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Return to space

Return to space

According to Drew Feustel, floating in space is very much like floating in a swimming pool...especially if you wear a spacesuit in the pool.

[photo of  astronaut Drew Feustel at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab]
Make Hay Media

Astronaut Drew Feustel is lowered into the pool at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab.

This March, NASA astronaut Drew Feustel, PhD’95 (Geological Sciences), DSc’16, embarks on a mission, with Expedition 55, to the International Space Station. Once there, Dr. Feustel will take command of Expedition 56. During his six-month tour on the ISS, he and his colleagues will conduct about 250 research investigations and technology demonstrations not possible on Earth.

As part of his preparation for this mission, Dr. Feustel underwent extensive training in the pool of NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab at the Sonny Carter Training Facility near Houston, Texas. The enormous pool, which houses full-sized exact replicas of ISS modules, is used to train for Extravehicular Activities (EVAs),also known as spacewalks. Working underwater simulates the weightless environment of space, helping astronauts prepare for their work at the ISS. For every hour of EVA planned on a mission, astronauts will train for up to 10 hours under water.

[photo of pool at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab]
The enormous pool houses full-sized exact replicas of ISS modules. Dr. Feustel is seen at the top centre of the photo being lowered into the pool.

Dr. Feustel is a veteran of two spaceflights. In 2009, he served on STS-125, the fifth and final mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. He made his first trip to the space station in 2011 as a member of the STS-134 crew on space shuttle Endeavour’s final mission.

We sat down with Dr. Feustel during his training at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab.

What is his favourite memory so far of space?

“One of them was on the Hubble mission, flying over Texas in a spacesuit on an EVA and being able to look across the country and see Michigan – my home state – and Ontario. That view is burned into my head.”

What does he miss most about home when he is in space?

“Showers, pizza,” he laughs,“and the smell of the Earth.”

On April 6, Queen's will take part in a live video chat with Dr. Feustel and his crew.


[cover graphic of Queen's Alumni Review, issue 1-2018]