Life Aboard the Space Station
About the Guest
On Christmas day 1968, the world listened as American astronaut Frank Borman recited Genesis 1 while watching the lunar sunrise from the command module of Apollo 8, Now, more than five decades later, American astronaut Butch Wilmore joins us live from the International Space Station, as he too declares the glory of God from his unique orbital perspective.
American astronaut Butch Wilmore joins us live from the International Space Station, as he too declares the glory of God from his unique orbital perspective.
Life Aboard the Space Station
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. This could get a little tricky today. I’m not sure—
Houston: Hello, this is Houston Comm Tech.
Dennis: This is Dennis Rainey with FamilyLife Today.
Bob: And Bob Lepine. Houston, can you hear us?
Houston: I hear you very low.
Bob: Low? Not loud and clear?
Houston: Okay, you’re coming in a little bit louder. Please standby.
Bob: Do I need to say, “Over”?
Houston: Okay, this is Comm Tech with a second voice-take on private three; now copy.
Bob: Hi, Comm Tech. How’s the sound now? Better?
Houston: Sounds better. Please stand by for a moment.
Bob: I’m getting the sense that you don’t make jokes with Houston Comm Tech or anybody else in Houston.
Dennis: Well, we’re speaking to NASA.
Bob: They are a little focused on the mission.
Dennis: And folks, this is not a joke. That really is—
Dennis: —Houston NASA Control Center.
Bob: And here is the thing. Some of our listeners recognize that, back last fall, we had the opportunity to have a conversation with Captain Barry Wilmore and his wife Deanna just before Barry blasted off from a launch pad in Russia—
Dennis: A Soyuz rocket.
Bob: —going up to take command of the International Space Station, which is where he is today.
Dennis: And we also recorded, without Deanna knowing, a 20th Anniversary greeting.
Bob: Yes, Barry called us from the space station, back in early December—December 3rd was their anniversary—
Bob: —their 20th Anniversary. We had him, at the end of the program, sharing anniversary greetings.
Dennis: And he sent me an email, after that happened, and said: “Dennis, thank you for allowing me to do that. My daughter actually took a video.” I don’t know how they do this, Bob—but they showed the video back to him on the space station. He is in the International Space Station, right now. He had a conversation—and he said, “My daughter showed my wife weeping—
Bob: As she listened?
Dennis: —“as she listened to my 20th Anniversary greetings.”
Bob: And we’re trying to work things out now. I think this is going to work, where Houston is setting us up so that we can talk to Captain Wilmore—
Dennis: —on the International Space Station.
Barry: FamilyLife Today, hello. Hello, from the International Space Station. You guys out there?
Bob: Unbelievable! Is it really you?
Barry: Hi, Bob! Hi, Dennis!
Bob: And how many bars do you have on your phone right now? [Laughter]
Barry: Hopefully, enough!
Bob: It is amazing that we’re talking to you!
Barry: Well, thank you all for your program—it’s fabulous.
Dennis: Would you mind looking out your window and telling us what you’re seeing right now?
Barry: If I’m not mistaken—I didn’t look at a map—but if I’m not mistaken, based on what I’ve seen, I believe that’s Australia going by below me.
Bob: Wow! [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, Butch, you’re looking at the earth as few men or women ever get a chance to see it. What’s a unique perspective you’ve had, just from outer space? This is your second time to be in orbit. Any thoughts come to your mind as you glance at the globe of six billion people?
Barry: Very interesting question. You know, when I was here before—when I flew five years ago—
—it was a shuttle mission. Shuttle missions were fast and furious—it was 11 days. I think the most time I ever had to stick my nose in the window was about 20 minutes. That really wasn’t long enough—it was wonderful—don’t get me wrong. But now, to have the opportunity to really, no kidding, poke my nose in the window for very extended periods of time, it’s truly amazing and truly breathtaking. It makes me in awe of my Lord and Savior and Creator—I mean—beyond words.
I can’t explain—you can’t explain the view. You can’t—I mean, you can see pictures / you can see video—and they do a little bit to show what the beauty of the earth and the globe is from here; but to see it with your own eyes and realize that it’s controlled by a sovereign God—like I said, it’s beyond words.
