Submitted by washingtonpost t3_10a9tc9 in IAmA

EDIT | From Christian Davenport: That's all the time we have for today. Thanks for all your great questions. And thanks to Garrett for joining us! Please do check out Two Funny Astronauts and For All Mankind. Thanks again!

From Garrett Reisman: OK I gotta go back to my day job now. :) It was a pleasure answering your questions and it's always fun to interact with you, Chris. Thanks for joining us!

As we enter a pivotal moment of space exploration, two experts will answer questions about what the future holds.

Christian Davenport covers NASA and the space industry for The Washington Post's Financial desk. He joined The Post in 2000 and is the author of “The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos.” He was a consulting producer of “Space: The Private Frontier,” a two-hour documentary that aired on the Discovery and Science Channels, and a producer and co-host of “Space Launch Live,” the networks’ Emmy-award-winning live broadcast of SpaceX’s first crewed mission, which was the highest rated, non-primetime telecast in Discovery’s history.

A NASA veteran who flew on all three Space Shuttles, Garrett Reisman was selected by NASA as a mission specialist astronaut in 1998. His first mission in 2008 was aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, which dropped him off for a 95-day stay aboard the International Space Station after which he returned to Earth aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. His second mission in 2010 was aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. During these missions, Garrett performed three spacewalks, operated the Space Station Robot Arm and was a flight engineer aboard the Space Shuttle.  

Read The Post’s latest series on space travel:




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gonejahman t1_j43261s wrote

William Shatner has famously gone into space recently and his major take away was the darkness, the empitiness and realization of just how tiny and insignificant we are. Have you experienced a feeling like that? Would you care to talk about it at all and perhaps describe what you felt or feel when you are looking out the window while up there?


washingtonpost OP t1_j439426 wrote

From Garrett Reisman:

My experience was quite different from Mr. Shatner's and different from most astronauts, for that matter. I did not find the view of the Earth out the window to be in any way depressing. The Earth was beautiful - especially the Eastern part of Africa and all of Australia, both of which had magnificent red and brown hues that looked more like Mars to me than Earth.

But I did not really experience the 'overview effect' often described by astronauts as the realization that we are all one humanity sharing the same home and breathing the same atmosphere. That all the things that divide us: nationality, religion, race, gender, politics, etc. are so much less important than these things that we all have in common.

These observations are all true of course, but perhaps I wasn't suddenly struck by them because I knew this before I went to space. The fact that we are all created equal should be self-evident. You shouldn't have to strap yourself into a rocket to understand this.


HHS2019 t1_j430808 wrote

Why is there a fixation on colonizing Mars? If it is genuinely to help humanity colonize the cosmos, wouldn't it make more sense to establish proof of concept on the moon first?


washingtonpost OP t1_j431opi wrote

From Christian Davenport: Living on Mars is like living on top of Mount Everest. No, it’s like living inside Chernobyl on the top of Mount Everest, given the high levels of radiation. Mars represents such an unfathomable challenge that writers such as Homer Hickam, the former NASA official and author of “Rocket Boys,” once wrote an essay titled, “A Myth Known as Mars (Psst, NASA’s not going there, pass it on.)” Even Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX with the purpose of getting to Mars, doesn't sugar coat the difficulties and once told me that "probably people will die "on the first trips to Mars. Which is why you're exactly right -- NASA wants to go to the moon first and learn how to live there before going all the way to Mars. Mars is the horizon goal that could come at some point. But NASA -- and SpaceX -- are set on going to the moon first.


washingtonpost OP t1_j433qoy wrote

From Garrett Reisman:

Good question. You are right that the Moon is easier - much quicker to get to, and more importantly much quicker to get home in an emergency, and you can go pretty much anytime, you don't have to wait for a window to open up every 2 years. That means you can go for a few days, a few weeks, a few months or a few years which would let us get experience living for extended periods of time in partial gravity outside the Earth's magnetosphere in a safe and incremental manner. If you go to Mars, you pretty much have to commit for a round-trip duration of about 2.5 years.

But Mars is a much more suitable place for humans to live. It has an atmosphere, a gravity level of about twice that of the Moon, reasonable temperatures and lots of resources that can help support a human colony including oxygen for breathing, water for drinking and methane for fuel. Plus there is the promise of incredible scientific discoveries including, probably, proof of life existing outside of the Earth.

One day it might be possible for a human colony on Mars to be truly self-sustaining. That won't happen on the Moon without continual resupply from Earth.


