The Hilton Crystal Ballroom was standing room only Sunday evening as the audience was eager to meet and hear from Dr. Stephen K. Robinson. He retired from NASA on June 30, 2012, after 17 years as an astronaut and 36 years of NASA service. He visited the ISS twice and has received numerous awards, including NASA’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medial. He is now Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of California, Davis.
Dr. Robinson flew on four space missions—STS-114, STS-95, STS-130, STS-85—three of which included space walks. The audience was mesmerized with the slideshow of some of his missions. Ironically, the room lights were not working correctly, so we all sat in the dark during the presentation. Want to bet most, if not all of us, pretended we were in space during his presentation? I know I did.
Robinson proved to be smart and witty. He showed the audience from beginning to end how the shuttle took off and landed, some of the training the astronauts went through, and some of his pictures from space. He presented some of the technical side of being an astronaut and the dangers involved. His humor made learning about how these missions worked even more enjoyable. There is a lot to prepare for as an astronaut. For each mission, there is about four and a half years of training. Each astronaut not only trains for what to do right, but what to do if there is a problem. Some of his slides had video footage we got to experience. It was captivating.
I was able to ask him two questions after the panel. The first was “If you could go back into space, would you?” He absolutely would. John Glenn was a hero of his. In fact, his last mission had John Glenn on it. He sat right next to him in space. How cool is that? The second question is one a lot of people wonder about after an astronaut goes into space for the first time. “At your first takeoff, did you urinate in your diaper?” He laughed at this question, since so one had ever asked that one before. He said that he did not, nor had he ever had to use the diaper. The astronauts are trained not to. It is only there for emergencies.
No one wanted to leave when time was up. This would have been a great panel at two hours with all of the information he provided the audience. If you want to know more about the life of an astronaut, come to the Space Track next year to learn more about what happens in space.