Bob: Tell us what a day is like onboard the Space Station. First of all, what time zone are you in?
Barry: Yes, we work under GMT, Greenwich Mean Time, which is the same time as London.
Before I answer that question—
—let me say that / I want it to be clear—it is an amazing place, and it’s an amazing view. It is an amazing thing to be here. I wake up every morning, and I float down the tube. I’m like: “Lord, I can’t believe I’m here. This is just amazing! It’s thrilling.”
But I did not need to come here to know my Lord / to know my God. I mean—all that I could ever know / could ever want to know—I gleaned from the Words of Scripture. So, I didn’t have to come here to find my Lord. He’s in the Word—that’s where He resides—and that’s where He speaks to us from.
Okay, again, your question?
Bob: Just tell me about what a day is like for you onboard the space station.
Barry: Well, the days are pretty busy as you would imagine. I’m kind of a morning guy—I get up early. I get up around 4:30 or 5:00. We’re not required, but it’s very highly encouraged that we work out a great deal. We get about two and half hours a day scheduled to work out—we have resistance exercise.
So, that’s how I start my day.
The resistance exercise machine is actually positioned right below the main window, which is called the cupola in the Space Station. I can lay there and do my work-out and see the beauty of the world go by. For instance, just this very morning, I’m working out—I look up, and there goes the nation of Israel by the window. It’s the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve flown directly over the top. It was wonderful to look down and see the—from that vantage point—to see the places where our Lord walked when He was on earth—so, it was great. Anyway, that’s the way my day starts.
Then, of course, the rest of it begins. It’s a busy, busy place with a lot of various things going on—science, working payloads, plant seedling growth or crystal growth, working with the fish—we had fish up here. Some of them went back when the last Soyuz went back—and experiments with those. And the list goes on, and on, and on—combustion science. I mean—and that’s just one day.
Then, there’ll be things that will break; and we’ll have to fix—that’s ongoing. Of course, we have to do a spacewalk. We go out and do some things outside—that was amazing as well. So, the variety, and the opportunity, and the things that we do is varied—it’s really neat.
Bob: I’m just curious if they still have Tang® onboard the Space Station—you know—because I grew up—it was all about astronauts and Tang. Do you even know what I’m talking about?
Barry: I know exactly what you’re talking about—I sure do! I don’t know that it’s made by people that make Tang, but it’s like that—it’s a powdered drink. That’s all we have, basically. It’s in little pouches, and we put water in it—it fires it up. It’s quite tasty—I enjoy it in various flavors.
Bob: So, breakfast, or lunch, or dinner—what are your meals like onboard the Space Station?
Barry: The food is prepared a little differently—so, it does give it a different taste—and we’re big on condiments here. [Laughter] Condiments are huge! So, you can make anything taste decent with the right amount of condiments. [Laughter] But you know, breakfast—
—eggs, sausage links, and patties. I mean, we’ve got those that we rehydrate. We’ve got soups. We don’t have salads; but we have soups, and vegetables, and meats—a varied variety of those. It’s really good—I enjoy the food. Then, again, I’m not a good guy to ask if food is good because, when I was on deployment on the aircraft carrier, I even liked ship food. There are not many people that like ship food. [Laughter]
Dennis: Other than your family, what do you miss most while being in outer space?
Barry: There is only one thing that I miss. I’ll tell you what it is and I’ll tell you why I don’t miss anything else. It is because it is such a unique place. To pine for something that I can’t have—like a hamburger, or French fries, or something like that—there’s no reason for that because everything else just overwhelms that.
The one thing that I don’t have here—that I not only want but I need—is church. The Lord gave us His church. He gave it to us because He knew that we needed it.
We need it for our encouragement, for learning / obviously, for worship—admonishment at times. That’s the one thing that I can’t have here. I try to supplement that. I have messages from my home church that are sent to me weekly—and I listen to those—but it’s not the same as being there and the fellowship with the body. That’s the one thing that I do miss.
Bob: And you’d include FamilyLife Today in there as well; right?
Barry: Absolutely! [Laughter] Absolutely.
Dennis: Butch, I emailed you this morning. I just wonder, “How long does it take for my email to get to you?”
