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NASA Spotlight: Astronaut Andrew FeustelAndrew J. Feustel was selected by NASA in 2000. The…

NASA Spotlight: Astronaut Andrew FeustelAndrew J. Feustel was selected by NASA in 2000. The…

NASA Spotlight: Astronaut Andrew Feustel

Andrew J. Feustel was selected by NASA in 2000. The Lake Orion, Michigan native has a Ph.D. in the Geological Sciences, specializing in Seismology, and is a veteran of three spaceflights. In 2009, Dr. Feustel served on space shuttle mission STS-125. That mission was the fifth and final mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope that improved the observatory’s capabilities through 2014! Feustel most recently served as Commander on the International Space Station from March 21 through October 4, 2018. In his free time, Dr. Feustel enjoys auto restoration, guitar, water and snow skiing and is a fan of automotive and motorcycle racing.  

He took some time from his job as a NASA astronaut to answer a few questions about his life and career! Enjoy:

While attending Oakland Community College, you worked as an auto mechanic. How does that job and the skills you learned relate to your job now as an astronaut?

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I’ve often told people that I believe having this skillset is almost as important as my training in college and university. I relied on those skills almost every day in space and even on the ground while preparing for missions. That skillset has been really helpful in understanding how to maintain and repair equipment for spaceflight. In general, having those general skills of knowing how things fit together, what the structure is, and how things work, even without knowing anything about the particular item, is very helpful in life.

Has there ever been a time as a NASA Astronaut where you had to overcome self-doubt and if so, how did you?

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Yes, probably the most impactful time I had to overcome self-doubt was on my very first mission as a rookie doing a spacewalk for the first time and having to make a repair on the Hubble Space Telescope. Since it was my first spacewalk, I didn’t know if I could do it and didn’t know how I would do. However, I had trained for that mission for three years and the training took over when I started the spacewalk. At that point, I didn’t focus on my self-doubt, I focused on my training and was able to carry out the tasks.

What are you most excited about for the upcoming Artemis Moon missions?

I am most excited about the possibility of humans establishing the ability to live off of our planet. To have the capability to exist on another surface. That, to me, is a start. Humans need that capability for us to live on the Moon then to go to Mars.

What did living in space teach you about community and teamwork?

Not just living in space, but working at NASA and training for space missions taught me a lot about community and teamwork. Living in space allows you to use the skills you learn about teamwork while training. While living in space you must rely on each other for everything. It’s important to recognize the value of working as a team. All of the astronauts have a very different mix of skills and that’s a great thing about the astronaut corps. Being successful and staying alive in space relies on community and teamwork.

What kind of impact did living and working in space have on how you view the Earth?

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I am more aware of the fragility of our planet and species which is why humans should extend past the Earth. We are fragile as a planet and the Earth is vulnerable to the impacts of us living here. We cannot have zero impact on the planet, we will always have some impact, but the goal is to lessen the damage that we do to Earth to allow us to live here indefinitely if possible.

What or who inspired you to apply to be an astronaut?

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I was inspired by reading the obituary of my great-great uncle. He was very successful in the utilities and railroad industry in the Midwest. Reading about his successes made me believe that I could do anything. I was also interested in space travel from a young age. I believed that I would be involved in the space industry. The motivation of understanding what family members had done before me really encouraged me to reach for my dreams and apply.

What book, movie, or show about space and/or astronauts is the most accurate? The least accurate? You wish was accurate?

I’m less concerned about the accuracy of space and space exploration portrayed in movies, but more interested with the creative thought behind them and I am fascinated with ideas and imagination of the people making these movies. Things portrayed as science fiction in the past become science fact in the future.

What’s the most common misconception about astronauts / working at NASA?

The most common misconception about astronauts is that we go on spaceflights often. Over 95% of our job is spent working on the ground. People should come to this job because it’s important to space and space exploration. The job entails so much more than going into space yourself, but the good news is it’s all awesome. I have never been bored at my job. There are so many exciting parts of this work that contribute to NASA missions even if it doesn’t always mean being in space.

Can you share your favorite photo or video that you took in space?

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My favorite photo is this one of Michigan and Canada. It captures my life – where I lived and everyone that I know and my family and friends – that’s where I consider home. It’s such a beautiful image.

That’s a wrap! Thank you Dr. Feustel for your time! 

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