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Terry Virts - A Beautiful Planet


Terry Virts is a former NASA astronaut, pilot, and passionate advocate for space exploration. With a distinguished career that spans military service, piloting various aircraft, and commanding the International Space Station (ISS), Virts has become a prominent figure in the field of space exploration, inspiring others with his experiences and dedication to advancing humanity’s understanding of the cosmos. The Maryland native graduated with Academic Distinction from the United States Air Force Academy in 1989 and has logged over 4,300 flight hours in more than 40 different aircraft.

In this exclusive London Real episode, Terry drops by the studio to discuss why astronauts kept busy for psychological reasons, how being in space reignited his love for photography and how he became an astronaut.

Terry Virts’ journey to space began with a foundation in aviation and military service. Raised in Columbia, Maryland, Virts attended the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics. Following his graduation, he pursued a career as a pilot in the United States Air Force, accumulating over 4,300 flight hours in various aircraft.

Terry Virts joined NASA in 2000 as part of NASA’s 19th astronaut class, a diverse group of individuals chosen for their exceptional skills and backgrounds. His selection reflected not only his piloting expertise but also his commitment to advancing the frontiers of space exploration. Virts underwent extensive training in preparation for potential missions, mastering skills required for spacewalks, robotics, and operations aboard the ISS.

Terry Virts’ first spaceflight occurred in 2010 as the pilot of the Space Shuttle Endeavour on mission STS-130. This mission involved delivering the Tranquility node and the Cupola, a module with panoramic windows, to the ISS. Virts played a crucial role in the installation of these components, contributing to the ongoing expansion and improvement of the space station.

In 2014, Terry Virts returned to space as the commander of Expedition 43 aboard the International Space Station. During his 199 days in space, Virts conducted a myriad of scientific experiments, maintenance tasks, and spacewalks to enhance the capabilities of the ISS. His leadership and contributions were integral to the success of the mission, showcasing his ability to adapt and excel in the challenging environment of space.

While aboard the ISS, Terry Virts developed a keen interest in photography, capturing breathtaking images of Earth from space. His visually stunning photographs not only garnered attention worldwide but also highlighted the beauty and fragility of our planet. Virts became an advocate for environmental awareness, using his images to convey the importance of Earth as a shared home.

Since retiring from NASA in 2016, Terry Virts has continued to share his passion for space exploration through public speaking engagements, educational outreach, and media appearances. He emphasises the transformative impact of space travel on human perspective and advocates for sustained investment in space exploration as a means of fostering technological innovation and international collaboration.

Terry Virts’ legacy extends beyond his impressive space missions; he has become a source of inspiration for aspiring astronauts, scientists, and space enthusiasts. His ability to communicate the awe-inspiring experience of space travel through photography and storytelling has brought the wonders of the cosmos closer to people on Earth. Virts’ commitment to advancing humanity’s presence in space and his dedication to environmental stewardship continue to resonate, encouraging others to dream big and embrace the challenges of exploration.

Terry Virts’ journey from a career in the U.S. Air Force to becoming a NASA astronaut and commander of the International Space Station exemplifies the pursuit of excellence and the exploration of new frontiers. Beyond his technical expertise, Virts’ advocacy for space exploration and environmental consciousness underscores the broader impact that space can have on our collective understanding of our planet and the universe. Terry Virts stands as a testament to the human spirit’s boundless curiosity and the endless possibilities that lie beyond our atmosphere.


00:00 | Trailer
02:32 Brian’s thoughts on the episode
05:56 Brian’s Introduction
06:22 Thoughts on the UK and its history of exploration
08:33 Watching The Right Stuff with George Zamka the night before going into space
09:25 Viewing Gravity with Samantha Cristoforetti whilst in space
11:29 Did The Right Stuff bring back memories of going to Flight School
12:37 Characteristics required for being a test pilot or astronaut
14:15 How the overview has affected Terry
16:46 In space with a Russian during conflict between Russia and Ukraine
20:21 Robust quality of Russian space technology whilst the US pushes technology limits
23:44 Volume of work doesn’t allow for too much contemplation
25:06 Are astronauts kept busy for psychological reasons
27:33 The importance of knowing about psychological changes from being separated from earth
28:43 How to lead a successful team mission
30:21 How astronauts are affected by communication delay when going further into space
31:48 The us versus them mentality
33;22 Why Terry now associates different countries with colour for his forthcoming book
36-01 A passionate photographer taking the opportunity to take pictures of earth from space
42:22 How does an astronaut replace that experience on earth
43:24 How Terry became an astronaut
47:46 Why Terry trained to be a test pilot
51:31 Scariest moment as a pilot
53:16 What it takes to be a F16 pilot
55:43 As an astronaut, what he had to do mentally and physically to cope with 200 hours in space
58:21 Dealing with a super dangerous ammonia emergency in space
1:04:01 Russia’s political attitude within the space industry
1:06:44 Terry’s views on Spacex and Orbital ATK
1:09:15 Should NASA be building cargo supply rockets or a commercial endeavour try it
1:11:42 What is needed to get man on Mars
1:14:10 If man does go to Mars, can we get them back
1:16:45 Terry’s response to those who say we did not land on the moon
1:28:54 The need for constant space exploration PR
1:21:56 As Terry orbited the earth many times can he say if it is round or flat
1:23:02 Does Terry ever consider there are Aliens, or life, out in space
1:28:49 An indication from space of the world’s wealth distribution
1:35:31 Does NASA have any part of Terry’s life now he has retired from them
1:36:46 Success secrets
1:37:28 The prospects for a world with faster broadband connectivity
1:37:38 What Terry would like people to take from watching A Beautiful Planet
1:39:14 How Terry got through the long wait to be chosen to go into space
1:42:31 Transitioning from Nasa to the next phase of his life
1:43:59 Creative energy will perhaps drive Terry’s next project
1:45:43 Phone call to the 20 year old Terry Virts
1:47:27 Best advice ever received
1:48:54 Advice to the young person wanting to know how to fulfil their ambition
1:50:34 Brian’s summing up.


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