Astronauts in « Théo » : a great opportunity for students

On Thursday the 19th of October, Lycée Théophile Gautier was graced with the presence of two American astronauts who go by the names of Stephanie Wilson and Jeffrey Williams.

Who are these astronauts?

Firstly, Wilson, who is from a small town in Massachusetts attended Harvard University to study engineering. She had worked in two companies before being selected in the class of 1996 to work in NASA. Moreover, she also worked in California for a period of time.

Secondly, Williams originally from Northern Wisconsin is a man who is fond of maths and sciences. Enthusiastic as he is, landing on the moon was his inspiration to becoming an astronaut. His one goal was to be selected in the class of 1996; which was accomplished.

In addition, Williams mentioned that his wife is his hero and that the best and most beautiful thing that he has ever seen in space as a Christian man, is the marvelous work of God. He has also partook in 3 6 month space missions on the Russian Soyuz.

We got the opportunity to learn more about these inspiring astronauts and their jobs as astronauts through the different questions asked by our fellow students.

What does one have to study to become an astronaut?

  • You need to be in possession of one of the following diplomas: Math, Science, Medicine, Bachelor, Advanced Degree.
  • You have to be driven by your passions and interests.

What skills does one have to be endowed with?

  • Be able to work in a team (listen to others, communicate with others…)
  • Be a leader (not afraid to conquer any obstacle, lead a team…)
  • Be operational (make decisions rapidly, work under pressure )
  • Be a care taker (self-care as well as “group care”)
  • Be trustworthy (team members know who to rely on)
  • Be very adaptable (food on space is not the same as on Earth)

What does one have to be fond of ?

  • Flying in space.
  • Being in contact with different people (making new acquaintances daily)

REMEMBER: ASTRONAUT = TEAMWORK (IT IS NOT A COMPETITIVE FIELD!!)

The different qualities, habits and education one has to have to become an astronaut has been evoked. Now, where does one direct himself once obtaining the title of being an astronaut?

One needs to dedicate two and a half years of their lives to training: the training alternates between Russia and Houston, Texas. These trainings cover basic scenarios of what one can come in contact with in space and of the mission itself, as well as emergency scenarios in the event of something going wrong while on a mission.

After the training they go through preparations, normally in Tokyo, Japan but mostly in Russia.

As far as communicating with family; talks and meetings in NASA take place to prepare the families. While in space, video telephones, video conferences as well as everyday calls are organized for the astronauts. They don’t have time on their hands to stay in touch with their loved ones as the distance is difficult, but they make it work.

Astronauts have different planned tasks everyday. The days go by very quickly and they work extremely hard. The one thing that keeps them going is the fact that they see something new EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Besides seeing the Milky Way Galaxy or being able to examine planet Earth ,which is great, astronauts have to go through a lot of physical and environmental changes:

  • Compared to the clothes they wear on Earth, their spacesuits weigh about 200kg.
  • Gravity does not exist, so, they are always floating (it takes 6 weeks to adapt to that sensation).
  • The food is good, the NASA menus, which are usually typical American dishes, are stored in plastic bags to keep dehydrated. Due to the diversity (different astronauts from different countries) different types of dishes can be fund, from French to Chinese dishes!
  • The food can also sometimes taste bland due to the sense of smell being altered.

Being on space makes them miss basic things such as the sense of smell, their families, the taste of food and even the silence.

Williams and Wilson shared that their best memories consist of space walks, building robotic arms and being able to see the extraordinary view and mostly being part of an organization like NASA.

In a nutshell, being an astronaut is a wonderful and inspirational job. The fact that they’re in space makes them see earth as a whole, with no borders nor divisions between countries. Everything that separates the human race today, is not seen by them up in space. It all looks like a united front.

Being an astronaut is also a way for Christians to look at the creations of God. Williams mentioned that seeing space deepened his appreciation for the Bible and life. This just proves that any pupil of any race; gender, sex, religion can be an astronaut.

Tshimwanga Bemvinda