The International Space Station is a "great model for society,"
said NASA Astronaut and retired Army Col. Robert S. "Shane"
Kimbrough, who returned to Earth on April 10, 2017 after 173
days in space.
September 9, 2016 - Expedition 49 crew members Shane Kimbrough of NASA, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhsta a month before launch
to the International Space Station. (Photo courtesy of NASA)
It's a study of how six Russians, Americans, French and
Japanese can work together in confined spaces to do some
really incredible science and research that will benefit all
of society, said Kimbrough, who was the Expedition 50
commander on the International Space Station.
experience on the ISS demonstrates that "none of the
countries could do that alone. It takes all the
international partners working together to make that space
station program happen," he said.
"As space station
commander, you've got to integrate all those different types
of people, personalities and culture to make an effective
team," he said, adding that integrating the team "wasn't
much of a challenge because I had a great crew. I was just
fortunate enough to be up there with the people I was."
Asked how the crew could communicate, he said that he
and another American, along with a Japanese and French
astronaut, spoke to the three cosmonauts in Russian and in
turn, the Russians spoke English to them.
constantly working on the language and always learning more
vocabulary and different terms and even slang," he said. The
challenging part was translating the technical jargon.
Overall, he said it was great working with them. They're
very different. Not just language, but culture and cuisine.
"It's always interesting learning different cultures."
Besides sharing languages, the crew also shared food,
Kimbrough said. The Russians would partake of the American,
French and Japanese food and they in turn would be offered
Russian meals, particularly on weekends. "They seemed to
enjoy our food and we enjoyed theirs."
After 173 days
in space, living in a confined area, it might seem easy to
get on each other's nerves after a while.
"We had a lot of training before the
mission in learning ways and techniques on how to not annoy
people," he said. "When they pick astronauts, one of the
criteria is, 'are you going to annoy somebody if you are in
a small area for a long time, because if so, we don't want
you here doing this job, you can do something else.'"
SPACE TRAVEL IS FUN
Kimbrough said the crew did a
lot of important scientific experiments in the fields of
biology and the physical sciences. Some of the biology
experiments could lead to advances in medical treatment.
But besides all the work, the crew had a lot of fun too.
"Every day is fun," he said. "Everything is floating around
and you're floating around instead of walking.
"Eating is especially fun," he continued. "You can eat
upside down, right-side up, toss an M&M to your buddy across
the room or send him a drink. We played around a lot with
our food. We tell our kids at home not to do that, but we do
it in space."
Another type of fun, he said, was
"looking out the window at our beautiful planet Earth. That
was really special."
VALUED ARMY EXPERIENCE
Kimbrough credits the Army with giving him many
opportunities for operational experience and leadership
training, beginning at the U.S. Military Academy at West
Point, New York, and all of the follow-on leadership courses
throughout his career.
NASA is looking for astronauts
with that type of experience, along with the education.
Kimbrough graduated from West Point in 1989 with a Bachelor
of Science in Aerospace Engineering and he later graduated
from Georgia Tech in 1998 with a Master of Science in
Operations Research. His operational experience includes
piloting an Apache helicopter during the Gulf War.
Besides education and leadership experience, NASA is looking
for someone who has been exposed to unique and austere
environments, something "we as Soldiers experience on
deployments," he said.
They're also interested in
someone who can thrive on a team and deal with stress, he
"We're good at memorizing responses in critical
situations," he said. "My brain was set in that mode from
all of the Army training. So we're always preparing for
worst-case situations and hoping we never have to go there,
but if something bad would happen, we're ready to go and
respond in those situations."
MARS MISSION IMPORTANT
Asked about what he thinks about a manned mission to
Mars, Kimbrough replied, "I absolutely think having a manned
mission to Mars and other places is where we need to go. …
That is the next frontier for humanity."
In a couple
of decades a human will land on Mars, he predicted, "but
I'll certainly be too old to do that when the time comes
Kids in school today that he talks to will
be the generation that gets to Mars, he said. "Hopefully we
can inspire them to go down that road."
It's an honor to be a Soldier For Life,
Kimbrough said, adding that the Army instilled in him "this
incredible sense of service ever since going to West Point."
He added that working for NASA as a civil servant is also a
Kimbrough said that no matter
where he goes or who he meets, he feels that he's
representing the Army and "that's a great feeling."
Kimbrough added that he couldn't have ever been successful
in the Army or NASA without the support of his friends and
family, particularly during long deployments or in space on
this mission and a previous one in 2008 aboard the Space
Shuttle Endeavour to the ISS.
By U.S. Army David Vergun
Army News Service
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