NASA Astronaut Speaks of Space Venture

Looking every bit the returned hero, astronaut and former Santa Monica resident Randy Bresnik returned to his roots when he delivered a lecture at SMC detailing his experience aboard the NASA space-shuttle Atlantis and its rendezvous mission with the International Space Station last November.

Detailing his 11-day mission in low-earth orbit and two subsequent spacewalks, Bresnik shared his experience with students and faculty as part of the Distinguished Scientists Lecture Series at SMC last Tuesday.

The lecture housed a packed auditorium of eager onlookers waiting with baited breath as Bresnik presented still shots and video imagery of the Atlantis Launch into orbit and his time and work aboard the International Space Station. "It's incredible how natural the human body acclimates to zero-gravity," Bresnik said of his first-time experience of weightlessness. "It's as if we have an app built into us."

Leaving from NASA's Cape Canaveral launch pad, Bresnik, along with five other astronauts, were propelled toward space by 7.5 million pounds of thrust aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. "You're in these tiny seats flying upward feet-first," Bresnik said. "At four G's, the thrust is intense but it's just like training except for the fact that it's actually happening."

Carrying two 20,000-pound payloads of equipment known as "Express Logistics Carriers" or ELC, the mission's purpose was to rendezvous with the International Space Station and deliver the ELCs to be used as a safeguard for potential equipment malfunctions aboard the space station.

As part of the 11-day mission, Bresnik also performed two of three scheduled spacewalks, each averaging at six and a half hours. Suspended 200 miles above the earth's surface and orbiting at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour, Bresnik provided insight into the wonders and sensations of walking in space.

"When you're outside the safety of the shuttle and the sun is up, your view is consumed by this blue marble of a planet," Bresnik said, "the sun rises and sets every 45 minutes and you realize that there aren't any boundaries. The colors, the contrasts; you see nothing man-made. Space truly is a physically joyful experience."

Bresnik began his career in aeronautics as a test pilot for the US Marine Corps after graduating from The Citadel Military College in South Carolina in 1989. He has since logged approximately 4,500 hours in 79 different aircrafts before entering NASA's astronaut training program. "I basically flew anything I could get my hands on," said Bresnik.

According to Bresnik, his experience as a test pilot has given him the reflexive skills needed to become an astronaut. "As a test pilot, you have to make quick decisions and every decision has a consequence," Bresnik said. "When you're in space, decisions must be made with quick precision. With the hazardous nature of space, consequences can be disastrous."

Bresnik graduated the Citadel Military School with a Bachelor's Degree in mathematics after receiving a Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps Scholarship. He obtained his Master's Degree in aviation systems from the University of Tennessee in 2002, after which he entered NASA's astronaut training program.

"The [NASA] training program exactly replicates the instruments used and circumstances of being in space," Bresnik said. "But it doesn't prepare you for the distraction of what you see outside the space shuttle. It is astounding how gorgeous the planet is when you look out of the window."

Growing up in Santa Monica, Bresnik attended two semesters at SMC where he studied Russian, a skill that would later be of great use on his rendezvous mission with the Russian space station.

"Growing up in Santa Monica, I remember walking by SMC as a kid, working at a drug store on Pico and 34th," Bresnik said. "I never would have thought that 25 years later I would be where I'm at with the opportunities I've had. That said, anything is possible."

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