I Talk to the Spaceman

by wjw on November 11, 2008

So here I am (top) earlier today, as I prepare to talk to Colonel Mike Fincke (below), who happens at this moment to be the commander of the International Space Station.

Can I just say that this has been the highlight of a really great couple of weeks?

It turns out that Colonel Fincke is a big fan of my writing, and it so happens he’s reading Implied Spaces right now. He happened to mention his choice of reading matter to someone at NASA, and as a result they contacted me and set up a teleconference, courtesy of a great many people at New Mexico Tech.

The teleconference was supposed to be a private conversation between Col. Fincke and myself, so there was no advanced publicity, and no recordings were made (except by eavesdroppers in other countries, maybe). When the chat started, everyone was shooed out of the room so that I could have some privacy.

We talked about my books. (I think I already mentioned that he likes them.) We talked about the fact that due to his training schedule, he’s spend a third of his life in Russia since 2002. We talked about space tourism— he’d shared a few days of his mission with Richard Garriott. I mentioned that, since he’s an MIT graduate, I was surprised he wasn’t talking to Joe Haldeman.

Every so often, he’d turn a cartwheel. I assume this wasn’t out of exuberance— although he’s a pretty exuberant guy— but a result of some gesture or shift of position that spun him around.

At one point, when I mentioned that I envied him his view, he offered to pick up his computer and move it to the window so that I could get a picture. Houston vetoed this, however, as the space station had just been maneuvering and the windows were supposed to be closed for a time.

We compared notes about the fact that we both chose our career at a very early age. I decided I wanted to be a writer before I could actually read or write: I’d dictate stories to my parents, who would write them down for me. Mike saw men walk on the moon when he was very young— he would have been five at the time of the last Apollo mission— and decided at that point that he was going to be an astronaut.

I mentioned that we were both being paid for jobs we’d do for free.

The conversation lasted only twenty-five minutes or so before we lost telemetry.

Thanks to Kelly Curtis and the other folks at NASA for setting this up, and to Rob Hepler and the staff at NMT Distance Education.

I hope Mike Fincke keeps turning those cartwheels.

tcastleb November 11, 2008 at 5:20 am

That is really, really cool.

dubjay November 11, 2008 at 5:38 am

Yes. It is really, really cool.

Corie November 11, 2008 at 6:48 am

absolutely wow.

qtera November 11, 2008 at 11:00 am

WOW – All I can do is say again – This is REALLY, REALLY COOL!
You Rock!

Oz November 11, 2008 at 11:27 am

wow, oh wow, oh wow.

Speechless, I am. You have spatial fans.

Jason read Implied Spaces and missed the Osbert reference. He’s forgiven since he liked the book.


Rebecca S. November 11, 2008 at 1:13 pm

You have done a bunch of cool stuff lately, but this is amazing. What a great, great thing. And how wonderful is it that an astronaut packed Implied Spaces to take with him into space? Yay.

Lawrence M. Schoen November 11, 2008 at 1:24 pm

Does it get any better than that?

Bonnie Freeman November 11, 2008 at 3:00 pm

A wondrous thing to extend your reader base beyond earth!

halojones-fan November 11, 2008 at 5:30 pm

Hopefully this means that Group Maximum won’t drop rocks anywhere in New Mexico.

Kevin_Whitmore November 14, 2008 at 12:26 am

How cool is that? Too bad you didn’t get the view, but you did get the latest from orbit!

Dave Bishop November 14, 2008 at 10:14 am

Are you wearing a poppy in your lapel in that photo, Walter? I only ask because at this time of year everyone in the UK wears a poppy as an act of remembrance for those who died in two world wars. I thought it was a purely British custom – but perhaps not?

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