have. I know that when I was studying in school, there might be a subject that I didn't like particularly well or maybe a teacher that wasn't my favorite, but the main thing for me was to work hard at it and do the best that I could, because all those things are important and they build on each other over time.
Q: What has been your favorite part of being an astronaut, if you had to pick one thing?
KOPRA: Probably the favorite thing that I've done so far was to live underwater for a week off the coast of Key Largo in a facility called Aquarius. It was very similar to living in space. We had a crew of six. We lived inside this module that wasn't very large and then every day we walked outside of this and we walked on the bottom of the ocean. We had this super light dive helmet on that gave us our air and communications. We would walk around and simulate a lunar mission.
Q: What is the first thing you'll do when you come back to Earth?
KOPRA: It depends on what I miss the most! From a work standpoint, the very first thing that I do when I get back is participate in experiments, because one of the valuable experiences of having humans in space is understanding exactly what happens to the human body when you're exposed to microgravity for a long period of time. So as soon as we get back, I'll essentially be a lab rat with scientists taking a lot of measurements to see how my body is adapting to coming back to gravity. After a couple days I'll be on my feet again and I'm sure that there'll be some foods that I missed that I'll want to have. And I'll be very happy to see my family!
Q: What is the biggest challenge about being an astronaut?
KOPRA: For me [since I have been in training to be on the ISS] probably the most challenging part has been separation from family. We spend at least half of our time away. We train in Russia, in Japan, in Canada, in Germany, and of course back at Johnson Space Center [in Houston]. It becomes very challenging to balance the work requirements with family.
Q: What kind of food will you be excited to eat when you come back to Earth?
KOPRA: I think that one thing that I'll miss will probably be a lot of the fresh food. We have very good food on board the space station, but we have a very limited supply of fresh food. Food only comes up on the shuttles and on the progress resupply vehicles that the Russians launch. Only one of those will come while I'm there.
Q: Will some of your food be freeze dried? KOPRA: A lot of the food is reconstituted. We have this machine where you plug the food into a needle and it squirts hot water into it. Then you mix it up and it reconstitutes. It's pretty tasty. Some of the food is military Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs).
Q: Are you going to take any books with you to the ISS? KOPRA: I'm going to take a Bible with me and I'm bringing a book by Lance Armstrong. We also get a lot of electronic books if I want to read those on my computer. It's a limited amount of space for our own things, so I can only bring a few hardcover books.
Q: What are some of your jobs on the space station?
KOPRA: Well, the first couple of weeks I'll work as part of the STS-127 crew. My very first job will be doing a space walk. I'll work with robotic arms to help with different platforms that we’re attaching to space station.
While I'm on board the ISS, I'll spend about two hours every day working out, because one of the things that we found from living in space is that it's very hard on your body.
And then there's all the maintenance tasks like fixing and replacing things on the Space Station. And then there's the science. We have 95 experiments on board that our brand new crew of six will be working on every single day. This is a pretty historic time at Space Station because now we’re turning into a crew of six.
And after my three months of working out and maintaining the space station and doing our experiments, I'll work with the STS-128 crew (which is the Discovery space shuttle mission to bring him back to Earth).