Hague undergoing underwater spacewalk training. Image grabbed from Reuters video
As a young boy growing up in Kansas, Nick Hague, looked up at the stars and wanted to explore the unknown. In the fall, that dream will come true when he blasts off on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station.
Before he rockets into space from Kazakhstan in October on Expedition 57/58 for his six-month tour, the 42-year-old father has undergone training in everything from spacewalks to robotics to Russian and the psychology of sharing the station’s small spaces.
“It’s a two and a half year mission on the home front,” Hague said from inside a replica of the space station at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
An engineer and colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Hague was one of eight selected in 2013 for NASA’s astronaut candidate training program based at the Johnson Space Center.
Hague found his love of space early.
“Growing up as a little boy, staring up the night sky and wanting to just explore the unknown and figure out what’s out there and go find new things,” he said when asked where his love of space started.
In the Air Force, Hague worked as an engineer on satellites and aircraft and then attended test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base, and realized his dream might be achievable.
More recently, Hague as part of his training donned his space suit for 6-1/2 hours of underwater spacewalk training at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Houston because that is the best way to mimic the effects of zero gravity in space. Before climbing into the 40-foot deep pool, he received instructions to familiarize himself with the equipment.
Hague does not train only in Houston. His training has also taken him to Russia, Japan, and Europe as he trains with NASA’s partners. He said the often-long separation from his wife, who is also in the U.S. Air Force, and two young boys is one of the most challenging parts of the job.
While his sons appreciate the “neat” work their father is doing, Hague said he remains “just dorky dad” at home.
Once he reaches space, Hague said he looks forward to being the eyes and ears of scientists back on earth.
He will work with Russian cosmonauts to monitor the shifts in bodily fluids that occur in space because some astronauts have returned from space missions with changes in eyesight.
Scientists hope to learn if there is a correlation between fluid shifts and vision as such issues need to be better understood before humans are sent on longer duration space flights into deep space.
Just as important as studying the science of the mission, Hague said, is understanding the psychology involved in a space station almost the size of a football field with six sleeping quarters, two bathrooms and a gym.
Hague says the “soft skills” astronauts use, such as learning to work in a team, resolving personal conflict, and keeping personal items in order so they don’t get in colleagues’ way, will be even more important in deep space as trips get longer and spaces more confined. — Reuters