We’re ringing in the New Year with a new astronaut Friday post, honoring an astronaut who truly had a remarkable 2018!
Andrew “Drew” Feustel was selected by NASA in 2000, and has journeyed into space a total of three times to date. His first mission was in 2009 with STS-125 aboard Atlantis, the fifth and final mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Feustel’s second mission was in 2011 with STS-134 aboard Endeavour, which was an International Space Station (ISS) assembly mission. His most recent mission launched last year as a part of the Expedition 55/56 crew that spent 197 days living in space aboard the ISS.
Across his three spaceflights, he has logged 226 total days in space. If you think that’s impressive, look at his spacewalking stats! Feustel has conducted 9 spacewalks in his career so far, logging a total of 61 hours and 48 minutes of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) time…which is the third longest amount of EVA time in the world, and the second among U.S. astronauts.
There’s no doubt that Feustel has been a part of some pretty cool (and important) missions in his career, so we’ve gathered some fun highlights from his time in space that you might not have known about!
1) He recorded a music video from space
You’ve probably watched tons of music videos. But, have you ever watched a music video made in space?
During his most recent mission, while living in space aboard the ISS, Expedition 56 commander Feustel recorded a music video from space with the help of the lead bassist from one of his favorite bands, a Canadian group known as The Tragically Hip.
According to Michigan Radio, Feustel sang a version of the song, “All Around the World,” which is written by The Tragically Hip’s Gord Sinclair. Feustel performed the first space music video from one of the most popular spots aboard the ISS, the Cupola, while he serenaded earthlings from a rocket man’s point of view.
So, how did this all start? According to Space.com, Feustel first connected to the band back in 2006 while giving them a NASA tour. Feustel, who holds both Canadian and American citizenship, frequently plays the band’s music in his own astronaut band, known as the Max Q. Feustel and Gord became fast friends after connecting on the NASA tour, which turned into a collaboration from space in the form of Feustel’s music video.
In a Michigan Radio article, Feustel said of the experience, “I thought it really did a good job of capturing the pace of the way we see the Earth and the things that we think about while we’re in space.”
While it isn’t the first time an astronaut has recorded a music video in orbit (see fellow Canadian Chris Hadfield’s performance of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” from the ISS), it was certainly an original collaboration!
2) The skills he learned working on cars growing up, help him as an astronaut today
It doesn’t take much to figure out that Feustel takes an interest in cars and racing. Look no further than his Instagram and Twitter feeds and you’ll see amazing images from space, primarily of racetracks around the globe!
— A.J. (Drew) Feustel (@Astro_Feustel) November 25, 2018
Feustel’s passion for cars is embedded in his NASA bio, where it lists his start working as an automotive mechanic on classic cars, as well as his involvement with the BMW Club of America, and his role as the Purdue University Carting Grand Prix chairman.
Of his passion for cars, Feustel has said that it is his interest in cars which has been instrumental to his success as an astronaut. “As an astronaut, much of what we do relies on our ability to understand mechanical systems, and to use our curiosity, knowledge and intuition to solve complex and critical problems,” he said.
From auto-mechanic to geologist to astronaut, Feustel has almost done it all! A relatively new role for him, however, is serving as an ambassador for the RPM Foundation, a nonprofit which advocates for education in the marine, automotive and motorcycle restoration trades.
It was through an RPM Foundation live chat from space that he connected with a fellow ambassador and former IndyCar racer, Lyn St. James, who made a promise to Feustel that he could participate in an on-track drive in an open-wheel car.
That isn’t the only time Drew’s found his way to the track. In 2008, he had the opportunity to talk with NASCAR driver Kurt Busch about the similarities between racing cars and flying into space (see below) at the Daytona International Speedway prior to the racing of the Daytona 500. That year, both NASA and NASCAR were celebrating 50th milestones; the 50th anniversary of NASA and the 50th running of the Daytona 500.
3) He played the first-ever tennis match in space aboard the International Space Station…and won!
In 2018, the sport of tennis reached new heights with the first-ever tennis match in space!
On Aug. 21 of last year, Feustel and fellow NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold, faced off against fellow ISS crewmates, NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst in a microgravity doubles match.
As one might imagine, there were some limitations with a space tennis match, including the struggle of playing in a microgravity environment. Without gravity to weigh them down, the astronauts struggled to coordinate their moves. But, at the end of the day, there was a winning team! Feustel and Arnold claimed victory at the first space tennis match.
The match, put on by the United States Tennis Association and powered by Net Generation, was broadcast at the U.S. Open on a large globe (known as the Unisphere) in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, New York, where a massive crowd of space and sport enthusiasts gathered to watch the exciting event.
In a 2017 Q&A interview with the United States Tennis Association, prior to his historic match in space, Drew Feustel said, “It’s neat to see our personal interests help to share the story of space and space exploration. I think the key for us is that we can get the public interested in what we’re doing and why we’re doing it through common interests like tennis and sports. It’s a really neat opportunity for us to reach out and share those stories.”
Check out his historic match and victory with the video below: