Archives – Inperson | Sep. 30, 2008
Thomas Jones is an award-winning pilot, scientist and astronaut who batten to the Register on the 50th ceremony of the National Aeronautics and Amplitude Administration.
Thomas Jones is an award-winning pilot, scientist and astronaut, who batten to us to advice the Register admire the 50th ceremony of the National Aeronautics and Amplitude Administration.
Between 1994 and 2001, Jones went on four amplitude shuttle missions. He has spent 53 canicule alive and active in space. In his 2006 book, Sky Walking: An Astronaut’s Memoir, he writes of the role his Catholic acceptance plays in his activity as an astronaut.
He afresh batten to Register chief biographer Tim Drake from California.
You’re a Catholic who has spent a lot of time in space. Were you able to accept Communion up there?
Yes. The aboriginal cruise was the best. It was a absolutely adapted moment. On my aboriginal cruise there were three Catholics — myself, Kevin Chilton and Sid Gutierrez. Kevin was a adolescent believer at St. Bernadette’s in Houston and was a Eucharistic minister. The aboriginal Sunday we were in amplitude we were too busy, but on the additional Sunday, the three of us accustomed Christ aloof afore dawn, aloof as this aerosol of ablaze sunlight lit us up.
It was about accompanying with accepting the host. Tears came to my eyes from the adorableness of that moment. Again there was the ablaze dejected of the ocean. We all aggregate in that inspiration. Kevin declared it as the dejected of the Virgin’s veil.
On my added flights, I anticipate I ability accept been the abandoned Catholic. I would backpack the Eucharist in my amplitude clothing abridged on barrage and all the way up into apogee and again put it in my clothes. In free-fall, things tend to aberrate off; you don’t appetite to lose Jesus.
Did you booty sacramentals with you?
I would consistently backpack a rosary. I rarely had time to adjure an absolute Rosary. I would adjure in my beddy-bye applesauce or beddy-bye bag as I was afloat off to sleep. I additionally flew with a St. Christopher badge that was adored by my archdiocese priest. That was a nice affair to accept with. That brought me aback [home].
Also, in my aggregation anthology I had all the Scripture readings adapted for those canicule in space. Right aing to the shuttle base diagram was the Gospel account for the day.
How did you become an astronaut?
I capital to be an astronaut back I was 10 and grew up watching the Apollo affairs and moon landings through aerial school. I flew in the Air Force and after accustomed fractional allotment from NASA as a alum fellow. I concluded up alive for NASA anon as a architect scientist afore actuality assassin in 1990 as a mission specialist. I still do some consulting for them now.
Was actuality an astronaut aggregate you hoped it would be?
Yes. I spent 52-plus canicule in amplitude aboard the amplitude shuttles Endeavour, Atlantis and Columbia. I helped anatomy the International Amplitude Base and did three amplitude flights. Each flight appropriate greater assignment and challenge. On my final flight in 2001, I did aggregate you can do on the amplitude shuttle: I delivered the bus-size class Destiny to the amplitude base and absorbed up accouterments alfresco of the base — and did three amplitude walks; it was the pièce de résistance.
Have there been any specific moments during your missions area you angry to prayer?
Yes. I’ve accounting about that in my 2006 book, Skywalking: An Astronaut’s Memoir. There I allocution about the spiritual, animal and affecting ancillary of amplitude flight. One way I got through those flights was axis to adoration and faith. That’s been a able antecedent of abutment for me, alike added so back you’re faced with a demanding bearings like a amplitude flight.
Launch time is one of the best animating and risk-ridden moments. You’re beggared in on the barrage pad for two to three hours with annihilation but your own thoughts. We try to acclamation one addition up to allay stress, but you anticipate about the risks involved.
At two account above-mentioned to launch, you aing your helmet visor, and there’s no added conversation. You anguish about how your ancestors will get through your absence. My two accouchement were 8 and 5 back I started and 15 and 12 back I ended.
As my wife and accouchement watched the launches from the roof of the ascendancy center, they had no guarantees added than what their acceptance could accord them.
Were there any moments area you faced danger?
None, added than the accepted of actuality accursed into amplitude activity from aught to 17,500 afar per hour in 8.5 minutes.
The dispatch is eye-popping, and there’s a lot of beating and babble with that. You get through alive that God was there with a duke on your shoulder. You arouse all the admired angel saints you can summon.
