Episode 126 – The Space Episode with NASA Astronaut Shane Kimbrough
COL (R) Shane Kimbrough is a former Army Officer and current NASA astronaut. He was selected by NASA in 2004, and completed his first spaceflight in 2008. Shane launched on October 19, 2016, as part of Expedition 49/50, where he became the Commander of the International Space Station, and remained so until he departed almost 6 months later.
In this week’s show, we cover a ton of ground, to include:
- His Army career and how it led to NASA
- His leadership style, and how it’s changed over time
- Fitness in space
- How his perspective on life and the planet has changed since he became an astronaut
And much more!
Intro: 00:01 This is the Eagle Nation podcast where we talk about building richer lives and stronger communities, have inspiring guests, the tap real conversations about the things that you care about.
JJ: 00:13 All right, everyone. Welcome back to the even nation podcast. My name is Jj Pinter and I’m going to be your host today for a podcast that it’s been a long time coming and I’m not going to lie. I’m fanboying a little bit right now because I have a really special guest on today. I have a, I have colonel retired, Shane Kimbrough who is, he’s not joining us for space right now. It looks like he’s joining us from the space on the video right now. But Shane is a former commander of the international space station. He’s a retired army officer and current astronaut and he’s a bunch of other really read stuff and we are incredibly blessed to have him on the podcast today and for him to give us some of his time. So. So Shane, thank you so much for joining us.
JJ: 00:52 So where are you joining us from today? Are you from joining us from Houston?
Shane: 00:56 Yeah, that’s where we all live and train – right here.
JJ: 01:04 I said I want to talk about the connection to team red, white, and blue before we get going here. So everybody who’s ever met him knows Mike Erwin, kind of a ball of energy, unlike anything that I’ve ever met before. I’ve known Mike, if you listen to the podcasts, you know I’ve known Mike since we were young men together and Mike was a baseball player at west point and I believe that is where the connection with, with Shane started. And so that is how the initial connection to team RWB became around. Right. So, so you and Mike were connected via the baseball team at Westmont, right?
Shane: 01:35 Yup. So when you guys were there when baseball team, and so I got to hang out with Mike and his teammates and travel events. And ironically it was the first time we didn’t ever gone to an NCAA championship be part of that.
JJ: 01:56 So was his mix fast ball as good as he says it was.
Shane: 01:59 Oh, I’m sure. I’m sure it’s as good as mine is.
JJ: 02:03 So one of my classmates who is, he’s gone on to awesome things as well. Same as set Bodner who’s like basically one of the greatest humans on the planet is a, which was on the baseball team as well. And so that’s kind of like my, my connection to Mike. He’s actually the president of the University of Minnesota now, which is, which is pretty crazy. Yeah. So, so yeah, so that’s the connection. And also I should also say that I have been, I can remember a very distinct point in my life where I became obsessed with space and ever since I was a little, I don’t want to say it since I was a little kid, but there’s a, have you ever heard of an author named Bill Bryson? He wrote a book called that he’s, he’s written a bunch of books, but he wrote a book called, I’ll walk in the woods, which kind of, it’s a memoir of him walking the Appalachian trail.
JJ: 02:48 Then he wrote this other book called a short history of nearly everything. And I’m a huge reader and I remember reading this book when I was in high school. And it, it starts off by describing, it starts off by saying everything you’ve ever been taught about this size and expansive spaces incorrect. Like every textbook gets this wrong. The vastness of it just cannot be represented on paper. And I remember I remember very distinctly thinking, Huh, I remember in my classroom growing up we had like styrofoam balls hang in and like yeah, kind of made sense to me. And then he goes on to describe just like the vastness and what it would actually be like if you were to actually represented on paper. And I just remember thinking whatever reason, that moment just like snapped. And ever since then I’ve just been obsessed with space. So one of the reasons that we’re talking again today, so I am super excited about this conversation. So before he was an astronaut, Shane was in, was in the army as an army officer and I thought it would because the majority of the people who listen to this podcast are veterans. I thought it’d be great if you might share a little bit about your military experience. I’m kind of prior to to what you’re doing now.
Shane: 03:51 Flight School from there. Very rare for late eighties early nineties so guess what? The Gulf War kicked off in the early nineties I happened to be in place were at the time I do. From there I was going to the 24th intern division at the time at Fort Stewart, Georgia and they had already deployed, so I figured I was going to be a bed right over there since my school had a little detour and now I got to the Apache helicopter flight school, so got through that, but then joined the over in Saudi Arabia or Operation Desert Shield, Desert Storm. So incredible. First assignment, you know right out of the gate came back to Savannah, which is where the unit was based in Savannah from the now that they used to be the 24th I do back then. Kind of the incredible honor of being able to hear their a as three assistant has three other jobs before and after the advanced course.
Shane: 04:55 That kind of derailed a little bit from the aviation world. I went to the engineering advanced scores and Fort Benning without going to school and pathfinders school and things like that, which we only option for an aviator at the time. To do that was to get the entry advanced course. I went there, got those thoughts, but however that didn’t work out because I got called out of the advanced course early actually to take Amanda in the project companies were Bragg, just really kind of weird situation there, but he never turned down in command as your coach know that are in the military, so great opportunity. Got To command the Patch Committee headquarters company after that at Fort Bragg. From there I really kind of derail from the mainstream army and went to graduate school, which was a great opportunity in that there aren’t offered me to go to Georgia tech was his son from Atlanta, so that was really awesome. How are you finding are there anyways, so that was a great, great fit for me and my family. The payback the army. I went to West one to get an instructor and that’s where I met Mike. A lot of his classmates, classmates, JJ.
