Recently Nicole Stott answered dozens of questions in a preflight interview. Here are the first three.
Q: Of all the careers in all the world that a person could aspire to, you end up a professional space traveler. So tell me what is it that motivated youor inspired you to become an astronaut.
A: Well, honestly I think my initial and probably kind of the grounding motivation that I have is growing up with a father who loved to fly small airplanes: built small airplanes in our garage, and at the airport while we were growing up, and so I spent a lot of time hanging out at the local airport with him and flying with people that were there, a little small Cub and in his aerobatic airplanes, and it was just I think that was kind of the initial thing. It was there; I developed a passion for flying from what I saw in him and the passion that he had for it, and I think the one thing that he expressed to me, too, was that you need to pay attention to the things that you enjoy, and those things can be part of what you do for a living, and so that led me down the path of studying aeronautical engineering which then took me to a job at Kennedy Space Center, which was the number one place I applied for and really wanted to be there after growing up in Florida and seeing shuttles launch while I was at university, and got a job at Kennedy Space Center in shuttle operations-I mean, what cooler place could you be working-and every step of the way there I was just thrilled with the jobs I had. I’m working on a space shuttle, I’m on the runway for landing, these things, I’m in the control center where we’re launching the shuttle. I mean, it didn’t seem like it could get any cooler than that, and fortunately I had people that I considered to be mentors that I worked with there. My family did the same thing. Several of my university professors encouraged me to apply for the Astronaut Office, and honestly, up until that point I really just thought that was one of these way cool things that could never be a possibility for me. And so the confidence that I got from them encouraging me is what led me to fill out the first application and ultimately the dream comes true, but it’s been a really nice evolution, this kind of moving through the NASA jobs and shuttle operations, working here at Johnson Space Center in aircraft op[eration]s as a flight engineer on the Shuttle Training Aircraft, and then moving into the Astronaut Office with this, one day there might be this really great perk of flying in space.
Q: Let me take [you] back to the beginning of the evolution. Tell me about Clearwater, Florida, what it was like to grow up there.
A: Oh, it was great. It’s a very nice beach, like a typical beach town in Florida on the west coast, so you’re at the beach in the summer time; you’re, like the weather here in Houston, you’re comfortable throughout the year, you’re outside doing stuff. I really enjoyed growing up there; look forward to going back and visiting my high school after I fly, too, and talking to them about all of it.
Q: You have a sense of how that place and those people helped make you the person that you are?
A: I think so. I think because it was a comfortable place to live, a relaxed environment, because I had the time to hang out with my father at an airport where you could, I mean, if you’ve hung out with airport people before you know they’re a relaxed group of people with a lot of personality and I think that with that kind of atmosphere and then I of course had a couple of teachers from high school, a biology teacher-I never took the path of biology but she encouraged me that science and math could also be exciting things and it helped me see that so, I think it had a huge impact on kind of the path I took.
For the entire interview with Nicole Stott visit NASA.