Terry Virts

Interview With Terry Virts – Former NASA Astronaut

8th Confab With CosmosNow

Terry Virts is Former NASA astronaut, International Space Station Commander and Colonel in the United States Air Force. Virts tours the world as a public speaker and business consultant. He is also an author, filmmaker, and screenwriter.

CosmosNow – Hello Terry! We are really honoured to have you on the 8th Confab with CosmosNow. We are really excited to get some amazing and inspiring answers from you.

Terry Virts – Thank you CosmosNow for having me! I’m really excited to answer your questions.

CosmosNow – What inspired you to become an astronaut?

Terry Virts – The first book I read in kindergarten was about Apollo, and ever since then I wanted to be an astronaut. I grew up with a room full of airplane and space posters covering my walls, and I watched space movies and read science fiction constantly.

CosmosNow – If not astronaut, which career path would you like to pursue?

Terry Virts – In 8th grade, they asked us what we wanted to be, and I said Secretary of State. I’ve always loved traveling, learning new languages, politics and international relations. I also really enjoy baseball but could never hit a curveball (or fastball).

CosmosNow – You were a photographer before you became an astronaut. How did you get started, and why did it interest you?

Terry Virts – My dad got me a Konica SLR in middle school and I taught myself all the basics – exposure, focus, aperture, flash, etc. I’ve always loved taking pictures and without fail carried a camera wherever I went (and still do).

CosmosNow – When you went into space what personal item you wished to take with you apart from the allowed ones?

Terry Virts – I brought a few standard things – jewellery to give to family, pictures of family and friends, a few sports jerseys and a duck call from the “duck dynasty” guys!

CosmosNow – Is there really a difference between living and visiting space?

Terry Virts – Absolutely. My shuttle flight was so fast, I never really felt like I got good at floating and being a “spaceman”. My long-duration flight was long enough that I felt completely at home in that very alien environment.

CosmosNow – Can you give us some insight into what types of cameras are used aboard the ISS?

Terry Virts – All types. We used professional Nikon cameras to take still images on a daily basis, that is what I used for most of the images in my book, View From Above. They are also used to make movies for time-lapse sequences. We had Gopro’s to take outside, a RED professional HD video camera, there were also Sony and Panasonic 3D video cameras when I was there. In addition to Canon Prosumer video cameras everywhere, we used a Canon 1DC and C500 to film the IMAX movie, A Beautiful Planet. We also had a great small camera called a Ghost, very similar to a GoPro – I loved it.

CosmosNow – You also had a role in filming the IMAX movie ‘A Beautiful Planet.’ How did that come about?

Terry Virts – It was the best thing I did as an astronaut. One day on my Outlook calendar, I had “go to Imax training” with no additional context, so I went and the rest was history. I was mentored by director Toni Myers, who was amazing and Director of Photography James Neihouse – those two had been filming space Imax movies for over 3 decades. Marsha Ivins was our astronaut consultant, who had worked on previous Imax movies. We even worked with a guy who worked on Star Wars (Ben Burtt) who developed the sounds used in those movies to teach us the importance of sound (note – the sound is REALLY important).

CosmosNow – What do you like the most about space and why?

Terry Virts – Floating is awesome but the view is the best part. I think I feel that way because I’m an artist and photographer at heart, and the view is truly indescribable.

CosmosNow – If we had some way to meet physicists/astrophysicists from the past, whom would you like to meet? What would you ask?

Terry VirtsWilliam Herschel, a planet hunter who discovered Uranus. I read a book about him as a kid and it has always fascinated me. I’d love to tell him all that we’ve learned in the intervening centuries and see the look on his face.

CosmosNow – Any advice for young children who aspire to be an astronaut.

Terry Virts – Don’t tell yourself no! It’s very hard to do, but unless you try, you’ll never know. NASA requires a technical degree, so some kind of math or science or engineering degree from college is necessary, as a minimum. Flying experience is really good too. NASA wants folks who have really succeeded in their careers but have “operational” experience (hence the emphasis on flying, since it’s the best space analog). Being an astronaut is a very practical job, one that requires a broad range of skills, not just focused specialists.

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