The “Astro Clay” Interview

1. What is your most memorable moment in space?

It has to be my first spacewalk.  Poised above the opened hatch, floating in my spacesuit while looking into the abyss of darkness created by the sun’s travel behind the Earth, I was calm.  I watched ice crystals fly from behind my suit (they were created by my sublimator… or air conditioning unit) into the total black void of space.  The slight pressure still available after the depressurization of the airlock was “pushing” the crystals into the vacuum of space.  I was entranced just watching them sail by.  When I finally came back to reality –buoyed by the Mission Control call to exit the airlock—I paused for just a moment to contemplate what was happening.  The only thought going through my mind was that “…I was born to be here, right now, in this special place, doing this.”
It sounds breathtakingly beautiful.  I can’t imagine such a profound experience.

2. How long were you in space?

My first time?  151 days, 18 hours, 23 minutes and 14 seconds.  However, most astronauts like bigger numbers when talking about their time in space, so let’s say 152.  I would fly again, bringing my total to 167 days.

3. Why did you want to become an astronaut?

I watched the Apollo 8 astronauts travel behind the moon for the very first time in human history.  Watching on a black-and-white TV, while seated on a throw rug with my brother and sister on Christmas Eve in 1968, I was mesmerized by what we were watching.  When they came around the other side some 15 minutes later, I was hooked.  I decided that was what I wanted to do.

I remember that event well, myself.  It was unbelievable!

4. What is a typical day like?

Up at 0600 for a much-needed trip to the bathroom, my crewmates Oleg, and Fyodor (commander) and I had a solid daily routine.  After potty-breaks and breakfast, we had a brief daily plan “tag-up” with the ground.  Then it was off to work on our respective tasks.  Coffee breaks (or tea time as Fyodor called it… “Chai-koo” in Russian) came at about 1000 and 1430, with lunch being near noon.  Toward the end of our work day (we all had 2-hour exercise periods spread periodically throughout the mornings), we would gather for dinner about 1900, after an evening tag-up (plan for tomorrow) with the control center team.  After eating and catching up, we performed administrative tasks before retiring for bed (me, about 2230).

5. The question kids most want to know—how do you get rid of waste products in space?

How do you go to the bathroom in space!?  Just like you do on the ground… you just need a vacuum cleaner!  :0)

All of “it” eventually goes into aluminum cans… urine into cans with a type of Russian kitty litter inside.  Poop is “directed” into plastic bags, stuffed (carefully) into a second type of aluminum can.  When full, the cans are stowed into a Russian cargo ship called a Progress.  This ship will ultimately undock (full of trash, garbage, and human waste) from the station and enter the earth’s atmosphere.  The resulting friction between air and metal causes the ship to explode and disintegrate/burn up.  Efficient if not a bit tedious!  If you want to know ALL of the details, check out Chapter 15, “The Void of Outer Space” in my first book, The Ordinary Spaceman!

Thank you so much! Thank YOU Paula… I appreciate the opportunity to share with you!

Clayton C. Anderson
U.S. Astronaut, Retired
Author of The Ordinary Spaceman and A is for Astronaut