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Meeting NASA astronaut Terry Virts at the Cradle of Aviation

Kidsday reporters Umair Syed, left, and Aaryan Khyrana,

Kidsday reporters Umair Syed, left, and Aaryan Khyrana, both 11, visit astronaut Terry Virts on Oct. 5, 2017, at the Cradle of Aviation in Garden City. Credit: Newsday / Pat Mullooly

On Oct. 4, we had the opportunity to visit The Cradle of Aviation in Garden City to interview a real, live astronaut. Commander Terry Virts was a very interesting man who told us about his career as an astronaut and his adventures in space.

Cmdr. Virts has published a book of space photographs, “View from Above: An Astronaut Photographs the World” (National Geographic). Did you know that he took more than 300,000 photos in space and he chose only about 100 to put in his book? Along with the incredible shots of the Earth and space, he also wrote about life aboard the space shuttle.

We asked him if he thought we humans were taking good care of our planet. He responded that from space, the great areas of pollution (China) and deforestation were noticeable and he hoped that humans would work to fix those problems.

We also found out a little bit about his background and what it takes to become an astronaut. Cmdr. Virts graduated from the Air Force Academy, and after 11 years working in the military, he was invited by NASA to join them and learn how to be an astronaut. We asked what was in his resume that attracted NASA, and he told us that along with his time in the Air Force they were interested in his ability to speak other languages, which was helpful on the ISS (International Space Station). His Air Force experience as a flyer also came in handy. His mental level when piloting a fighter jet would help in space when piloting the space shuttle, because you need to be calm in tense situations, he said.

Cmdr. Virts told us lots of cool things about living in space. Did you know that all the food astronauts eat is freeze-dried? Cmdr. Virts’ favorite space meal was shrimp cocktail and Chunky Monkey ice cream. The Earth food that he missed the most was a good steak. He also told us that because water is so heavy in space (a one-gallon bottle of water costs $25,000 to send up to the space station) they don’t wash their clothes — they just throw them out.

We also learned that space health was very important to astronauts. Cmdr. Virts told us that he had to exercise two hours a day in order to keep his bones and muscles in good condition. On the space station, where he worked for 200 days, they had a bicycle machine, treadmill, and his favorite, a weight-lifting machine. Luckily he came back to Earth in good shape.

Cmdr. Virts is now retired from NASA, but he has created a wonderful journal of his adventures in space with his new book. He is an incredible person, and you can find out more about him by visiting his website,

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