Shane: 06:00 From there, I got the opportunity to come down to NASA. We work or career threatening.
JJ: 06:24 What did you, I have to ask, what did you teach? Because I was going back and digging in the archives and I was a civil guy and I took a, and so I had a, I just had this sense that at some point I might have had you as as a professor, but I’m not sure if those two timelines would have lined up
Shane: 06:43 math or calculus problems that,
JJ: 06:56 well, it’s a very plausible scenario because I was there from 97 to 2001 and I took a lot of math classes and so it’s a, it’s a very, I left to go back and look, but it’s very likely that I was the best cadet that you ever had in one of your classes. Just to kind of further expand on one of the things that I, that I heard you say you took a deviation from, from the regular army to go to NASA and that’s a bit of a gamble because, because if that doesn’t work out then you’re kind of off track to be a battalion commander I think is kind of what you were saying, but it clearly worked out. Is that something that you ride for or was it just kind of presented to you as the opportunity to go work at NASA is like a rotational assignment or whatever you want to call it when you were in the army.
Shane: 07:37 Yeah, I didn’t always want to be in the army and after out, so I kind of gave up on that is going to be an officer in the army. As a lieutenant, I met a general awareness. He just gave me some pointers. So then I really started kind of folks in my career and still staying competitive for promotion of course, but, but a little bit out of the mainstream, like we’ve mentioned a good stepping stone for most army folks is to go to the navy test pilot school. So I was kind of heading in that direction. I got lucky enough to get selected for that to come work at NASA at the same time. So it was one of these names are like wow, I’d always wanted to be a test pilot and always wanting to go to NASA and decided to kind of roll the dice, come down here and NASA give it a shot.
JJ: 08:40 So I’d like to hear about that moment. Right. Because this is, I’ve had a couple of friends that I went to the academy with that have tried and failed to, to kind of go this route. Right. And I know how much time and effort they put into it and then it doesn’t work out. I guess. What was the moment like when you found out that it was actually going to come to fruition? I mean the odds are just staggeringly, I’m sure as a math professor you probably know exactly what they are, but the ads, they’re just like staggering. At least small. Like what? What does that like when you found out?
Shane: 09:07 Yeah, I mean really an incredible moment. First Year chances are pretty close to zero versus other colleagues of mine that were doing the same thing is quite sure why that is. But I’ve been very blessed and very lucky. You work very hard of course, but other books are in the same boat sometimes medical things they put without it at the last minute, sometimes other things they can be proud. And I think I had the good fortune of working here for a few years like I talked about and that really when I went in front of the selection committee, I knew everybody already so that the covers back and then I had no, none of the other alums that. So that really kind of put me at ease more than anything we could. Is that a conversation like we’re doing now versus being all stressed out and said in front of you know, a bunch of things astronauts that you’ve never seen or met before.
JJ: 10:00 Yeah, and I do want to like glance over it because it’s because it’s, there’s so much kind of depth to what you’ve done as an astronaut, but I would, I would like to just maybe get a high level if you could hit some of the high points of this, some of the things that you’ve been lucky enough to do. I know you’ve spent a tremendous amount of time and space and then I want to, I want to ask us a, you know, get into some more kind of detailed questions, just get your perspective on a few things. So could you maybe give us some overview of what your, from the time you showed up to Nasa, what that timeline looks like and how that ultimately culminated on the, on the, on the various missions that he got a chance to be a part of.
Shane: 10:35 Yup. You’re welcome. Class of 2004 and we were called the peacocks there. You see a picture of it right behind you? They’re pretty small group as you see. We had 11 us folks. We had three Japanese, they got added to our class 14 total. The Japanese were selected in a different kind of process that we were, but 11 out of, I don’t know, six, 7,000 people applied so chances are zero but it’s pretty close to zero by 11 I just got to fix that. That’s kind of the way I would’ve done it. It’s not what we’re going to get. Blue was going to be the rest of my colleagues at first
JJ: 11:15 or any other. Were there any other members of the military or just you?
Shane: 11:19 Yeah, no, good question. We actually had one from each major server. So we had a Marine Corps fighter pilot when the Air Force fighter pilot myself. And we had a navy seal capacity fraught with Karen and unique kind of person to have a great person. And the other folks were, we actually had the first group of teachers, they were ever selected to go through the full training. So we have three teachers involved and then scientists and doctors and engineers and made up the rest of our class.
JJ: 11:46 That’s really interesting. So like high school teachers, Middle School teachers, college professors with what types of teachers?
Shane: 11:52 Right, great question. So we had
JJ: 11:54 a middle school teacher and two high school teachers. They were, and they kind of had a little bit of a different application process and they kind of just competing against the other teachers. They were earning their names in the hat was again thousands of folks and they really an amazing job. Awesome. So when you go into the training pipeline? Well, I guess I should say the other thing, the reason I asked that, I mean, so I was, I’m 40 years old now. I was born in 1978 and so I, when you say the word teacher, I, I very distinctly remember that disaster in 1986 sitting in my elementary school, I guess I would’ve been in like first or second grade, something like that. At the time. I remember the entire school sitting there, they had one of those TVs on carts with the big straps over it. That DBC is back then and and watching, you know that terrible disaster. It’s like ingrained in my memory. I remember it from a very young age and I was just kind of right at the age where it was a teacher. I was an elementary school. The whole school was in the gym watching it, something, something I’ll never forget.