Barry: Now, that’s varied as well. Sometimes, it gets here immediately. At other times, it takes days. It gets stuck in a hopper somewhere, and it won’t get here for a couple of days. So, it’s varied. Mostly, it’s pretty good though.
Bob: What can you tell us about the rest of the crew—the guys you are working with?
Barry: Well, my Russian crewmates—that I launched in the Soyuz with—will be here the whole six months together. Alexander Samokutyaev is a military pilot from the Russian Air Force, and Elena Serova is a female engineer that was selected as a cosmonaut several years ago.
It’s a great group of people to be around. We’ve trained a lot on earth together; and being with them here is fabulous as well.
Dennis: Do you speak Russian?
Barry: You know, I jokingly say, “I speak two languages fluently, and one I speak a little bit.” I speak English, and I speak Tennessee. Then, I know a little bit of Russian. [Laughter]
Bob: But in that kind of environment—where you are living together / you’re working together—I mean, you don’t have anybody else to talk to other than your comrades onboard the Space Station and your comm link back to Houston. Relationships—maintaining healthy relationships—that’s got to be a part of the mission; isn’t it?
Barry: It is. One of the things that is good—again, that NASA does well is / like you mentioned—email. I’ve got friends and relationships that I’ve built over the years. Being able to maintain contact with those individuals via email is really—it’s wonderful.
There is also—you know, I was able to send out and have 300 or so people on a friends and family website. They put some stuff on the website—like the spacewalk I did, and pictures, and whatnot. I’ve typed up a few things that go to that website to maintain contact with them. The people who are able to access that website can also send me messages. So, that’s very helpful.
Dennis: One of the things that I did a little a research on is the massive number of people that form the NASA team—that, ultimately, slings you guys into outer space and cares for your well-being while you are out there. I’d just be fascinated to hear your thoughts about teamwork and lessons you’ve learned that are, literally, out of this world.
Barry: Oh, you are right. You can’t—we can’t have success in just about anything in life without teamwork. That’s certainly the case here on the International Space Station. Yes, we’re the bodies that get to climb into the rocket, and they launch, and come up here and do these wonderful things in a wonderful environment—
—it’s true—but these experiments, these payloads, these procedures that I run daily—they don’t exist without the team. The things that we’re doing / the things that we’re accomplishing up here do not happen without the team. I’m just, honestly, a small part of the team when it comes to a lot of the things that I do.
There’s a mountain of people that put their passion and their life’s work into much of the things that I work on here. You know, some of the experiments—there are individuals that—this is literally—literally—some of them, it’s their life’s work—things that they’ve been working on for decades—and here it is in my hands. I take that seriously, and it’s a great amount of responsibility. You know, I appreciate them for what they do—the effort they’ve put into jobs to make some things easier for me. I’m sure they appreciate the things that we do as well. It doesn’t exist without that cohesiveness, like you mentioned.
Dennis: You need to know we have a ton of young folks who listen, dreaming dreams/aspirations for their own lives.
Have you got something you’d like to say to them about what they need to be cultivating as they grow up and, hopefully, put some feet to their dreams?
Barry: One thing that comes to mind is—for me, anyway—the parable of the talents. The lord gave some more than others, but there was a certain expectation for whatever they were given. I think that, as we live our life, that we need to realize that wherever we are / whatever we are doing, we exist for His glory—that’s why we’re here. With whatever He’s given us, we need to maximize and do the best we can with that for His glory. Do what you are passionate about / do what you love—and remember that you do everything you do for His glory.
Bob: Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan. I know you all were expecting a supply delivery—that there was a little bit of a hitch. Can you tell us what happened and how you’ve had to adjust, as a result?
Barry: Yes, there was a mishap with a launch vehicle that was bringing cargo to us. For me, personally, there have been minor adjustments. The reason—and we’ve talked about it just a second ago—is the team. The team on the ground that works all of those issues have worked feverishly to make sure that we have everything that we need.
They planned ahead so we’d have a stockpile of things that we wouldn’t be put in a bind on anything. There is only one or two items that were even just slightly short on because the team has been working and doing their jobs. And the team—as soon as it happened—they were at work, getting ready and planning and seeing how we go forward from there.
Bob: Were you anxious at all when you got the news that the supply vehicle had been damaged?
