More Q&As with Catholic astronaut, Mike T. Good

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imagePhoto courtesy of NASA

By Traci Neal

As NASA prepares this month for the bittersweet end to its 30-year space shuttle program (scheduled for launch July 8), Astronaut Michael T. Good spoke with Catholic Digest about his own two shuttle missions, in 2009 and 2010, aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. Good, a lifelong Catholic, is currently assigned to Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs as the NASA liaison to Air Force Space Command, Northern Command (NORTHCO M), and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). He took time to share what it’s like to get a heaven’s-eye-view of Earth, his thoughts on whether we’ll ever find life in space, and what he believes will be the future of space exploration.


Were you raised a Catholic?

I was raised a Catholic from day one. Dad was raised Catholic and Mom became Catholic when they got married. I was one of six kids and we all went to church and to religious education classes every week. We would take up a whole pew. There was my older sister, then I was the oldest of the five boys. I wish I could tell you we were always good in church. I’m sure that many Sundays my mom had her hands full.


As a child, did you believe in heaven? Where did you think heaven was?

Yes, I believed in heaven. Heaven was up and Hell was down. I think it’s such a difficult concept to teach to kids that we treated it like a place. As we get older we realize we can’t describe it in earthly terms. Nothing we have here will go with us — not our physical possessions, our “to do” lists, our worries, or our pains. That is why Matthew told us in the Gospel not to worry about tomorrow.


When you look up now, what are you thinking about?

Before I flew in space, I would look up into the night sky and search for the Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station as they streaked across the sky. You can actually see them with the naked eye, both fairly bright. From my driveway I would watch Hubble and imagine what it would be like in a few months to be out there holding on to it as it went around the Earth. I thought, someone will be looking up and see me go flying across the sky.


Now, when I look up, it takes me back to space. I remember opening up the doors to Hubble and climbing inside the telescope to work on it. I remember crawling around the outside of the Space Station, holding on to a handrail as we traveled across the sky at 17,500 miles per hour. I remember looking down at the Earth, 250 miles below with nothing between us, and watching it go by at 5 miles per second.


How do you keep in touch with your family in space? How do they feel about your work?

I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my family. They have always been there for me. I think they get as excited as I do about flying in space. While on orbit, we can email back and forth and we can talk on the phone (through our laptop computers). We were also able to see and talk to each other via telecon once on each mission.


Tourists in space!

-By Julie Rattey


Believe it or not, the age of space tourism has already begun. Space Adventures, which bills itself as “the only company to have sent private citizens to space,” currently books seats on Russian Soyuz rockets for visits to the International Space Station. This trip doesn’t come cheap, though. Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté reportedly paid more than $35 million to spend nine days on the space station in 2009. Space Adventures also offers lower–cost programs — like a suborbital spaceflight starting at $102,000.


Other companies are eager to break into the business. Virgin Galactic, for instance, unveiled its first passenger-carrying spaceship in 2009 and is booking for potential future flights at $200,000 per seat.


Photo: Astronaut Michael Good, STS-125 mission specialist, peers through an opening of his Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU) spacesuit on the Earth-orbiting Space Shuttle Atlantis prior to donning it in preparation for the mission’s fourth session of extravehicular activity. credit: NASA


Copy Chief/Bookshelf Editor Traci Neal

Traci joined Catholic Digest as copy chief and bookshelf editor in July 2006. She received her journalism degree from Southern Connecticut State University and has worked as a newspaper and magazine writer, editor, and/or copy editor since 1988.