Shane: 12:55 Yeah, I was a fleet at west point watching the same thing as in physics class and we were all watching it down. How to get back to your other question. That’s kind of what I’ve done here, so we all came into the class. It takes about two years to get through to the fuck, call it basic astronauts, graduate school for or space like that, so a lot of exams, a lot of simulators, those kinds of things to get us through all the basic requirements. Back in those days we were all about the space shuttle and space station. Those are the two major programs and systems that we were studying. A, we’ve got to do that once we’ve kind of got to that graduated and they didn’t call us right candidates anymore. We were actually astronauts even though we hadn’t in space and that just meant we were able to be assigned to a mission at that point.
Shane: 13:42 Now, rarely do you get assigned very soon after that, but we worked several years and doing different jobs around our office that support our other colleagues that are launching or this getting them ready and trained and ready to go. A few years after that I was assigned to my first mission has ts one 26 which is a space shuttle flight on spacial endeavor back in November of 2008 really an honor for me to fly that mission with my other six roommates to the space station. We were up there for all space show missions in general about two weeks long. We were about 16 days, so on the, on the larger side of this video emissions and a, we did four space walks as a crew up there. I did two of those. You get outside for the first time. Those are pretty girl moments as you might imagine.
Shane: 14:27 We came home, we landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California and simply we tried to land in Florida where the vehicles get worked on in our families. The way that the weather was just didn’t cooperate thy days and we ended up going to California and you can help that our families the next day. That incredible experience on the rolling out of that. So I went into, you know, working other jobs for several years and then eventually got asked to fly a long duration mission, those six months and the national space station on the explanations 49 and 50 very, very different experiences as you might imagine launching groups of breeding for this point that shows that it is. And the only way that gives us space with, with the Russians on the Russian soil, you spacecraft a really incredible systems. So a ton of time in Russia is not a two and a half year training process for those missions.
Shane: 15:15 And a news thing about every other month I was in Russia training and then I’d be back to your training. We also do trips to Canada and Germany for training as well cause they have modules on the space station. So a lot of travel and there’s two and a half years in is prepared and ready to go. Once we got this space for extra, this is 49. So that was about six months. There’s a week or two shy of six months long. And uh, eventually we launch and land Cognix done. So that’s a very neat place to go to Raj and land is you might have seen that. So your spacecraft has come down, a parachute in this kind of crushes into the ground. It is a rough car crash I guess is the best way of food when the land, but it’s really great to be back on earth.
Shane: 15:58 Of course your body is going through some really, really amazing, crazy things coming from microgravity ends and grabbing the, again, getting your sense of the knowledge, it takes a couple days now there’s some pictures behind me as a ranting. It was a beautiful day. Beautiful April, 2017 so this is almost two years ago now. There was a kind of my highlights, I think things that I’ve done, at least my space bites and then an American, all the new spacecraft, so we have space x and Boeing may have heard or private companies that are filling our next spacecraft and get us to the International Space Station and back and I’ve been honored to work with them and get them ready for my colleagues that are going to watch on those later this year. Early next year and that’s is also building a vehicle called Orion and I’m me and my team. Look, it’s a, you get a chance to work on that as well and test that out and get it ready to go and that that’s a different mission is going to go to deep space and my colleagues to the moon and eventually the Mars really, really honored to be part of this work.
JJ: 16:57 But there’s like so many questions I want to ask you but I’m going to try to stay focused here. So she and I wanted to ask about leadership because the thing that they came to me when you were describing your your time commanding the International Space Station. Part of me says my mind goes to kind of hate leadership as leadership, right? And there there are some fundamental principles that are always going to apply kind of no matter what you do. Then I got to imagine that your small group, highly technical, a bunch of your peers, your working with other international other countries. Like what are some of the ways, what were some of the leadership challenges I guess, or some of the things that you had to maybe modify your style from that of like an army aviation officer in that environment?
Shane: 17:41 Yeah, great question. It is definitely a difference here at NASA and you know the several years leading up to all these really allowed me to see that culture, your announcements and understand that before I got in those situations. Now having said that, when you’re in the international space age and that’s obviously a lot of responsibility, we have an amazing team with you and your crew, but a really, our team has done hundreds and hundreds of people around the world and the mission control centers that are really watching out for and keeping us safe. And so that’s another piece of the leadership is to make sure those lengths and those communication lines are always open and we’re honest with each other so that we can decide the most effective to possible. There are some challenges in space as you might imagine. I think I learned this early on at Westmont even, but in the army for sure.
Shane: 18:31 But I just made my expectations very clear from the beginning before we launch that I would if my crew mates and made sure they knew exactly what was expected of them, they’re empowered the normal workday and really I didn’t have any issues in that regard, like cable guy derailing or doing their own thing. So that was very, very fortunate to have such an incredible free to do that. Now there are some issues with, I would say not with the Russians in general, but they operate under a different different rules than we do while we’re up in space. So all the other international partners, the Japanese and the Canadians, the Europeans in general are just like us and they operate under our same rose, the Russians out of the little bit of different rules that they operate under. So kind of getting through some of those issues was, was a bit challenging at times and it really, it didn’t manifest themselves.
