Astronaut Terry Virts tells WDRB odds are "100 percent" he'll be - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Astronaut Terry Virts tells WDRB odds are "100 percent" he'll be watching Ky. Derby from space

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Astronaut Terry Virts says he may be traveling 205 miles above the earth at 17,000 miles per hour on May 2 next year, but he says that won't stop him from catching a beloved sporting event.

The 46-year-old Air Force pilot says the odds are "100 percent" he'll be watching the Kentucky Derby during his six-month stint at the International Space Station.

Virts, along with Expedition 42 crewmates Samantha Cristoforetti and Anton Shkaplerov, is expected to launch to the space station aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule at approximately 4 p.m. EST on Nov. 23. 

Click HERE to read WDRB's original interview with the Expedition 42 crew.

In the early morning hours on Wednesday, Nov. 5, Virts spoke with WDRB about a number of topics -- including the tragic news of the recent crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo aircraft, which resulted in the death of one pilot, and left another seriously injured.

Below are some of our questions, along with his answers:

WDRB: You're going to be seeing a lot of things from the window of the station during the six months that you're up there. Is there a particular landmark, event, weather element or location that you're looking forward to seeing the most?

VIRTS: You know, it's impossible to say which one is your favorite. There are so many amazing things that you see, from natural weather like hurricanes, to volcanoes erupting, and just thunderstorms over Africa or South America. There are so many things to see. My first flight was only two weeks, and I just didn't have enough time to look back at the Earth and even look into space and see. So that's probably what I'm looking forward to in this mission – to be able to see the creation from space. It's awesome.

WDRB: This has obviously been a tough period in the past few days for space exploration with the loss of the Orbital Sciences rocket. Obviously, more tragically, we've had the loss of life after the crash of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo. What is your reaction to that as an astronaut -- as an Air Force pilot – what does this mean for us going forward, and does it ever give you pause about going into space?

VIRTS: It's been a rough week. Thankfully at NASA, there was no loss of life or injury – that was the main point. Like you said, sadly, out in California, with the SpaceShipTwo, we did lose a pilot and the other one was severely injured. So it was a tough week.

As a fighter pilot – and a test pilot by background – this is part of the business. It's a tough and unfortunate part of the business, but it's something that we know – from the beginning, you know if you're gonna start a 20-30-40-year-long program, going into the future, you know that you're going to have accidents occasionally. It's a tough business. It's a hard thing to get accelerated up to 17,500 miles an hour into the vacuum of space.

What I'm very optimistic about is the team that we have. I know the folks here at NASA are just the best. I have a lot of good friends at Orbital and they are absolutely outstanding, and I know they're gonna find out what the cause was and move forward. So this is unfortunately something that is part of this business and I know we're going to move forward from it.

WDRB: What is going to set Expedition 42 apart from other expeditions? What are you going to be remembered for the most?

VIRTS: Well hopefully, we'll be remembered for being an awesome crew that the ground teams enjoyed working with, that got the space station in even better shape than when we got there and that accomplished some amazing science.

There's gonna be a lot to do in the few months that we're there and actually Expedition 42 is kind of a transition into a new phase of the space station program where we're going to be doing some reconfiguration. So we were in an assembly phase for years, where we were building the station. The last few years we've been focused on utilization and science, and while our focus is still going to be on utilization and science, there are some reconfigurations, some space walks, some moving modules around that Expedition 42 is going to be the beginning of this new, kind-of mini-phase of the space station program.

WDRB: We've spoken in the past, I know that you've got some connections to horse racing. Could you kind of talk about that, and also, what are the odds that you guys will be watching the Kentucky Derby from space on May 2?

VIRTS: I think the odds are 100 percent that we're going to be watching the Kentucky Derby from space.

I actually used to own horses in Maryland. I'm from Maryland originally, and I used to own a quarterhorse and an Appaloosa and so horse racing is near and dear to my heart. When I was stationed in Germany, we used to go ride the German warmblood horses. They're very big, obviously, in dressage there in Germany and so it was pretty fun riding those animals. Those German horses were pretty big. It was a lot of fun to ride those.

WDRB: Alright Terry, we wish you, on behalf of WDRB, a successful mission and good luck.

VIRTS: Thanks Travis.

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