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This Week: Clay Anderson, Astronaut

This is a transcript of ABC 17’s Joey Parker’s interview with retired NASA astronaut Clayton (Clay ) Anderson. Clay discussed the Year in Space program and his new book, “The Ordinary Spaceman: From Childhood Dreams to Astronaut.”

Joey Parker: You’ve likely heard of the Year in Space program where a NASA astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut will be spending a year aboard the International Space Station. But a few years before Scott Kelly and his cosmonaut partner blasted off the earth this past march, astronauts like Clayton Anderson and others blazed the trail that led to the ambitious feat that led to an entire year above our planet. We are joined by Clay Anderson on “This Week.” And Clay, you were so generous to take time to talk to me in 2007, after your five month stay on the International Space Station. Thank you for that, and let me start by asking you, what do you think about the Year in Space program, of the many hazards and the mysteries going on there?

Clay Anderson: Well, I think spending a year in space is an important milestone for America and for the world, if we intend to go further into space, back to the moon perhaps, or on to Mars, we’re going to have to know what it’s like for the human physiology for a lengthy period like that. So I think it’s a very exciting time, I think we’re going to learn a lot of new things, and I’m looking forward to hearing some of the results.

Joey: Now, it was really tough on you, you had to do rehab before you could even do the interview with me, how do you think it’s going to be for these guys when they get back?

Clay: That’s a great question. It’s going to be interesting. They’ll do physical exercise for probably two and a half hours every day, they’ll use a treadmill, bicycle, and a weight machine. And the weight machine is actually better than the one I had in 2007, so the words that I get back from these guys are actually coming back stronger – some of them – than when they left the earth, so I think that they’re doing a great job with the physical rehabilitation of a Year in Space.

Joey: When you retired at a very early age from NASA, you wrote this book “The Ordinary Spaceman: From Childhood Dreams to Astronaut.” Along with many other people including the staff at NASA, you thanked so many people, but why is it so important to tell this amazing story on your own terms?

Clay: Well, I believe that there are a lot of young people out there that can have the same type of extraordinary experience that was granted to me, an ordinary person. It takes hard work, it takes a lot of help from others, and it takes a little bit of luck, but the goal here is to take people behind the scenes to see what it was like personally for me and for my family as I was fortunate enough to live this dream that so many people have, so I hope that people find it an honest account of both the highs, and there were many, and the lows that occurred to me during my five months in space, and then in my second flight in 2010. So, it’s kind of like people jumping in my flight suit pocket and riding along and I really hope they get, they laugh, and they may cry, but I think it’ll be an interesting read for many.

Joey: And that’s a great way to put it; in your pocket, and I did feel like I was along with you on the journey when I was reading through it. You cover everything from your birth – your original launch I suppose in 1959- to college, your stay in Hastings, Nebraska, and all the way, of course, you talk about the Space Shuttle Columbia, the STS-107 disaster, all the way to your retirement and that final email where you included “Go Big Red,” well here in Tiger Country, we’ll have to allow that from someone who hasn’t been on earth his whole life. But, I wanted to point out one thing about, well there are so many things to point out about the book, but talk about the Freshman 15 really quickly.

Clay: Well, I didn’t want it to be an autobiography, so the first couple chapters contain one chapter each. And Freshman 15 is my first 15 years at NASA. So, many people don’t understand that I spent fifteen years trying to become an astronaut as an engineer at the Johnson Space Unit in Houston, so I kinda wanted to cover that fifteen years in one chapter, and give people a little bit of the breadth, the type of people I worked with, the different experiences I had, and how unique an environment that it is down in Houston Johnson Space Center, and the incredible people that I worked with. But, it also is not your stereotypical story I don’t think of a person that goes to NASA and gets a job and has a certain expectation of what they’re going to see and who they’re going to meet along the way, so I think it’s kind of surprising in certain aspects.

Joey: And you also talk about how “zoom” and “boom” can quickly turn to “whirl” and “hurl” and the reason why an astronaut may need to know how to twerk in orbit like Miley Cyrus. But, you’re going to have to read the book to find out what all that means. Clay Anderson, thank you so much for joining us.

Clay: Hey, my pleasure, Joey, and thank you so much for taking the time and I hope you enjoyed the book.

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