Shane: 19:17 So we were in space. I’m personally, so I wish I would’ve known kind of these things beforehand. We can work it out on the ground, but we had to do some of that stuff in real time is understand their need. They have kind of monetary systems of rewards and if you do something wrong you get money taken away. And so that’s, it’s a different driver for the cosmonauts and then keeping them motivated and wanting to do two things instead of, you know, you can think they I want to do a whole lot cause they don’t want to make a mistake and they get their pay docked. So it’s just a weird kind of system that they’re operating under. It’s a created a few challenges for all of us as the crew around at times. But in general the kinds of knots in the archons are very similar boats and I was up there with some great cousin hot. So this really learned a lot from it and of course are in about the different cultures was something I’d done in a couple of years of training. That’s a little more incident when you’re up there. And this is going to share with me those every week because the nuts and the bolts from, in my case Japan and grants that are going to,
JJ: 20:16 it’s interesting, I was talking unrelated conversation to blame Smith who was our first executive director this morning and he’s a former Greenbrae and super like super high performer and we were just talking about there’s this perception that you know, when you, when you’re around people who are high performers that you just kind of, that they don’t want or need any guidance and you just, you know, you just like get out of their way and let them go. And I, and I and I, what I’ve learned is that that in my opinion, that’s absolutely not true. Like no matter who the person is, they still want guidance. They still want leadership, they still want feedback. They sometimes need a slap on the back, you know, sometimes they needed to kick in the butt. Like all of those things still apply. Even when you’re working with people who are super high performers. And it’s interesting, I was just having this conversation with, with blame this morning and I got to imagine that that same kind of thing would apply here. Like in one sense like everyone is, like you said earlier, like statistically for you six people to beyond the international space station just to see, it’s almost like infant testimony, small like the odds. So they’re, they’re obviously really, really high performers but they still want and need a leader. I got to imagine, right.
Shane: 21:28 They are looking for affirmation a lot of times especially obviously been very successful in their previous careers and find space, you know, for working is, is brand new, that they’re learning how to apply or learn how to operate in that crazy environment up there and they, they kind of need that affirmation that they’re doing things right. Especially early on. And I’m just thinking up until my investigative, the French astronaut who’s up there with me, I was up there with Peggy Whitson as well, very, very experienced, the most experience American astronaut ever in space and that we had heard experience and then my little experience and draw from. But they’re really kind of groomed to mine. It didn’t take very long and some off. And you know, he’s such a superstar and you’re fading a little bit of guidance in the beginning and then yeah, he was on his phone and we were new. We didn’t have to do anything with the mining or he’s so motivated, so happy to help out. The team always does a great remember blog.
JJ: 22:24 Are there extra things that that you have to do being a astronaut and a member of the military at the same time, I’m imagining, even though the NASA is like the pinnacle of what you can do, I can imagine that like at the end, the governmental level, I’m s I imagined that the silliness of the army still probably applies. I’m having this scenario where you’re having to like go take a PT test it like, you know, that kind of stuff like once, you know what I mean? It’s like you gotta you gotta take a day off and do like my mandatory suicide prevention training. You know, it’s that kind of stuff still happen.
Shane: 22:56 We are kind of shielded from some of that stuff like you’re talking about and all that kind of stuff. You mentioned earlier getting promoted, very challenging here at NASA. This is, this job is kind of a pinnacle of the Air Force and the Navy, right? Not so in the army. So because of that we have, we actually struggled getting promoted. I mean we’re sending some fairly decent folks down here, so I like her fishing boats that aren’t qualified and did really well in the regular army, but it’s just not, they’re looking at a promotion and they see a rack four times than somebody else’s file. Right. And you can see the Russian boards or are under there. Honestly, if I’d every five or six years we’ll get one of our officers, Passover and everything blows up. Never happen. It’ll never happen again. And word files and I guess about five years from now it’ll happen again. I’ve seen it happen. I was lucky enough officers get Passover. They eventually got picked up the next year. But just something like that I think is part of the, so that you’re talking about, but you have to kind of really struggle with being here at NASA.
JJ: 24:22 Nothing surprises me with like I hear stories like that having been in the army for I guess almost a decade and nothing surprises me when I hear stories like that. It’s like the Quinten sites are like wearing PT belts, like when you’re deployed in combat, right? Like that kind of stuff you see. When you said you would always want to be an astronaut, like when did that really start to crystallize in your mind first, like as something that you’d be interested in and then I guess when you were on your rotational assignment and Nasa, maybe that was when you realized that actually it was a realistic option, but how did you get interested in this? Did someone introduce you to space as a kid or like where did it come from?
Shane: 24:58 Yeah, great question. My grandparents live across the river from the Kennedy Space Center and brought up a lot of time down there. I actually live down there with her home. My Dad was in Vietnam a couple doors and my grandfather no came on to drag me out. This was when I was five years old, like any satellite launching any of polymers and lodging didn’t matter. I was there and uh, my grandfather was a huge part of that, just kind of getting it in my blog. But honestly the thing that really got me thinking about it was just seeing the men land on and then walk on the moon. So I was a small kid at the time. And as you mentioned, kind of when you were watching the TV set at school you to challenge Challenger happen. Back in those days the men were walking out of the room and I mean the whole country to stop and watch the TV.
Shane: 25:47 And so I vividly remember kind of our family gathered around the TV is and seeing them walking in. And that just to me, this inspired me even as a small kid and just wanted to do something like that. I don’t know if that was what I wanted to do, but I want to do something that brave and courageous and being part of a team that was way bigger than myself. It was kind of the early on things and kind of got my spark spark in my mind would be a national astronaut. Like I said, when was the last one I kind of gave up on a dream and then when I found out you could do it, I started applying. Very, very rarely do you get selected on your first try and as a Naza, so definitely versus than warm down and I think my fourth or fifth time when I eventually got selected, but couple of those times are really one of the cross and I didn’t know it, but just being competitive with the other applicants I needed and more schooling, kind of more command, those kind of things and the military to be competitive.
Shane: 26:40 But yeah, eventually again, once I got here to Naza, I think it did start coming at least stuff because I do this system. After working here for two years, I knew the astronauts. I was flying with the restaurants on a daily basis. Back then my job was to train the shuttle commanders had Atlanta spatial. So I mean really training to the commanders that Atlanta spacial, I mean come on. So I had a pretty great job. I got selected.