BlueMidget5 t1_j430x3j wrote

What do you think about the failed British launch the other day?


washingtonpost OP t1_j431zeu wrote

From Christian Davenport:

That was a tough blow for Virgin Orbit, which is really struggling. They needed that launch to go well. Like a lot of companies that went public via SPACs, they are now beholden to the public markets, which don't look kindly on failures even though that is a normal part of the rocket business, especially at first. A quick Google search shows their stock price down 83 percent in the last year. Richard Branson's Virgin group has continued to invest in the company but it is clearly going through a tough time at the moment.


Ok_Habit_202 t1_j435h4n wrote

Thanks for the AMA

What do you two see as the future of space travel, space tech and innovation and how do you think it will evolve? Do you guys have some tech you all are excited for and what predictions do you all have about space tourism


washingtonpost OP t1_j43egf2 wrote

From Garrett Reisman:

I think that Chris did a great job outlining the exciting things coming next in human spaceflight and I agree with him that the first orbital flight of Starship will be a huge milestone and a real game changer - if it works!

As far as space tourism goes - it's definitely here and here to stay. I know it can be frustrating for space fans out there in that the price is still so very high and unfortunately space tourists will continue to be billionaires or representatives of nations (or contest winners) for the near future. But remember, this was the case for commercial airlines at first too. In the early days of passenger air travel it was only millionaires and movie stars who got to fly. Even as recently as the 1960's air travel was for the elite 'jet set' and priced out of the reach of ordinary citizens. But today we have Spirit Airlines, Jet Blue and Southwest (well, most of the time) and air travel is affordable for most Americans.

This will be the case in space eventually too. The sooner the better!


washingtonpost OP t1_j438fv3 wrote

From Christian Davenport:

I touched on the future of space in a previous post, but for space tourism, there's been ups and downs. Virgin Galactic flew its flight with Richard Branson ... and hasn't flown since. It's been refurbishing its vehicles and says it'll start commercial operations in the second quarter of this year. We'll see. Blue Origin had flown a series of flights and then had an engine failure and has been grounded while they investigate. They hope to resume flying this year. SpaceX has the Polaris program, funded by Jared Isaacman, which is really interesting. After flying the first all private-citizen crew for the Inspiration4 flight, he's set to do another mission this year that would feature a space walk. That's a big deal and requires a lot of training and is in preparation for the next flight, which could boost the orbit of the Hubble telescope, allowing it to remain in operation for years to come. I got a first-hand look at how the crew is preparing by flying in a fighter jet with Jared. It was pretty awesome. (And, no, I didn't throw up.) You can read about that here:

In addition to the Polaris program, SpaceX is flying private astronauts for a company called Axiom Space, and expects another of those flights, to the ISS, this year as well.


Jude_jedi t1_j432u1j wrote

Hey Guys, thank you for doing this AMA!

I have one question for you both: what’s the space event or mission you are most excited about in the next few years?

For Mr. Reisman:

I’ve heard that riding on the Space Shuttle was quite a bumpy ride, particularly when the SRBs were burning. Did the ride smooth out a bit after SRB sep when it was just the RS-25s firing? And do you think the extra segment on the SLS boosters will make the ride even bumpier for future SLS Crews?

Thanks to you both for doing this and for helping to share the excitement of space exploration with us all!


washingtonpost OP t1_j43cu4h wrote

From Garrett Reisman:

Hi Jude! The Shuttle was a bit bumpy during the first stage. During my first launch on Endeavour, I was seated on the middeck so I didn't have much to do during ascent. I did have a kneeboard though and I took a writing sample during the first stage and my handwriting was even worse than usual! It was much more legible during the 2nd stage. But I would say that the vibration wasn't really that bad even during the first stage. It was comparable to flying an airplane in light to moderate turbulence or being on a typical motion-simulator ride. Nothing too crazy.

As for SLS, I have no personal experience on that thing. :) Nor have I seen any analysis of the random vibe environment. But I don't think that the extra segment would make it worse, it would just make the SRB portion of the ascent last longer. Plus the additional mass of the SLS compared to the Shuttle would likely give you more inertia to reduce the amplitude of the vibration, so I think the ride would probably be quite nice. But again, I'm just speculating here!


washingtonpost OP t1_j43446l wrote

From Christian Davenport:

I'm really looking forward to launch of SpaceX's Starship rocket. It has the potential to radically transform the industry (again). The vehicle is now fully stacked down in Boca Chica awaiting a wet dress rehearsal (basically a fueling test) and then a static fire of its 33 main engines. If those go well, we could see a launch at some point (pending the FAA approval of course). Elon has said it's possible it could come in early March, but there still some hurdles to clear first. There's also the first crewed flight of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, robotic missions to the moon under NASA's CLPS program, progress toward the Artemis II mission. I outlined what's to come in space in the coming year here:


PeanutSalsa t1_j4378jg wrote

What are the obstacles standing in the way of humans living on Mars? Which do you see as the most difficult ones to overcome and why?


washingtonpost OP t1_j43aj9i wrote

From Garrett Reisman:

The biggest challenge is dealing with the radiation. We've gotten pretty good at spending up to a year in space on the ISS, but we fly under the Earth's magnetosphere and are still mostly protected from the nasty radiation outside of low earth orbit - solar particle events (SPEs) and Galactic Cosmic Radiation (GCRs). When we go back to the Moon or on to Mars we will not have that protection. A 2.5 year round-trip journey to Mars would result in a radiation dose equivalent of 1 Sievert which is 10 times as much as you would take on the ISS for 6 months and would be at about the NASA career limit for most astronauts.

The thing is, we know very well what kind of radiation is up there - how much flux density and particle energies to expect, but we have little knowledge of exactly what that type of radiation does to human tissue. So we are still learning, and there is a lot of uncertainty about how dangerous this will be for our Mars colonists.


Hardware_freedom t1_j431a21 wrote

Garrett are you still working with For All Mankind?


washingtonpost OP t1_j434b8i wrote

From Garrett Reisman:

Yes! I'm still the technical consultant for the show and we are just wrapping up the principal photography for season 4. Stay tuned!


ProfessionalQuote949 t1_j432mng wrote

Do you think training in Artificial Gravity (using a centrifuge) could be beneficial to maintain fit was of crew member during long term missions? What are other aspects you would like to improve with regard to exercising in space?


washingtonpost OP t1_j43687p wrote

From Garrett Reisman:

Yes, for long-duration spaceflight in a microgravity environment, artificial gravity offers a lot of advantages to alleviate or eliminate various physiological issues associated with adaptation to microgravity. Also, there would be many practical advantages too, including:

• Locomotion (walking) becomes more natural

• Fluids separate (air-liquid) and there is natural convection

• Terrestrial tools and processes are easier to adapt

• Items remain where they are placed

But using rotation to create artificial gravity would require a combination of rotation rate and diameter that would present significant engineering challenges.

Consider this table which gives combinations of speeds and rotation rates to create an artificial gravity level equivalent to ours on Earth:


1 894
2 224
3 99
4 56
5 36
6 25
7 18
8 14
9 11
10 9

So either your spacecraft has to be huge or spin very fast. And spinning fast will cause you to run into problems associated with the limits of human physiological tolerance.

So it's not easy!


BlueMidget5 t1_j435go5 wrote

Theoretically, assuming money being no object but we had to build it as fast as possible, how quickly could we build, man and launch a manned flight to Pluto? And how long would it take to get there?


MWolverine63 t1_j435q4r wrote

For Garrett: will you continue Two Funny Astronauts for a second season? It was a very entertaining podcast!


washingtonpost OP t1_j4378nl wrote

From Garrett Reisman:

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed the little podcast that I did with Mike Massimino. We would definitely like to add a second season but we are on hiatus right now as we search for a sponsor so that we no longer have to fund the podcast ourselves. Hopefully we will be back at it again soon!


washingtonpost OP t1_j4376o4 wrote

From Christian Davenport:

Can I second this? I love the podcast. Garrett and Mike Massimino ARE funny. Not just astronaut funny. But funny funny. Go listen.


domkuma t1_j43evx2 wrote

Thanks for the AMA.

I just wanna know that if we were to colonize planets in systems further away, what method of interstellar travel you think is closer to reality for future humans considering the resources consumed, safety and availability? Is light speed still the unbreakable wall? Are we somehow making headway towards either Cryosleep or Wormhole travel?


GraharG t1_j464hi3 wrote

Guy on the right looks incredibly aerodynamic, have you ever tried putting a scale model of him in the wind tunnel to see how it does?


CrassostreaVirginica t1_j431dzr wrote

Hi, and thanks for this AMA.

For Mr. Davenport: Do you (or might you in the future) ever cover the US Space Force, in addition to NASA and the space industry, or does something like that typically fall under the purview of the Post's defense-focused journalists?

For Mr. Reisman: What sorts of things does a 'mission specialist' do, and can that vary a lot from specialist to specialist?


washingtonpost OP t1_j436z6q wrote

From Garrett Reisman:

'Mission Specialist' was a designation we used during the Space Shuttle Program to refer to astronauts who were not either the Commander or Pilot. So Mission Specialists did not directly operate the flight controls on the Shuttle, but we did serve as flight engineers, robotics operators, payload operators and spacewalkers.

