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“Take care of yourself.” with Dr. Ely Weinschneider and NASA Astronaut Col. Terry Virts

The coronavirus pandemic will be over, so take advantage of the extra time you have with your kids or spouse or spare time to clean out the house that you would never have had otherwise, and probably never will have again in the future. I was stuck in space unexpectedly when a cargo ship blew […]

The coronavirus pandemic will be over, so take advantage of the extra time you have with your kids or spouse or spare time to clean out the house that you would never have had otherwise, and probably never will have again in the future. I was stuck in space unexpectedly when a cargo ship blew up and they delayed my replacement until they had finished a safety investigation. I decided to take advantage of that time with a good attitude — I enjoyed that “bonus time” that was unexpected, knowing I would have the rest of my life on earth. The attitude, that this trial would end soon and make the most of it, is really helpful.


As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Terry Virts.

Col. Terry Virts (ret) served in the United States Air Force as a fighter pilot, test pilot and NASA astronaut. Flying as the pilot on space shuttle Endeavour for the STS-130 mission, and on Expedition 42/43 for a 200-day mission, Virts has spent more than seven months in space. Virts currently travels worldwide inspiring audiences with stories from space and his insights into life on earth.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

The first book that I read was about Apollo, and I was hooked. Growing up I had a room full of space posters and airplane pictures. When I got older, I ended up attending the Air Force Academy where I became an F16 pilot, and eventually a test pilot. I was a test pilot when I was picked to be an astronaut.

From there, I spent 16 years at NASA, eventually flying as the pilot on the space shuttle Endeavour for the STS-130 mission, and on a Russian Soyuz on Expedition 42/43 for a 200-day mission. I was extremely lucky — flying in space was my dream since I was a little boy, and I eventually spent 7 months in space, ending up as the ISS commander.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Absolutely. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. I read it as a teenager and it showed me a pathway to becoming an astronaut — via the military fighter pilot/test pilot route. More than that, it described a culture of, well, the “right stuff,” meaning the astronauts had to be fearless and good at what they did, role models for others and good “wingmen” for their crewmates.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

1) It will end. Pandemics don’t go on forever, they always end. This is the first pandemic in human history in the “connected era,” that is to say when we are all aware of the threat and all working to end it. This global awareness will help end the threat quicker than it would have ever been possible.

2) The smartest people on earth are working 24/7 for cures, vaccines, tests, you name it. We have marshaled the world’s resources.

3) Businesses are better run than ever in history, from senior executives down to blue-collar workers. Around the globe, they are ready to get back to work. I also believe we will see the private-sector of innovation grow like never before.

4) If we handle this as a human threat and work together on a global scale, we will see a shift in mentality from “nationalism” to one of cooperation between nations. We’ve never had a truly global enemy against all of humanity during the modern era, and there is a huge opportunity to make the future brighter.

5) There will be pent-up economic demand like we’ve never seen before.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

1) Take care of yourself. Stay healthy, physically and mentally. Unless you take care of yourself you can’t take care of anyone else.

2) Avoid getting the disease. Stay home. Social distance. Do it all. We need to stop the spread of the Virus.

3) Don’t hoard. Toilet paper factories are still open. Don’t buy what you don’t need. If everyone just bought what they needed then there would be enough for everyone. World leaders really need to emphasize this. Don’t hoard!

4) Reach out to friends and family. Send a text, email or call. People are lonely, and the psychological trauma that comes from isolation is real. Solitary confinement was the worst torture to our Vietnam prisoners of war. Reach out and make sure others are doing okay.

5) Help if you are able. If people need food, toilet paper, clothes, whatever it is they need, help them out if you can.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

Watch a funny movie, read an upbeat book, call a friend whom you really like. You are not in this alone.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

This, too, shall pass. The coronavirus pandemic will be over, so take advantage of the extra time you have with your kids or spouse or spare time to clean out the house that you would never have had otherwise, and probably never will have again in the future. I was stuck in space unexpectedly when a cargo ship blew up and they delayed my replacement until they had finished a safety investigation. I decided to take advantage of that time with a good attitude — I enjoyed that “bonus time” that was unexpected, knowing I would have the rest of my life on earth. The attitude, that this trial would end soon and make the most of it, is really helpful.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would get people to have the mentality of “we are all in this together.” The virus does not discriminate, we shouldn’t unilaterally shut ourselves off from Europe or other parts of the world without consulting them. COVID-19 is a virus that we all need to fight together, it is a common enemy of humanity. If we change our mentality to one of global cooperation, there’s no limit to what the future will hold.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

Twitter: @astroterry

Instagram: @astro_terry

Facebook: @astrovirts

Website: https://terryvirts.com/

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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