JJ: 27:11 Do you have to give you a branch up? Is that how it works when you become an astronaut? Are you like no longer a an aviation officer?
Shane: 27:17 There’s a couple of number of routes these days. I’m, they’re all, all the astronauts are FAA 40 so space operations officer’s back when I first got here, that wasn’t an option that hadn’t been established yet. I guess we stayed aviation, but now they’re all paid 40 face operations.
JJ: 27:34 Awesome. So I wanted to ask a couple of questions and these are like a little bit more, more esoteric. And these are like me because I’m the person behind the mic. I get to ask like nerdy questions that I want to know. Right. And so this is the portion where I get to do that. So here’s the things that I was thinking about that I, that I wanted to ask like, so you’re, you’re on the international space station and you’re like sitting on the edge of the vastness that is space. Right. When you think about that, how does that experience, especially having spent as much time and space as you have, how does that change your perspective about kind of life on earth, if that makes sense? If it does at all.
Shane: 28:14 I remember my first wine looking back at her for the first time and then every time after that, my perceptions of the planet, we’re very different than what I thought they were going to be. The incident, absolutely stunning, beautiful of course, but it’s the fragility of it and just seeing how that they may arrive, a sphere that’s protecting everybody down here from living and dying. It was really humbling when look at it from that perspective. So it certainly changed my perspective a little bit on taking care of this place. We don’t have another one right now that we know about that can have in life like vanilla here on earth. So I definitely have come back from both my ambitions really appreciating what we have here on earth than hopefully being able to protect our atmosphere, which is locating all the vendors we’re taking all of us right now.
JJ: 29:00 Yeah. It’s interesting when you, when you, if you like kind of strip everything away and you think about it like we’re on this rapidly spinning rock that’s hurling through space with just a little thin layer of atmosphere protecting us. Like we’re pretty and we’re not even on this thing very long in the grand scheme of things. Right? Like it’s a pretty, it’s a pretty perilous in short existence in the grand scheme of things. I think if you choose to look at it that way, which maybe is a little bit depressing, so that might not be the best way to, to look at it. What’s the, uh, what’s the time when you, when you are on the space station or in space in general that you felt the most human, if that, if that question makes sense.
Shane: 29:34 Yeah.
JJ: 29:36 Like humanity, right. Just, um, you’re out there in this environment, you wouldn’t be able to exist in height where you’re not wrapped around this, this space station. Right. And so my mind is just going to, my guess is that it might feel very foreign. Like you’re in this very hostile environment that you wouldn’t, if you were out of there, you wouldn’t be, obviously you wouldn’t be able to live. So, and maybe that’s something that a good question, but just like is there a, a sense of humanity that are maybe a moment that you felt very connected to like the people down on earth? I guess maybe to, to put it in better words.
Shane: 30:08 Yeah. To stay connected to folks on our, so that’s really helped out and even better than they are in the Middle East right now. I think our, our capabilities are at least as good, probably better than those. And that we’d have a phone we can use anytime, anywhere, call her a whole lot, incredibly clear connection there. And we’ll do a video conference once a week with our family. So that’s a really nice thing. Not just a chat with them but actually get the CM. So those kinds of things really getting connected. So, and maybe answer your question on Sunday afternoons, that was kind of a time I rarely felt that cause I’ve never get and look out and see my family, the jet with them and see the dog now and they’ve seen, you know and catch up with with my family more than just on a phone call.
Shane: 30:54 But actually basically we’re catching up. So those are times where you definitely felt connected. There’s a major events going on when I was in the space so that obviously he kept this kind of grounded. Now we also have one kind of live TV channel you watch while we’re up there. So I was up there and four there, the latest election out with an and done things like world series and Superbowl and does things like that, you know, huge sports fan. So I’m covering those. And being part of those events from space was really interesting but really a great cause. I got to work with the Fox sports team, you know it from super close in Houston that year. So we had a great connection already with that and like that really kind of kept us connected.
JJ: 31:36 I always thought this is interesting until like opine a little bit here. When I was deployed to Iraq, it was very, very good. 20 2004 very early on and it was like very little connectivity, right? I mean there was occasionally you might get an email every couple of weeks, like virtually phones, very little connectivity. But the upside to that is you can really focus on what you were doing. Right. There was no distractions around you. My little sister is an army aviator as well actually. She’s a Black Hawk pilot and her husband is also, he’s a recently retired Black Hawk pilot as well. He’s a warrant officer and they’ve obviously been on multiple deployments. And the last one, he basically had a cell phone on him the entire time and they were able to call almost at will and every last little time that she didn’t hear from him or he didn’t call back, you know, your mind immediately starts going to like what’s something bad has happened and it almost, I can’t imagine what that would have been. It would have been very hard to focus I think on the task at hand being being deployed when you’re kind of halfway in and halfway out of like your family’s life back in the states, if that makes sense. I’m very different, very different situation for you obviously, but it just, I dunno, it just makes me, well, I’m sure that neither of them would have given up the chance to talk with each other. I’m sure it induced some complication that wouldn’t have otherwise been there
Shane: 32:59 at the time they left to go the freshman in college the same week I left, my wife or wife lost 40 of us in the same week so to speak. So you just kind of, you’re not being there. Not that I would have been there, their college anyway, but not being a month go visit or anything like that for their first, you know, really year of college was interesting. And then we try to just keep it as real as possible. So I mean no can, they were sending me their homework problem, they can figure out in space it is emailed to me and yeah, like, Hey, if I can answer and we’ll get somebody out here to answer them, you know, and this is Kinda kept it the way we do it. There’s the naked more real for them and make them really be a part of the mission as well and not just completely suffered. So that was another kind of one of those moments where how the communication really helped us. There’s going to be a little bit more normal.
