02 Feb 2017

A Vision for the Earth


Terry Virts (GMP 11, 2011) is a retired colonel with the US Air Force and former NASA astronaut. He has piloted the Space Shuttle and logged more than 200 days aboard the International Space Station, where he conducted a wide range of scientific experiments and helped film the IMAX movie A Beautiful Planet. In this interview, he talks about the benefits of the scientific research done in space and his hopes for worldwide impact of the film.

“The job that I’ve had for the past few years was as an astronaut on board the International Space Station. I think the best thing about being an astronaut is that every day is different; you don’t go and do the same thing day after day. In space, we have space walks, we have science experiments, there’s maintenance you have to do on the station.

“One of the amazing privileges you get as an astronaut is that you can see the Earth, but you see it in a snapshot, in an instant. From my perspective, most of the Earth looks beautiful—it’s in great shape—but you can really see some of the environmental challenges and impacts that we have.

“The most important impact or difference that we make at NASA, and as an astronaut that I made, probably involved science: human medicine, materials science, combustion science. There are a lot of different fields that will eventually help folks here on Earth.

“But another thing that I found during my mission that was the most impactful was help to film an IMAX movie called A Beautiful Planet. It is an amazing movie. It shows beautiful views of the Earth and stars during the daytime. That movie is going to be shown around the world. Millions of people are going to see it and be moved by how important space exploration is, and also to see our planet and how important it is to protect it.”

(Published February 2017)

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Class of GMP 11
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