This morning astronaut Leroy Chiao spent some time with us at Big Think to chat about his four tours in outer space and his role as director at Excalibur Almaz, a recreational space travel outfit headquartered in the Isle of Man. Seven days in space will cost about $35M, says Chiao, “based on market prices.”
The forty-nine year-old Asian-American was remarkably humble about his many achievements, including logging a total of 229 days, 7 hours, 38 minutes and 5 seconds in space, including 36 hours and 7 minutes clocked during six space walks. What do you need to be an astronaut? “A bachelor’s degree and a good heart,” Chiao cheerfully replied.
Chiao witnessed a unique moment in history in the early 90’s, when Russian cosmonauts first visited NASA in the post-Cold War era. They were all viewed with skepticism, he said. Now fluent in both Mandarin and Russian, Chiao worked very hard to excel in the latter because the cosmonauts who had mastered English, “Those were the ones you trusted.”
As Chairman of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) User Panel, Chiao is an expert on health concerns related to long-duration space travel, including bone and muscle loss, radiation exposure and even sleep troubles. The good news? Most of the breakthroughs being made to help astronauts can be applied to folks “on the ground.”