JJ: 33:47 Well it’s uh, your daughter’s a little bit older right now. It’s a good thing that they’re not younger because like this common core math that kids are going through right now, they’d be sending your problems and you, you’d be looking at it as a former math professor. Like I have a civil engineering degree and my third year old brings third grader brings math problems home and I’m like, I don’t know what this is like. This makes absolutely no sense to me
Shane: 34:11 the right way.
JJ: 34:12 Yeah. So anyways, I just thought it was kind of funny. So I want to talk about fitness really quickly. So you’re, you’re, you’re in the army, obviously you’re a former athlete. So pre going into space, like what are the ways that you stay fit? Like what do you like to do exercise wise?
Shane: 34:28 Yup. I love running and basketball or football or baseball anymore, but I love all that stuff. Routinely on a normal week I’ll be Brian and the standard route for me, I ain’t really ever since West Point and just been lucky enough to stay healthy and yeah.
JJ: 34:59 Did you ever not do like a lot of those things you’re just talking about, you know, basketball, you could sprain an ankle anytime, you know, skiing, you could break your leg. Did you ever not do any things like that when you’re an astronaut? Just like because of a, you done your proper risk assessment and those came out too, too high? Or did you just kind of say no, listen, like this is who I am, these things are part of my life and I’m going to continue to deal.
Shane: 35:22 Right. And you might imagine there’s quite a few over keyword in our group. So really high risk activities in general. So it of that, about a year prior of white, you’re not allowed to do a bunch of things about a year prior to your admission. There’s a of things, mostly high risk activities. Of course they were not allowed to do like skiing or skydive, things like that. So it doesn’t matter that it always happens where you’re still my, I suppose mango or something. And it’s happened rarely but it, you know, pretty much stay healthy because we’re not allowed prior to launch.
JJ: 35:56 So is it pretty easy for you then because the, you’ve been running so much, you’ve been listening so much to keep that up. How are you doing that in space? I guess, I know, I’m sure that probably the, the habit of that being part of your daily routines, you know, was still there. But I get, I imagined the actual practical reality of, of doing that is space is actually, it’s gotta be way different. How did you keep up with that and what did that look like when you were actually in space?
Shane: 36:24 Yeah, great question. We work out two hours a day and see somebody else behind me of the machine called a red that we use out there to really incredible. We can that one machine you can do squats, bench press, shoulder press, you know as curl and even you can pretty much doing the on one machine and I don’t know if you can tell from the video there but that whole thing flows and processes and we’ll really weird awkward feeling when you’re first learning how to do it. They’re also have a treadmill you see behind me there and it is actually parallel to the ground there. There’s no up or down in space that we can kind of take advantage of some of the walls like more here in space. And we have a stationary bike. You see there is low, that kind of exploding, but that’s the way to get our cardio every day we do an hour of cardio, an hour of weightlifting or resistive exercise on that machine that has showed you and we to learn this over the years.
Shane: 37:15 It does the protocol you need to maintain your bone density and your bum ass. So otherwise spaced is completely like your so early on with the the long duration missions, we didn’t really fully understand that. So a I to coming back and the bonds a break and we’ll do, they’re often now you realize what’s going on so that the event that the protocol we use as two hours of exercise every day and kind of having the habit certainly helps me out. Some other person that you can not have had that have it on the ground, but they definitely understand the importance of it in space and what it’s going to do for your longterm. So we’re all very serious about it. To me it was just a great part of my day. I love working out anyway. So those couple of hours I was going to get to the detachments and music and and get my workout in. Our exercise machine actually has that view that you see behind me and looking out of their cubicle or window. So it’s an incredible window view that we have looking at are those are working out and going around going around the earth while we’re doing that. So daughter around here 90 minutes so for at least go around or once you know a day or a hard workout. So
JJ: 38:18 I have to say I just find as treadmills and a here on the ground and I, I’ve always still, I’ve been telling my friends in my life that I think for me the biggest benefit is not that like the cardiovascular, it’s the mental discipline of staying on that thing and just like pounding away. I travel a lot. You’re in like a crappy hotel gym somewhere and it’s like the mental discipline of going down, getting on the treadmill and running for however long, 45 minutes. I think that’s why I only, I think that’s more of a benefit that actual, the act of doing it sometimes just because I find it,
JJ: 39:03 well I’ve got, I’ve got a builtin like motivation mechanism right now. My oldest son is a good cross country runner and as a, as an elementary schooler, as a third grader this last year, he, he ran a six 27 mile one day and challenged me to, or he chose me to erase this last year and I barely beat him. It involves me throwing up, but I was like, there’s no way. Like I don’t, like, we don’t let kids when in our family, like I’m going to, I told him like, I’m going to be like, I don’t care what happens, but I think I only behave, you have a couple more years of that it without,
JJ: 39:41 so I’m going to keep it as long as I can. I told them I’m going to trip you if I need to just to win. So you better get way out ahead of me. So yeah, it’s uh, kids are fun, but that’s a, that’s a good, that’s a good motivator for sure. 100%. So I wanted to, to ask really quickly, I want to be respectful of our time here and so I wanted to ask a couple of about leadership, but that’s okay. Something that I like to ask everyone who’s on the podcast is a question about is about leadership. And it’s the specific question is what’s the most important lesson that a leader has ever taught you in your career or in your life? And, and some people they have a crucible moment they can point to and they can say, like, I learned this particular thing from this particular person at this particular time. And then some people, it’s more general. It’s like, hey, somatically, over the course of my career, here’s something that I’ve learned. I’ve, I’ve been around some good leaders, I’ve been around some bad leaders and here’s something I’ve taken away from it. So that’s the question for you, sir. What’s the, what’s the most important lesson that a leader has ever taught you in your life?
