“Knowing how to work as a team and being very lucky”, astronaut López-Alegría reveals the keys

López-Alegría (Madrid, May 30, 1958), first Spanish astronaut who traveled to space for the first time in 1995, just a few months ago he returned from his last mission ‘Ax-3’, with the help of Axiom Space, a private American company in which he holds the position of Chief Astronaut. 400 kilometers from Earth, accompanied by a European crew, they arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), where they carried out scientific research for 14 days.

“We get up at six in the morning and go to bed at ten thirty or eleven,” says López-Alegría during an in-person interview with NewsWork. The astronaut explains what it is like to work during an expedition in space and the impact it has, the lack of gravity for , the time it takes to get used to real life when he returns to Earth or the keys to entering NASA .

NT: What requirements does a person have to meet to become an astronaut?

ML: The person who aspires to be an astronaut has to have a rather technical background, but I think the most important quality is know how to work as a teamget along well with people and have a certain sympathy.

In my time, entering NASA was very similar to what is done today at the European Space Agency (ESA): a selection that lasts a year, many medical tests, interviews, psychological tests and, in the end, you have to be very lucky. Now, in addition to that, we have the possibility of going either sponsored by your company, research institution, or yourself, if you have the means.

NT: What impact does living and working in space have on physical and mental health?

ML: The truth is that living in space is very easy because with the lack of gravity, almost nothing is exerted to move from one place to another. Floating is very pleasant. However, returning to earth, depending on how long you are in space, may cost you more. It is said that it is one day on Earth for each day in space to get used to it one hundred by one hundred.

NT: What is a workday like in space?

ML: On the International Space Station (ISS) we have a working day a little similar to the one here. We get up at six in the morning and go to bed at ten thirty or eleven. We have an hour of preparation in the morning, including breakfast and hygiene. Then we have a conference with the Earth teams. A normal day, with eight or nine hours of work and one hour for lunch, and another two hours for dinner, relax a little and repeat the next day. This is done five days a week. On Saturday we work half a day, and on Sunday we have free.

The only major difference is that every day, including weekends, there are two and a half hours of physical exercise to prevent bone and muscle loss.

NT: What do you think during the 9 minutes of takeoff from Earth to space?

ML: You feel a lot of excitement, a lot of emotion. It is a wonder. It is something that cannot be compared to any experience we have had here on Earth. It is a brutal acceleration that does not stop for nine minutes and goes at a speed of 28,000 kilometers per hour. Then you are floating in peace and tranquility. It’s a pretty important contrast.

NT: What would you highlight about your work in recent years?

ML: I feel very lucky to have done a 20-year career at NASA. However, this opportunity came and, after having promoted private manned flights after leaving NASA, to be able to participate in the first one, I won the lottery.

NT: Plus, you hold some records at NASA, right?

ML: Yes. I have the extravehicular activities (EVA) record or space walks (10) and accumulated time abroad (67 hours and 40 minutes). I don’t know if I would have to do another space walk… In that case, it will be difficult, but not impossible.

 
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