Astronauts Describe Thrills of Space Travel

Sep 20, 2019

NASA astronaut candidate Jessica Watkins recently came to Flagstaff for geologic field training training along with astronaut Don Pettit. He's spent a year on the International Space Station. KNAU put the experienced astronaut and the future astronaut together to talk about the thrill of space travel.

Jessica Watkins
Credit NASA

DON PETTIT: First stop I’d go to the moon. Just cause it’s close, and there’s a lot of really neat science to be done. One of the things you do by going to the Moon is you learn about planet Earth…. Next stop would probably be Mars…. I would love to go to Venus, but not to the surface because it’s too hot…. As you can see, I’d like to go every place, man. I don’t know, Jessica, where would you want to go? You’d probably want to go see how your rovers on Mars are doing?

JESSICA WATKINS: I’d also like to go to all of those places. It would be pretty cool to be able to ground truth some of the things that I’ve seen from orbit or from the rover on Mars, certainly…. If the engineers would let me, I would probably choose Valles Marineris.

DON PETTIT: Yeah, that’s my prime choice too.

JESSICA WATKINS: But I definitely think going to the moon first is the right stepping stone to get us there.  

DON PETTIT: Space brings the uber geek out in me… There’s just an amazing array of discoveries you can make, so that’s what I really relish most about being in space, is the exploration of what you can do because you’re no longer on Earth.  

JESSICA WATKINS: From what I’ve heard one of the coolest parts of going to space is being able to sit the cupola and look out and see the Earth, and see first of all how thin the atmosphere is, but also see how—we have all these divisions that we create, political, geographical divisions, but from that vantage point you see one Earth, and there’s are no lines drawn on Earth itself, and we’re all on this one body and that’s all we have. I look forward to that perspective.

The Flagstaff Festival of Science kicks off tonight with a lecture by Apollo astronaut Charlie Duke. Tickets are sold out for the event but it will be live streamed online at 7pm at