Going to space is a nightmare for many, but a life dream for others. With hopes of becoming a NASA astronaut, 120 people had applied to become an astronaut in the year 2000, of which NASA was to select only 17. Terry Virts was among the people who desperately waited for a phone call that would deliver him the most awaited news of his lifetime. The 31st anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on July 2000 brought Virts the news on a phone call.
The F-16 test pilot, Terry Virts was in a meeting at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California when he received the call and a NASA chief astronaut asked, if he was still interested to go to Houston. Understanding the meaning and controlling all the emotions that urged him to scream with excitement, he delivered a simple reply, “Yes sir, I’m still interested.” Despite being requested to keep the news to himself until the formal announcement, his ear to ear smile gave away the secret and an announcement was soon heard by the squadron loudspeaker: “Party for Terry Virts’ selection as an astronaut after work today in the conference room.”
Virts was not the first person to have received that call. There have been hundreds of astronauts and cosmonauts in the history of space travel that spreads way over half a century, but for Terry, it was a dream that sprouted in his childhood when he first laid his eyes on a book about the Apollo missions.
At the age of 31, Terry was a Test Pilot School student, an opportunity that he had grabbed with a hope to turn into a ticket for becoming an astronaut. While his other classmates considered themselves too young to apply, Virts didn’t budge. “But I figured I would apply anyway. If NASA said no, fine. And if I got no farther than the initial interview process, well, at least I would have gotten a week off work,” writes Virts.
He took up his interview as a chance to meet the astronauts, and he made the best out of it. Despite having done well in school, Terry had never been at the top in his class, but that never shattered his confidence. Most over-achieving astronaut candidates are either doctors, or engineers, or scientists, and Virts was neither. His applied mathematics degree from the Air Force Academy and his career as an F-16 pilot did give him quite an edge.
Terry answers other people’s questions about becoming astronauts with a few “must have’s” that include the ability to stay calm under pressure. This is a skill required not just to stay up in space, but also to go through the NASA training program. Terry mentions aviation training as a very crucial part, but what he considers most important is the ability to get along with people. When you are miles up from the Earth’s surface with only a few people to communicate with, you need to learn how to communicate effectively without making a fuss over small things.
The man has spent more than 7 months up in space through his career. He considered being the commander of the 2015 ISS Expedition 43 as his biggest accomplishment, where a group of American, European, and Russian crew members had to remain friends despite the ongoing tension between the US and Russia at the time. The most exciting part of the astronaut career is the complete absence of monotony. Terry himself had been a mechanic, a pilot, a scientist, a space-walker, Hollywood producer, doctor, and a dentist through all his time.
Source: Terry Virts | NBC News