Shane: 40:44 Really showed me to really stretch the batteries, what you think you can do as a, as a leader, as a unit and really kind of get out there. So mean he would give given carte blanche to just go our, in our case with my Apaches, but you want me to go find some FAA teams that wanted to apply and she is a navy seal or the finding outside of our helicopters and just things that nobody had ever thought of before this back in the early nineties and so just learning that from him obviously how we meaning me as a commander because I got to kind of impart those kind of same, I won’t say where we’re stepping outside of any lane, but boy I really pushing the boundaries of what the vehicle that we were in could do a long way just outside the box.
Shane: 41:36 Really incredible insight that I got from Alexander and I still use those things today that you were feeling things on my space shuttle and space station crews either in training or you know, on orbit. Even that for kind of outside the box. And I just had that mentality from my early days as a lieutenant. So really incredible. Many, many things of course over the, you know, my career and as you talked about as well that I learned here, the teamwork aspect aspect that we learned in army, we’re learning that. So it just incredibly played out here at NASA. So blue that I know that all these things I was already learning. We’re preparing me to be a great astronaut. Well and Jean Marc has served me the visa. We astronauts are very, very small piece of this team that that makes us successful mission here and watching us.
Shane: 42:28 Likely there’s a spacial or out of cosmetics down with the Russians who literally hundreds and hundreds of people are, are good. Our Diego’s ready for one of our training us and the family and these other courses and other piece of that team. And so it’s just an honor to be part of that and to realize that, you know, it’s not about me at all. The cool thing I’ve really learned, I was last mission as long duration mission new that we’re out there in space and we do experiments all the time then and none of them are for me, none of them are even really for NASA. They’re there for all of humanity. So we’re, we’re part of something that big and uh, we were up there for the benefit of all of humanity. That obviously is very humbling first of all, but it’s, there’s something that I’ve learned really throughout the army that the team is always first and me personally, it always second and then that’s just a whole nother level now that we’re talking and doing things for all of humanity, very cool lessons. They’re kind of really evolved over my lifetime of leadership.
JJ: 43:27 It’s interesting to go back to your company commander when you were a lieutenant. I mean it sounds kind of intuitive, right? When when you and I are just sitting here and talking about it, just try to do different things. But individualism, this is something that’s valued in the army, right? Like people that people don’t appreciate, like, you know, people doing stuff like that. And so there’s some, there’s some risk associated with that I guess is it’s not as kind of just intuitive as it sounds like when we’re sitting here talking about it. So the fact that you had a leader like that as when you were a young leader yourself is it’s pretty special.
Shane: 43:58 Yeah. And you’re right that you’re saying, I’m like, yeah, that sounds pretty simple. But as you know, nobody else was doing it. None of the other companies are doing the things that we were doing and he was really good. Our warrant officers and our enlisted soldiers, just opportunities that they never would have had otherwise.
JJ: 44:20 So Shane, I wanted to, as I had a couple of quick, quick questions I wanted to ask at the end. So I pulled some of the members of our team and I just said, hey, I’m getting a chance to do this podcast today. Like, give me some, like, what is a question that you’d want to know? So you’ve got to just like some rapid fire stuff that I want to send your way. And then my kids had a couple that I, that they sent your way as well, so I just wanted to like hit you with a couple of them really quickly if that’s okay.
Shane: 44:41 Yeah.
JJ: 44:42 All right, so what is the, what is the best and worst space movie in your opinion? Not this. You’ve probably watched a lot of movies but
Shane: 44:55 13
JJ: 44:56 is that the one with Tom Hanks?
Shane: 44:58 Yup. Yup. So balance, control side, the right stuff. Another classic one from back in the pay as you really awesome by the original seven astronauts. So that’s a great one. Who was originally first? Man are really like, that’s fairly recently. Some bad ones. Let me think here. It’s the, I want to be seen. The life life was an interesting one. Actually sent this one up too. It was when we were in space. It came out when we were in space and they sell as a premium of a program. This is about on the space station, just like we’re on and they’re going to Mars and get a little sample and they bring it back and it comes alive and everybody, she doesn’t want it. So that was kind of a line that we were real fans of. Hidden figures was another great one that came out when we were in space. We have to watch it on the safe station. That was really great. Yeah. Hopefully that helps answer that question.
JJ: 45:55 What about army movies? Military later movies. Good, good one. There’s, there’s helicopters and a lot of them is, is there good ones and bad ones that stand out to you?
Shane: 46:06 Arrows. Kind of our response to the top gun dia patchy world like Ryan and all that was going on and it was really embarrassing. That was probably the worst when I see there’s plenty of soldiers once and young and that one, it’s a classic for your time.
JJ: 46:29 No, my dad, like my dad likes bill don’t Murray right?
Shane: 46:33 Yeah. Is Fine. We like that, but not one of them.
JJ: 46:39 Right. So someone want him to ask me to ask you about transition? So [inaudible] obviously one of the things we’re focused on is helping veterans transition out of the military. And it’s something that we’ve learned is a couple of things that I’ve learned personally. A, it affects everyone up and down the spectrum. Right? Generals and colonels have sometimes a harder transition out of the military then do people who maybe had one enlistment and are going back, it’s one thing I’ve learned is it affects everybody. And the second thing is the best way to overcome it is his work. Right? You have to kind of plan the transition. Now, you know, yours is obviously a different experience because you’re, you know, because of the fact that you’re still an astronaut. But I wanted to see the military transition process when you’ve retired and officially kind of hung up that uniform. How did that go for you and what were some of the things you are steps that you took to make that kind of closing out that chapter of your life as as smooth as possible?
