OHIO VALLEY — Dr. Garrett Reisman would definitely be an interesting dinner guest for any occasion and on Tuesday evening, the public can spend some time with him at Gallia Academy High School in the gymnasium.
Starting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24, Reisman, who was an astronaut with NASA, will be speaking on his experiences. The presentation is free and open to the public and has been arranged by the Bossard Memorial Library and the Gallia-Vinton Educational Service Center. The evening is meant to compliment the library’s current exhibit, “SPACE: A Journey to Our Future.” The exhibit at the library, is also free.
According to background information provided to Ohio Valley Publishing, Reisman was selected by NASA as a mission specialist Astronaut in 1998. His first mission was aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, in 2008, which dropped him off for a 95-day mission aboard the International Space Station after which he returned to Earth aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. His second mission was aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, in 2010, and returned Reisman to the Space Station.
During these missions, Reisman performed three spacewalks, operated the Space Station Robot Arm and was a flight engineer aboard the Space Shuttle. After leaving NASA in 2011, Reisman joined SpaceX where he worked for Elon Musk and prepared SpaceX for human spaceflight as the Director of Space Operations. Currently he is a Professor of Astronautical Engineering at USC and a Senior Advisor at SpaceX.
Reisman spoke with Ohio Valley Publishing about his upcoming visit, explaining the structure of his presentation will focus on not only the accomplishments of the past but what the future, in terms of space exploration, holds. He said he was humbled to travel to Ohio to speak, given some of the state’s famous residents involved in the space program over the years. Reisman will also share some of his experiences in becoming an astronaut and how determination and hard work can pay off for anyone with a dream.
Prior to his Tuesday evening talk which is open to the public, Reisman will be addressing area students earlier in the day, including students at River Valley Middle School joined by students from South Gallia Middle School and Gallia Academy Middle School along with students from Ohio Valley Christian School. The students will be largely made up of those in sixth-eighth grades. These sessions earlier in the day are closed to the public.
Reisman said he will share his own experiences with students in regards to achieving his dream and overcoming obstacles.
“It is true, there is a disparity in resources and opportunities available…not everyone in this country has the same advantages and I’m very aware of this as a father,” he said. “I grew up in New Jersey, went to public schools….my message to all kids out there is don’t buy into that (negative) narrative. If you really apply yourself and are really passionate about getting involved in something like space, you can do it…I didn’t go to a fancy prep school…my parents weren’t billionaires, but I was fascinated with everything about space and read every book I could get my hands on. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me. If something is really important to you and people tell you it’s impossible, or you grow up with everyone telling you, ‘you can’t do that’…or ‘that’s not something people from around her do,’ don’t listen to that. If it’s important to you, just do it, don’t allow yourself to be taken down by depressing people…don’t let them win.”
Addressing how to achieve what some see as the impossible, Reisman explained, “People told me things I wanted to do were impossible, that they were never going to happen. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard, I had to work really hard and sometimes I was at a disadvantage not being the tallest person (for space walks) or not having attended a fancy prep school…hard work can overcome those disadvantages. If it’s important to you, you can do it.”
Reisman explained many people told his boss Elon Musk, the things he wanted to achieve were “impossible but he went out and did it.”
Resiman added the impossible is possible by being willing to work and willing to fail.
“Failure is OK, that’s another message I really want to send…Elon would say, if you’re not failing you’re not trying. …I failed so many times along my path…you’ve got to be OK with that.”
Though the numbers have grown over the decades, to say you have been “in space” is to be part of a select club with experiences most human beings haven’t had. Reisman said his most memorable experiences in space were his three space walks. He called them “mind blowing” and “incredible” and not something easily put into words.
“It’s not safe, you do know that (when attempting it), doing a space walk is just as risky as reentry…,” he said.
Reisman said the adrenalin rush aside, there is the worry you will make a mistake and not achieve all your objectives after training for this “incredibly scrutinized period of time where time is incredibly important, you’re using up oxygen and resources, there’s a giant team of people on the ground…it’s not something to be taken lightly.”
As stated earlier, he’s now teaching full time at USC while remaining a senior advisor at SpaceX. Given this transition in careers, he was asked what is more difficult, being a teacher or an astronaut?
“They both have their challenges…it was a big transition for me (going from being an astronaut to teaching),” he said. “When teaching I don’t have to worry about the pressure of (having enough) oxygen or if the propulsion system is working,” he joked. “It was a huge transition but I’ve made a number of them over the course of my career.”
Reisman talked about the “panic” a person can feel when taking a new career path and referred to “the imposter syndrome.” He said there were times he felt like an imposter when giving a lecture for the first time, putting on a flight suit or running sophisticated programs, though his training prepared him for these various paths.
“That’s common (that imposter syndrome) and that will happen and be uncomfortable but eventually goes way…eventually you get good at it (this new path) and no longer feel like an imposter anymore but it takes time,” he said of the hard work and persistence that follows.
Reisman is also in a select group of people who have been able to look at Earth from space and said what impressed him most about that view is how thin the atmosphere was, “it looks incredibly fragile.” He said it drove home for him the importance of taking care of the planet.
As for something about Reisman most people don’t know, he said, “I was a lousy Cub Scout, I never even make it to Boy Scouts. I failed out of Webelos.”
Despite this early exposure to failure in life, Reisman took it in stride and recently found himself giving lessons to actor Brad Pitt on how to fly a “fake spaceship” or at least look realistic while trying. Reisman was a consultant on the new film “Ad Astra,” and added, Pitt caught on and did well.
“Bossard Library is pleased to partner with the Gallia-Vinton Educational Service Center to provide the opportunity for the public to hear Dr. Reisman’s presentation, as he shares his amazing experiences in the space program,” Debbie Saunders, library director, said. “It is our hope that people of all ages will enjoy his presentation and that his words will spark an interest in attendees to want to learn more about NASA and all things relating to space. His presentation will perfectly compliment the Space exhibition currently on display at the Library now through January 5, 2020.”
Saunders also noted, as children have experienced the exhibit, “we hear comments from some of them about their career aspirations, with some of them even noting an interest in becoming aerospace engineers. If hearing from Dr. Reisman’s experience and/or attending the exhibition can plant the seed in all these students to follow their dreams and ‘reach for the stars,’ then the goal of these types of events will be fulfilled.”
Reisman said he hopes those who hear him speak leave with a better awareness of what’s gong on in the recent past and near future in space exploration, “but more important, I hope at least I reach some kid out there that gets inspired and the lessons I learned can help them with whatever they want to do, whether they want to be an astronaut, or doctor, or scientist, and even a dancer, whatever it might be, whatever their dreams are, just let them know dreams do come true, it is possible and they shouldn’t be discouraged.”
For more information on the “SPACE” exhibit at the library, go to https://www.bossardlibrary.org/
Gallia Academy High School is located at 2855 Centenary Road, Gallipolis, Ohio.