Barry: We were actually watching it, live, as it launched; and we saw what had happened. You know, our first thoughts, like anything—it’s a clear range, and there is nobody there—but you still—there is always a chance that something will go astray. Your first thought is, “Could anybody have been injured?”
Of course, thankfully, that wasn’t the case. When there is no individual harm that takes place—cargo and stuff—you can replace all of that. In that light, it’s minor.
Dennis: Butch, I want you to give our listeners an idea of how big this thing is that you are screaming around the earth in.
Barry: Total size—if you think about two football fields—it’s about as long as a football field and about as wide as a football field. The structure inside—they say that the size and the volume is like five buses that you would connect together. We have various modules, and I can tell you it is wide open space—it’s not like the capsule I launched in. The Soyuz capsule is very small. The shuttle, with respect to the Space Station—the living space in that was fairly small—but this is huge / it’s wide open.
And you’re right—flying around—even inside here, weightlessly, is such a kick. It is really, really amazing. As a matter of fact, I just flipped around and am standing on the ceiling now—
—or what we call the ceiling because there really is no up and down. [Laughter] Now, I’m standing on the bulkhead—on the wall. [Laughter]
Dennis: There are some kids, right now, going, “Oh, could I go up there and join him for that?!” So, have you ever spilled anything up there?
Barry: It’s great to watch water droplets and whatnot—so, yes, I spill it often, intentionally, because it’s neat to watch. [Laughter]
Bob: I would like to be weightless just for a day.
Dennis: I could use some weightlessness.
Captain Wilmore, you have done a number of deployments in your service for the Navy. You have any coaching for dads who travel a lot? Maybe, they don’t go to outer space, but they’re gone three or four days a week or a good number of days throughout the month—any coaching for them about caring for their wives and their children in the midst of that?
Barry: I think the thing that I would say from my standpoint—and what I’ve tried to do myself—is always think about biblical principles—you know, raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord and teach them God’s Word.
That’s what I do with my daughters, and that’s what my wife and I do together.
I think a big part of that is preparing, especially when the children are younger—I’ve got a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old. We did a great deal of preparation for this separation time—discussing it and talking about it. My number one message to my daughters, and I even say it when I call them now, is: “Help Mommy.” We also—my wife homeschools—so, the follow-up slogan to that is: “Help your teacher. The principal may be out of town for a while, but he’s coming back!” [Laughter]
Dennis: So, that’s a setup. Do you want to say anything to those girls of yours?—any words from Daddy to a daughter? I know you get to talk to them too, but here is a chance to both brag on them and exhort them with a few hundred thousand, if not a million, listeners across the country.
Barry: Yes, both of my daughters are taking piano lessons—my youngest just started. I want you to know, girls—Darren and Logan—Daddy loves—loves—to hear you play the piano. I thank you when you practice, and I thank you when you play over the phone so I can even hear you from here—so, thank you for that. I want you to know that Daddy is very proud of both of you. And I, also, want you to know that the slogan is the same in this message too: “Help Mommy / help your teacher.” [Laughter]
Dennis: Well said by a dad. Way to go! Is there a question you’d like to be asked that’s a favorite question for you to answer?
Barry: I think, you know, it’s less about me / more about my Lord is where I would try to orient any question: “What drives you?”—maybe. What really, truly drives me is my desire to live according to what the Lord has laid out in His Word that we should do—
—and to glorify Him—and that’s the main driver. So, that would be the question: “What drives you?” and that’s the answer.
Bob: You have time in your schedule to include spiritual disciplines and to keep your spiritual self in shape; right?
Barry: Absolutely; yes, sir.
Bob: So, what are you doing in space—I know you have an opportunity to read your Bible, and you mentioned reviewing messages from church. Anything else that you are doing to just stay connected to Christ?
Barry: The Lord gave me something a few years ago that I have been continuing. It wasn’t something I set out to do—it just kind of happened—and that is that I started sending out a devotion to just a couple of people daily / every single day. Over the years, the Lord grew that distribution list. I don’t know how many people are on it now—I haven’t counted—it’s probably 70 or so different emails that I send out.
So, I do that every day—preparing the devotion to send out to those 70 individuals.
Also, I have it posted on my friends and family website. So that, right there, is something that the Lord has given me to keep me in His Word, and keep me studying, and keep me growing—and for that, I am grateful.
Dennis: I just want our listeners to think about where Butch is right now because he’s looking at how this verse is really spelled out—Psalm 8:
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. You have set Your glory above the heavens! When I look at the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place; what is man, that You are mindful of him and the son of man that You care for him?
Yet, you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor! You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands and have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen,
and the beasts of the fields, and the birds of the heaven, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!”
Barry: I can tell you from this vantage point, “majestic,” indeed—praise Him.
Bob: Butch, let me ask you one more question. How often does the sun come up during the day, and how often does it go down during the day for you?
Barry: Oh, there is another blessing! The sunrises and sunsets here are just amazing. The Space Station—the whole station for about six to ten seconds turns completely orange as it goes through—as the light passes through the atmosphere. It kind of acts as a prism and separates the colors. I get 16 of those a day—fantastic!
Bob: So, is it almost bedtime for you now?
Barry: It actually—it is. I’m going to grab me a quick little bite to eat; and then, I’m going to hit the rack. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, Butch, thanks for joining us on FamilyLife Today. Just want you to know it’s no excuse that you can’t listen to the broadcast up there. You should have figured that out in advance, but we’ll forgive you for that; okay?
Barry: I appreciate that—[Laughter]—next time—next time!
Bob: Well, we’re thrilled to be able to talk to you. Folks are praying for you, and we’re going to keep praying for you. Excited to hear that the mission is going well.
Barry: Thank you very much, and I appreciate that as well. Praise Him. Thank you.
Bob: You know, it occurs to me—that when Butch lands—and I just checked with Keith—it’s not a splashdown. It’s not a landing like an airplane. It’s an earthbound landing and a recovery. What did you call it—the Soyuz—what?
Keith: They land from a Soyuz recovery capsule, and they land on the ground in the steppes of Russia.
Bob: Wow! Keith knows these things. [Laughter] When that happens—after he and his wife have had a chance to kind of get acquainted with one another again—we need to get them to one of our Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways for a little refresher.
Bob: When you’ve been gone for several months, it’s good to have a little getaway weekend together and to hear, again, God’s design for the marriage relationship.
Of course, you and I are going to be speaking at Weekend to Remember getaways next weekend. You’re going to be in Hershey, Pennsylvania. I’m going to be in Colorado Springs.
Bob: We’ve got another four or five getaways happening next weekend—Valentine’s weekend. Then, throughout the spring, there are Weekend to Remember marriage getaways happening in cities, all across the country.
If you and your spouse have never been, you don’t have to go to outer space in order to qualify to attend a Weekend to Remember. You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and sign up to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember marriage getaway—get more information about when one of these getaways is coming to a city near where you live. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY and mention that you’d like to attend a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. We can answer any questions you have—let you know about dates and locations.
But we hope you’ll make plans to invest in your marriage, whether you’ve been apart for a while or whether you see each other, day-in and day-out. This kind of getaway is great preventative maintenance for every marriage relationship.
Again, learn more at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link at the top of the page that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll find information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway there. Or call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY,”—ask about the Weekend to Remember.
One final note before we’re done. Next week is National Marriage Week. We’re going to be celebrating all week long with some special things going on social media. If you are not a friend of ours on our Facebook® page or if you don’t follow us on Twitter®, let me encourage you to sign up so that you can be in the loop for all that we’ve got going on next week—some fun stuff, some helpful things, and some ideas for Valentine’s Day.
You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and scroll all the way down to the very bottom of the page. You’ll see the links there for Facebook and Twitter—you can sign up that way. Or, if you’re in the know, just go to Facebook and Twitter—follow us @FamilyLifeToday—that’s our Twitter handle.
Or you can click, “Like,” on our FamilyLife Today Facebook page and join us that way.
And with that, we’ve got to wrap things up. Thanks for being with us today. Hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend. I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to begin a weeklong look at the Song of Solomon and what that book has to say about marriage, and romance, and dating, and intimacy. We’re going to hear messages from Pastor Matt Chandler next week. So, hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with help today from Tom Thompson. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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