During a sunny Californian morning at Stanford University, I had the chance to meet and interview USAF Colonel Tyler Nicklaus Hague.
Tyler Nicklaus Hague is an American flight test engineer and a NASA astronaut who reached the International Space Station on a Soyuz MS-12 on March 14, 2019.
After a first launch, aborted shortly after take-off on October 11, 2018 on board of a Soyuz MS-10, he reached the crew members of the ISS under the Expedition 59/60.
During his career in the U.S. Air Force, Colonel Hague was assigned to the 416th Flight Test Squadron and tested F-16, F-15 and T-38 aircrafts.
He was also deployed in Iraq for five months in 2004, supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, and after teaching courses in the Department of Astronautics faculty at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado he worked in the Department of Defense as Deputy Chief of the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. He then was selected by NASA as part of Astronaut Group 21, completed training and became available for future space missions such as the Expedition 57/58 and Expedition 59/60.
On March 14, 2019 the Soyuz MS-12 with Colonel Hague took the flight to the ISS from Kazakhstan, together with Aleksey Ovchinin and Christina Koch.
The rendezvous timeline of the Soyuz is about 6 hours from start to finish. With 4½ hours to go, the Soyuz is at 250,000 feet (76 km) behind the International Space Station. With 3 hours to go, the Soyuz is at about 50,000 feet (15 km) behind ISS. Relative velocities decrease as the Soyuz gets closer to the ISS. The last 400 feet are incredibly slow, taking about 40 minutes.
Curious about the space trip, the life on the International Space Station, the perception of the world from above and the life once back on Earth, I had the pleasure to ask a couple of questions to Colonel Hague.
MZ: Why did you want to become an astronaut?
NH: I like working in teams that are solving really complicated problems. I'm an engineer, so I like thinking of complicated machines, building them, do things that people haven't done before and the idea of exploring and discovering new things is what excites me.
If you like all of that, then NASA is the place where to be.
MZ: What is the most difficult thing to describe about Space?
NH: It's the perspective. Being able to describe how looking at the earth and the depths of the universe all at the same time and seeing the macro and the micro just challenges your mind. From so many directions you try to verbalize that internal dialogue that's happening while you're sitting there witnessing it as something that's almost impossible to describe. MZ: What did you forget about the life on earth from your experience in the Space?
NH: Weather is something we don't have up there, right. In the Space and ISS we have always the same temperature, the same humidity. You miss the feeling of water falling onto you and then running down your skin in a rainstorm. When you are up there and you sweat, it just stays on your skin. It eventually becomes the same temperature as your skin and you forget it's even there. You don't get that sensation of water running on your skin.
Oh gosh: that was a refreshing experience once back on the ground.
During our short chat, one of the most remarkable thoughts from Nick was:
‘Definition of home changes when you land. Home is not your hometown anymore.
Home is Earth.’
We, as little “astronauts” traveling from different cities and countries, expanding our desire of knowledge, connections and curiosity, certainly cannot perceive how strong was the feeling of Earth as home emphasized by Nick.
This dialogue opened my eyes on the imperceptive phenomena happening every day such as gravity, seasons, weather, ability to think, walk, travel, eat, communicate and connect with millions of other human beings.
In our relatively small world, it’s easy to feel home, even if you are thousands of miles away from your family and hometown.
Home is where your heart is.
I sincerely thank Nick for the time and the chat we had. Detailed information about Nick Hague are taken from his Wikipedia webpage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nick_Hague.