Editor's Note: Purdue University awarded Dr. David Wolf an honorary doctorate in engineering in ceremonies held at the West Lafayette campus on May 18.
Former astronaut and Purdue grad David Wolf will discuss his 168 days in space at The Children's Museum on Oct. 3.
NASA let you keep the helmet?
I didn’t ask. I wore it for 22 years, and no one else was going to use it. It has my name on it.
You were 275 miles above earth, building the international space station—what was it like?
Coming out of the hatch is magical. One feels like they are able to fly. There’s no up or down. You see the tops of thunderstorms. You see where humans have inhabited the Earth by the lights. It impacts your view of taking care of your planet. The Earth is amazingly beautiful and, at the same time, amazingly fragile.
Did you ever feel fragile?
One time I was trapped outside of the airlock due to a malfunction that took hours to resolve. Looking back, I should have been more afraid, since I had limited oxygen. Our training is so intense—it overcomes our fear. The only thing I know will not happen in space is Plan A.
Intense! How do you relax?
My favorite movie is Apollo 13, along with space horror movies like Aliens. And you can work out really hard in space because your legs don’t weigh anything. You can run faster.
Did it ever get boring?
You miss everything about Earth. Things such as a rainstorm or sitting at a red light, which would normally bother a person, become of high value. Christmas and New Year’s were really lonely. Occasionally, a resupply ship would bring gifts and cards, which held enormous meaning.
Photo by Jason Boyer
This article appeared in the October 2013 issue.