LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Astronaut Terry Virts says he may be traveling 205 miles above the earth at 17,000 miles per hour on May 2 next year, but he says that won’t stop him from catching a beloved sporting event.
The 46-year-old Air Force pilot says the odds are “100 percent” he’ll be watching the Kentucky Derby during his six-month stint at the International Space Station.
Virts, along with Expedition 42 crewmates Samantha Cristoforetti and Anton Shkaplerov, is expected to launch to the space station aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule at approximately 4 p.m. EST on Nov. 23.
In the early morning hours on Wednesday, Nov. 5, Virts spoke with WDRB about a number of topics — including the tragic news of the recent crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo aircraft, which resulted in the death of one pilot, and left another seriously injured.
Below are some of our questions, along with his answers:
WDRB: What is going to set Expedition 42 apart from other expeditions? What are you going to be remembered for the most?
VIRTS: Well hopefully, we’ll be remembered for being an awesome crew that the ground teams enjoyed working with, that got the space station in even better shape than when we got there and that accomplished some amazing science.
There’s gonna be a lot to do in the few months that we’re there and actually Expedition 42 is kind of a transition into a new phase of the space station program where we’re going to be doing some reconfiguration. So we were in an assembly phase for years, where we were building the station. The last few years we’ve been focused on utilization and science, and while our focus is still going to be on utilization and science, there are some reconfigurations, some space walks, some moving modules around that Expedition 42 is going to be the beginning of this new, kind-of mini-phase of the space station program.
WDRB: We’ve spoken in the past, I know that you’ve got some connections to horse racing. Could you kind of talk about that, and also, what are the odds that you guys will be watching the Kentucky Derby from space on May 2?
VIRTS: I think the odds are 100 percent that we’re going to be watching the 2015 Kentucky Derby from space.
I actually used to own horses in Maryland. I’m from Maryland originally, and I used to own a quarterhorse and an Appaloosa and so horse racing is near and dear to my heart. When I was stationed in Germany, we used to go ride the German warmblood horses. They’re very big, obviously, in dressage there in Germany and so it was pretty fun riding those animals. Those German horses were pretty big. It was a lot of fun to ride those.