The Hippo


Jul 22, 2019








Lee Morin

Five favorites

Favorite movie: It’s probably Apollo 13 or 2001: A Space Odyssey. 
Favorite book: That is a tough one. Probably the Bible. 
Favorite kind of music: Led Zeppelin
Favorite food: In space it was shrimp with horseradish sauce. 
Favorite thing about NH: The Lakes Region with Mt. Chocorua

Blasting off
NH native finds his place — in space


What makes deep space travel so important?
To be able to go out to a number of different places beyond the solar system — we’ve only just scratched the surface in terms of space exploration. We went out to the moon, and no one has done that since ’72, ’73. … We have the possibility of going to Mars, or the moons of Mars. We have the possibility of going to an asteroid, and the ability to pave the way so we can eventually have permanent habitation on other planets besides the Earth, which allows us to spread our species — and that is something that has just happened in my lifetime. It’s just a miracle. It you look at the broad sweep of history, the life forms that are content to stay in one place and not adapt and expand were the life forms that became extinct. It’s probably the fundamental drive of life to expand and explore. 
Did you have any fears starting at NASA?
The biggest fear is that you’re going to make some stupid mistake and embarrass yourself. ... But once you get into the swing of training, the trainers were so excellent and the models and activities we had were so good. No activity can capture what it’s like, but individually they overlap, so when you get up there you feel very comfortable. I have so much confidence in my crew and crew mates, and also with the team on the ground that was guiding us, that I really wasn’t afraid of the mission. My wife tells me I was too dumb to be afraid. 
With so many media representations of astronauts, what’s something people may misunderstand about the job?
Most of the time you’re not in space. When they call you up, they say they are hiring you to help other people fly in space. For eight years I have been working on Orion, and I won’t go on that myself. And of my 18 years, I was in space 11 days. … There was a movie called Gravity that featured Sandra Bullock, and at the end of movie there was a scene where Sandra Bullock comes out of the ocean exhausted. There’s a woman who is an astronaut here named Katie Coleman. She was on the space station for six months and she was actually friends with Sandra Bullock and an advisor for that movie.  
What was it like being outside of the International Space Station in a space suit?
It was very spectacular. … You are in the space suit and you have a lot less margin and less protection. You get a little bit more radiation dose. You are looking through your visor into infinity, but you get very comfortable. … As you go outside and look down at the Earth and look at the space station and move around, it definitely feels like you’ve dropped into a Salvador Dali painting.
You’ve worked on submarines, airplanes, and you’ve been a diving medical officer. Which environment is the most stunning?
It’s sort of amazing the experiences that are possible. There’s no question that being in space looking down at the Earth is truly remarkable. ... You can see out to the horizon and you see the curvature of the Earth. ... It looks like it’s been painted on an egg. … You cross the whole U.S. in 10 minutes. It’s very still but there’s a tremendous feeling of speed looking underneath you. It takes only about 90 minutes to go around the Earth at this altitude. You have 16 days every 24 hours. 
Did you always want to be an astronaut?
I did, although I didn’t really decide to apply to NASA until I was 43. I remember, I was in Dover New Hampshire at my grandparent’s house in the mid ‘60s and they were showing the Gemini launches … I remember they had these long TV shots with the rockets on the pad and I remember my uncle saying, “Hey, maybe Lee will do that some day.” And I remember saying to myself, “Yeah right.” — Rebecca Fishow  
As seen in the July 3, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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