Down to earth

Garrett Reisman, a former astronaut who attended the Limmud FSU conference on space last week offers his views on Israel and space.

Garrett Reisman_521 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Garrett Reisman_521
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Garrett ReismanAge: 43Profession: Retired astronaut, engineerPlace of birth: Morristown, New JerseyCurrent residence: Los Angeles, California
What gets you up in the morning?
Usually it’s my newborn son crying. But the serious answer is that I have a new job. I work for a company called SpaceX, and we’re trying to make a new rocket and capsule to take people to the space station, and my job is to design that spaceship and act as engineer. That’s a great job and I’m excited, and that’s what gets me up.
What keeps you up at night?
Also the newborn baby, but other than that, thinking about the difficult business of designing a spaceship. Sometimes I can’t stop thinking about it, and it’s hard to sleep. You can’t just take the brain and turn it off.
What is the most difficult professional moment you’ve faced so far?
That’s an easy answer. It’s not launching in a space shuttle, it’s not doing a spacewalk. The most difficult thing was having to throw the first pitch at a Yankees game. I played as a little kid, but it’s not my job to throw a baseball – and I had to do it in front of 55,000 [people] before a game with the Red Sox. But I pulled it off.
How do you celebrate your achievements?
Usually beer. Sometimes cognac.
If you were president, what’s the first thing you would do?
Campaign finance reform. I think the biggest problem in our system in the US is how much money it takes to be elected and how the politicians focus mostly on that. I think our ability to send people into space, our ability to work on the economy, would be much better off if we could work on that problem.
Which Israeli should have a movie made of her/him?
Asaf Ramon [the son of astronaut Ilan Ramon. After his father died in the Columbia disaster, Reisman took him under his wing and was his personal flight instructor. Tragically Asaf died when his IAF fighter plane crashed in the Judean Hills two years ago.] He had an unfortunately short but amazing life, and he’s an amazing person.
What would you change about Israelis if you could?
I don’t think I’d want to change the Israeli people, because they are a very special people. I wouldn’t want to change their character at all. I would like to change the circumstances around them, but not the people.iPad, BlackBerry or pen and paper?
If you had to write an advertisement to entice tourists to come to Israel, what would it be?
Israel rules? I’m not in advertising.
What is the most serious problem facing the country?
Peace and security.
How can it be solved?
I can do a spacewalk, I can fly a space shuttle, I can throw a first pitch at Yankee Stadium, but solving the Middle East peace issue? That is something I cannot do. I don’t have a good answer – I wish I did.
In 20 years the country will be:
I believe in 20 years, Israel will be at peace with democratic neighbors.