Away Teams & Field Reports

An Ocean Engineer-Astronaut Returns Home

By Keith Cowing
April 15, 2024
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An Ocean Engineer-Astronaut Returns Home
Former oceanographic submersible engineer Loral O’Hara peers through a tiny sphere of water – as an astronaut – inside a space station – orbiting a water planet. (larger image) — NASA

Keith’s note: I was just on a media telecon with Astronaut Loral O’Hara who just returned from 204 days on the International Space Station.

“I have a question that comes out my own experience doing long expeditions to remote research locations, small tents, bad food, etc. But then there’s the amazing place I visited and explored. And you forget the hard parts of it all. You have been a submersible driver and a long-term space station astronaut. Both involved things called “expeditions”. In one case you leave the big floating lab and go somewhere. In the other you stay in the big orbiting lab while IT goes somewhere and you get to go outside maybe once or twice. Which of these activities is a better analog for what astronauts (maybe you) will be doing on the Moon and Mars? Or are they both valuable? What other non-space activities or analogs on Earth might be useful to help prepare these future space explorers (again, maybe you)?”

Note: There was an issue with the JSC PAO audio but they got enough to ask Loral the gist of my question.

Loral O’Hara: “I think that there a lot of analogs that we can do here on Earth.  Before I worked at NASA I worked as an ocean engineer and I went out on research ships and that was a great analog. Like you said you’ve had a lot of great experiences around the world working in (ant)arctica or doing field work pretty much anywhere – I think having those small teams in the field working with a team somewhere else back on shore with more resources I think is a good analog for space station and all the missions we’re hoping to do in the future.

Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