Colonel Terry Virts, Air Force pilot turned NASA astronaut, flew on four space missions — STS-130, Expedition 42, Expedition 43, Soyuz TMA-15M — and commanded the International Space Station, logging a total of 213 days, 10 hours, and 48 minutes in space. To put it lightly, the man knows how to live in a confined space and he’s one of the most accomplished social distancers on the planet. Now, mostly confined to his home, he’s doing what he does best: keeping busy.
When you encounter problems in space or in an aircraft, those are serious problems. How do you address issues hastily without panic?
There’s a rule of thumb they teach you as an air force pilot. I learned it when I was 21 years old and flying jets for the first time: Maintain aircraft control. Analyze the situation. Take appropriate action.
So you’re separating the immediate from the long-term. Solve the initial problem then assess, then move on to the next challenge?
Maintain aircraft control. This means to just keep on flying the plane. If a little warning light goes off in the corner and you start staring at it and you get the checklist out and no one is flying the airplane, it’ll crash. So, the first thing you have to do is maintain aircraft control. The second thing is to analyze the situation. Now that you’re flying the airplane and you’re safe, you look around to figure out what’s going on.
You seem calm. You have aircraft control. So, what are you doing now?
Right now, if you haven’t read books for a while, read your books. If you haven’t cleaned your place, clean your place. Hang out with your kids. Teach your kids. Play with your kids. I need to go through my daughter’s photo albums for her graduation. There’s always plenty to do.