So 'Mission Specialist' was a bit of a misnomer since we were really generalists - trained to do all those things. Only once you were assigned to a specific flight did you specialize and train intensively on the tasks you were to perform on that mission.

Today NASA considers all astronauts to be simply 'Astronauts' and there is no longer a distinction between 'Pilot Astronauts' and 'Mission Specialist Astronauts' as there was back in the Shuttle days.


washingtonpost OP t1_j433o04 wrote

From Christian Davenport:

I'm fascinated by the Space Force and remember hearing a top Pentagon official talk about the threats in space years ago. He recalled the general panic over Sputnik, in 1957, which was little more than a ball with a radio transmitter, and said that if the American public were paying attention to everything going on in space today--even the unclassified activity--there would be that level of concern. Now, the threats in space have come to the forefront, and we saw in late 2021 how Russia blew up a dead satellite creating a massive debris field. We've also seen in Ukraine, the rise of commercial satellite imagery playing a huge role and test the rules of warfare. I wrote a lengthy story about this. SpaceX's Starlink Internet constellation has also given Ukraine a big boost that has helped its military tremendously.


somniosomnio t1_j4358ne wrote

What is the future of space travel?


washingtonpost OP t1_j436s9o wrote

From Christian Davenport:

We get these sort of future prediction questions a lot...trying to look 20-30 years in the future. I like to narrow them a bit to see what's possible in 10 years, which seems a more reasonable timeframe. Within a decade, I think we will have people back on the moon, including the first woman and person of color as part of NASA's Artemis program. We'll see multiple companies working with NASA to escort astronauts to and from the surface and to supply them with supplies, as NASA seeks to build a permanent presence there, as I wrote about in our series. We will see low Earth orbit flooded with thousands of satellites used for the Internet as SpaceX's Starlink constellation continues to grow and others, such as Amazon's Kuiper constellation, get going. We should also see commercial space stations starting to proliferate and replace the International Space Station, which is expected to be deborbited in 2030. Not bad for a decade's work!


IAmAModBot t1_j433r07 wrote

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Ok_Quiet_9375 t1_j4398zf wrote

How disillusioned is Elon about living on mars?


washingtonpost OP t1_j43b93k wrote

From Garrett Reisman:

Well, I haven't asked him lately, but I hope he's not disillusioned at all. Making human life multiplanetary is the whole reason SpaceX exists and it's what motivates everyone working there on a daily basis. Nobody, especially Elon, thinks this will be easy but it's a noble goal! (As for me personally, I'm not going until there is decent pizza up there.)


washingtonpost OP t1_j43af9w wrote

From Christian Davenport:

As I stated above, Mars is a HUGE challenge. And Elon has acknowledged that. It's going to be extremely dangerous. As someone once told me, say you get to Mars and the mission went perfectly. You survive the entry, descent and landing and touch down softly and everything went exactly according to plan. Even then you'd be in almost constant state of emergency given how dangerous the place is. That said, people died crossing the oceans for the first time. There is a certain amount of sacrifice that goes into exploration. But in the long run, it'd be worth it to have humans on Mars. Imagines the discoveries they'd make! And as Garrett noted above, it does have a reasonable gravity and resources that could sustain a colony. Elon does enjoy a challenge and SpaceX has pulled off feats no one thought was possible.


b_33 t1_j43rav7 wrote

A bit of a melancholic one: I often think about movies and how they portray interstellar travel. You also often hear about some amazing mathematician proving the possibility of warp drive at an unfortunate cost. Do you think we will forever be limited by the laws of physics and never be able to travel to distant galaxies? It makes me sad for some reason, how about you?


angelamartini t1_j43w24c wrote

Hey Garrett! I was curious: what made you want to become an astronaut, and—-knows by that it’s different for everyone— what was the process like to get there?


fastrx t1_j44ndk3 wrote

What are your thoughts on Congress' push to investigate UAP sightings?

Have you seen a UAP?

Thoughts on said UAPs disabling our nuclear missiles? Senator Harry Reid confirmed this to be true. What do you think it means?

Has anyone ever asked/told you to not say a word about UAPs?

Thoughts on edgar mitchell's story in which he says he saw and filmed a UAP during a trip to the moon?


Ok-Feedback5604 t1_j5cc8it wrote

How long it would take to use H3 as spaceships fuel?