Astronaut to talk space suit design

Astronaut Rick Mastracchio visited the Baylor BRIC Thursday to talk about Spaceflight 101. He will be in the McClinton Auditorium in the Paul Foster School for Business and Innovation at 1:30 p.m. today to talk about space suit design. Photo credit: Richard Hirst

Astronaut Rick Mastracchio spent time answering spaceflight questions Thursday evening in one of two lectures he will give during his time here at Baylor.

At 1:30 p.m. today, Mastracchio will discuss space suit design in McClinton Auditorium, room 240 in the Paul Foster School for Business and Innovation.

“The technical effort that goes into making something like that work is something that maybe not everyone appreciates,” said Dr. Dwight Russell, associate professor and interim chair of the physics department.

He said that getting to hear about a space suit from someone who has spent so many hours wearing one will help listeners become more aware of the technology and skill that scientists had to have in order to create the suits.

Russell said he has questions he wants to ask Mastracchio.

“We can talk about outer space, but he’s really been there,” Russell said. “We see this in movies, but what is it really like? We can ask him these questions.”

Mastracchio has logged 228 days in space and has performed nine space walks, totaling 53 hours. On his most recent mission, he spent 180 days on the International Space Station, traveling almost 80 million miles and orbiting earth over 3,000 times.

Mastracchio’s first mission was in September 2000, on the Space Shuttle Atlantis, where he worked as a mission specialist. He has also flown aboard NASA’s Endeavor and Discovery and a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Mastracchio was selected as a candidate in 1996, six years after he began working as an engineer for NASA’s Flight Crew Operations Directorate. Before then, he worked with the Rockwell Shuttle Operations Company at the Johnson Space Center.

Russell said he wanted to know how his perspective has changed about space and about Earth after having done these things, and that he was curious about what the different re-entries into the atmosphere were like in the different vessels.

Russell also said Mastracchio’s speeches give the opportunity for interested students to ask what the career path looks like for an astronaut.

Before his speech tomorrow, Mastracchio will be at a reception with refreshments at 1 p.m. in the Turner Mezzanine of the business school.

“It’s very rare that you have the opportunity to meet a current astronaut,” said Dr. Truell Hyde, Baylor’s vice provost for research and the director of Baylor’s Center for Astrophysics, Space Physics and Engineering Research (CASPER)

He said it’s an experience students may not get to have when they graduate.

“That’s one of the wonderful things about being at Baylor,” Hyde said.

He said CASPER brings in people all the time to speak to students and community members. He said a lot of the people they invite are personal connections of his or his faculty inside CASPER.

Russell said he has actually met a couple of astronauts before, but that the experiences they’ve had in space are always different.

“You get to learn something new every time you meet someone like that.” Russell said. “It’s always an exciting experience.”