Shane: 47:37 Yeah. And then I’m here. It’s a little bit artificial disc is now getting the job and not changing one dead. And it wasn’t like I was wearing a uniform and then did work in the farm. So we all wear uniforms here and as that these are wasn’t even part of it. But in a sense I wasn’t giving up the uniform at that points. Right. I think of things that we did, I really wasn’t a whole lot different honestly for us. Of course you’ve got your insurance and all that kind of stuff. Transition then set up and not always easy, but it’s those things that, you know, let an Sgli anymore. I would get the Dli and things like that. So I know all of those and our team, our VP or done those types of things. Then transition as well. But you can have a smoother one. And the one we get to experience here because everything is exactly the same except my paycheck’s going from a different part of the government.
JJ: 48:29 So there’s, so there’s like all of the research points to, there’s kind of three things that people can do to help make their transition better. One is stay in shape. I continued to exercise which is kind of like built in for you cause the veteran, the average veteran gained like 40 pounds when they get out of the military. Two is is do something that is going to help keep kind of the sense of purpose that you had when you were in the military. Again, kind of like built in for you. And then the third one is really about relationships. A lot of veterans kind of, you know are lonely and that can manifest itself in a whole lot of other bad ways. And so, you know, take some steps to build some genuine supportive relationships around you. But again, like you’re, you’re in a little bit of a different position. They were all, a lot of those things seem like they’re probably kind of just built in as part of the job.
Shane: 49:17 That’s a harder challenge of you’re talking about maybe like your general officer transition. So it’ll be interesting to see challenging regardless when I leave, but it is something that’s, you know, on a horizon for sure bro.
JJ: 49:31 And so I have three more quick ones and I want to ask and I want to, I want to make sure I’m not like trying to set you up with any of these so that people are like, what is asking what he thinks about the space for us? Right. So what is a, I guess like from a very high level, what do you think that’s going to look like over the next couple of years? Because I think there’s a lot of people in the military who have some interest in getting involved in whatever that’s gonna look like
Shane: 50:04 that’s going to be part of the military. And I think bottom line, we want to try to control the space and we want to get out in front of that. We want to have an organization that is making all the rules and kind of learn the show. And that’s kind of very simplistic, I think. At least that’s the first section. I have a lucky space force might be. So in that sense, I think it’s a great idea and I don’t know if they’re going to pull from all the space components of the military. I then we already have in place or relation and create a bunch of a new kind of service and don’t fall onto that. I’m not sure how much you going to work. My son’s, if we request my now and he’s asking me about it too, maybe Anderson and doing that down the road.
JJ: 50:54 Well that’s pretty exciting. What’s he going to major in it?
Shane: 50:57 He didn’t do systems engineering.
JJ: 50:59 Oh cool. Cool. All right, so two more. This is a, this, it comes up pretty common now and so I had a couple of people ask me what’s the best way to answer to the, either the, the, the flat earth crowd or the, the moon landing didn’t exist. Proud. What’s the best to one answer? One word sentence that you can give to kind of, I guess to some extent you can’t really, people who have made their minds up already, you probably can’t say anything that will change their minds. But when someone says that to you, what do you say back to them?
Shane: 51:28 That’s a tough on that. Professional athletes are tenders. We had to kind of show them around here every now and then and when they’re actually here and still have those viewpoints as they’re watching the big screen in the astronaut float around, they can still think that way. And actually he’s sitting in mission control rooms, so it’s got an answering the kind of those now and just very respectful and I don’t from an argument, even though one of those people start an argument on the floor of this control of being on time and I was like, all right, well we’re not going to go there, but I have mine and,
JJ: 52:14 and what did my favorite interview questions that I ask people is, is about like something that, something they’ve changed their mind about recently. Because I want people to, I want to surround myself with people who are thoughtful and people are constantly evaluating I to people all the time. Like I reserved the right to change my opinion on anything when I’m given new information. Right? And so I would hope that most people when they’re presented with new information would at least kind of question how they view but things, but maybe not.
Shane: 52:38 Yeah, I mean I can always say, hey, I actually went around the earth every 90 minutes. I can physically see, you know, this round thing that we’re going round. I didn’t just keep going forever. Often space. Right?
JJ: 52:49 You didn’t see the giant wall that is the South Pole. But any circles though, there were all right. And so, and so here’s the last one. This is from my middle son who’s six. He wants to know how do you handle farting in space? Wow. Does it, does it adjust the, the mixture of gas in the space station?
Shane: 53:13 Wow. Everything else that you have on the space.
JJ: 53:27 All right. So I’ll tell them the same way that we do here. We pretend it didn’t happen and we go into another room. All right, Shane, I really appreciate you giving us so much of your time today. This has been a lot of fun. I appreciate you being, Oh, I love it. I love it.
Shane: 53:48 This all the time, and I actually had a different version of this that I picked this space though
JJ: 53:58 we did. I’m sure that this social media when we do it around this, but I’m sure it will be less than some of those things out so, well, this has been, this has been a lot of fun. Thanks so much for your time today. Thanks for being a good sport, having this conversation. It was a lot of fun and I really appreciate everything you do, so keep being such an inspiration and I’m sure I’m, I remember it’s going to really love this podcast.
Shane: 54:19 Thanks for all that. Really appreciate your service to our nation and it’s an honor to be part of that group as well.
Speaker 4: 54:25 [inaudible].