We didn’t face any concrete emergencies, but on my third flight I faced abundant disappointment. We had accomplished for a spacewalk, but it had to be canceled because of a automated failure. I thought, “Why me, Lord?”
Later in the flight, I acquainted how abnormally advantaged I was to be there. How could I accuse about the gift?
On my aing trip, I got three amplitude walks. If a adoration was answered, that was one of them.
Is there a Catholic clergyman associated with NASA?
No. It’s not a aggressive organization, so chaplains aren’t clearly allotment of it. Priests from St. Bernadette’s Church in Houston would appear out during the week-long apprehension aeon — and would accept to be austere by the flight surgeons — to say Mass at flight quarters. Alike some of the non-Catholics aing me for Mass. We already had an Easter Sunday morning Mass in quarantine, acclaimed by a priest from St. Clare’s archdiocese in Houston.
Once, we had a adoration account on the bank aing to the barrage pad at Cape Canaveral. The priest who helped me to become an chantry boy — Father Tom Bevan — came bottomward as my guest, and we acclaimed a account two canicule afore launch. I went abroad from that with a lot of my worries aerial away.
How has activity into amplitude impacted your faith?
It doesn’t accomplish you a canon professor, but it’s actual claimed and affective to be in amplitude and accept that appearance of creation.
During my final spacewalk, I took a moment in my amplitude clothing to attending about and let that appearance absorb in. It was apparently the best affective moment of all four of my flights. There was that ability that actuality I am, one little being of 6 billion, and I’ve been accustomed this adapted allowance to appearance the planet and the cosmos from this adapted angle point. I acquainted actual small, but additionally actual special, because God had accepted me this befalling to see his accomplishment from there.
I acquainted advantaged to accept been accustomed that allowance of seeing how bottomless the cosmos is that God fabricated me a allotment of.
On the claimed level, back you accept the Eucharist in space, there’s that concrete affiliation with God advancing into your body. The spacewalk accompanying with that acquaintance — that claimed abutment — is so anon adverse to the all-inclusive calibration of the universe. It’s a astonishing God who can do both of those things.
When you’re a student, you apprentice that God is everywhere. He’s additionally with you activity bristles afar a second. He’s there. That was a abundant antecedent of abundance to me back I was traveling in space. I was never alone.
Do you accept a admired angel saint?
Several. St. Thérèse of Lisieux is the angel of aviators. St. Joseph of Cupertino knew about chargeless abatement afore any of us did [he levitated]. I anamnesis one funny arena from the barrage pad above-mentioned to a barrage in 1994. We were captivated up by bandage winds, lying on our backs, all apprehensive which angel saint to ask prayers of.
I replied, “St. Joseph of Cupertino.”
The others asked, “Who’s that? St. Joseph of Capistrano?”
Tell me what you’re alive on now?
As allotment of the Association of Amplitude Explorers, we conducted a two-year accomplishment to advance a plan to get the United Nations cerebration about how countries can accouter their ability to handle a abeyant asteroid strike.
How absolute is this danger?
It’s the action that wiped out the dinosaurs, and it continues to go on. The aftermost affecting one to hit was about 100 years ago in Siberia. It produced a 5-megaton blast. An asteroid the admeasurement of a soccer acreage weighs about a actor tons. That would leave absolutely a atrium in Los Angeles.
Currently, we accept two of the three things all-important to stop such a strike. We accept the telescopes to acquisition them, and we accept the technology in amplitude to alter them. What we don’t accept is a accommodation to do it in acknowledgment to that affectionate of discovery. Over the aing 10 to 15 years, we’ll apperceive about so abounding added asteroids. The catechism is how to get the countries of the apple in the U.N. to lay out affairs advanced of time.
What are the best able methods of breach an advancing asteroid?
There’s no charge for Bruce Willis to assignment a aperture and draft one up. With abundant admonishing time — and usually we would accept years — you can accelerate a baby aircraft to esplanade a an asteroid and hover. It creates a anemic force field. The tug exerted on it will alpha to cull the asteroid against you, but it takes months of hovering. That tiny aftereffect can change the acceleration so that the asteroid will absence area the Earth would accept been.
Another adjustment involves ramming an article into the asteroid to change its momentum. You can accurately it with article like a ammo several times. These are two affected and conceptually accessible means to alter them.
Tim Drake is based in
St. Joseph, Minnesota.
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