Pham Tuan and Christer Fuglesang, who were the first astronauts of Vietnam and Sweden, respectively, agreed that dreams and effort must come together on one’s journey to success.
The two astronauts talked with Tuoi Tre News last week within the framework of the ongoing “Innovative Sweden” program in Ho Chi Minh City to share their stories.
The two said that one of the most interesting parts of flying to space is floating around in the weightless environment.
Looking at Earth through the windows of the space shuttle was amazing, Christer Fuglesang said during an interview on November 15.
Fuglesang said he was greatly impressed by Earth’s beauty even though he had seen many videos and pictures capturing the planet from above, while Tuan said everything was quite strange although he had prepared when he was on the ground.
“From above, the Earth didn’t look as big as we had thought,” Fuglesang recalled. “I think we should cooperate to take care of our planet like astronauts help each other in space.”
No boundaries on Earth can be seen from space, he added.
Meanwhile, Tuan expressed his wonderful feelings while sitting on top of the shuttle.
“That kind of feeling we can never feel when we’re on the ground,” Tuan recalled. “Seeing our planet from space was also a great experience, especially when I flew over my country and looked at its coastlines. It was so exciting.
“I still remember my first landing on Earth after going to space,” he added. “I felt like screaming ‘Hooray! We’re alive! We succeeded!’ when our shuttle bounced several times before it landed.”
“However, seeing Earth from space was not much different from my imagination since I used to be a pilot and was acquainted with seeing the planet from above, plus I had also seen many pictures capturing Earth from space,” Tuan said.
The first meal on Earth after a trip to space can be unforgettable to astronauts. Tuan said it was a great feeling since astronauts do not have fresh food in space.
“After coming back to the Earth I had a very delicious meal, not to mention seeing my family and friends, drinking beer and wine, and receiving congratulations from people around me,” Tuan shared.
While talking about nutrition in space, Fuglesang said that astronauts can bring cookies or candies in addition to a menu on which astronauts choose from 60 dishes the National Aeronautical Space Administration (NASA) prepares for them.
All food must be dried and vacuum packed so that it can be stored for a long time without being put in a freezer.
The food tasted fine but is quite boring because it is not fresh, the Swedish astronaut added.
Meanwhile, Tuan shared that many people may not know that astronauts do not need much food since they do not move a lot or burn many calories.
“We had enough nutrition, but not as much as people think because astronauts mainly use our hands and brain in space, we don’t sweat much or move a lot,” Pham said.
A normal pilot needs around 4,000-4,500 kcal per day, while an astronaut only needs half that amount, he added.
“We drank around 2.5 liters of water, of which more than one liter was brought from Earth, while the rest was recycled from urine and sweat,” Tuan said.
Keep dreaming and putting forth effort
In talking about the pursuit of their dream, both astronauts said that the chance to fly to space is equal for all people.
If somebody wants to be an astronaut, whether they are from Vietnam or Sweden or any other country, just keep dreaming and putting forth a lot of effort to reach that desire.
“You never know when the opportunity to go to space will come. If one wants to go to space, keep that dream open, and prepare for the possible opportunity by studying well. You should do things that you enjoy,” Fuglesang said.
The Swede also suggests that young Vietnamese study abroad as they will get international experiences which will be good for their future career.
Meanwhile, Tuan explained that a person only needs around three years to become a well-trained astronaut, and the number of opportunities to go to space is increasing these days.
Space agencies in the past used to choose astronauts with experience as a pilot to control the space shuttle, which was decommissioned by NASA in 2011. However, they have begun welcoming people with other backgrounds, such as Fuglesang, who used to be a scientist, as astronauts.
The Vietnamese astronaut also recounted his own story of pursuing the dream to fly to the sky, in which he failed several pilot qualification tests until he finally passed in 1965. Tuan was among 11 outstanding people who had been carefully selected from 300 applicants at that time.
This was the first step that brought him closer to his dream of going to space.
“I always tell young people to not only keep dreaming but also to consider their personal ability. This would help them make a good choice and not be upset when their dream cannot come true,” Tuan said.
Meanwhile Fuglesang emphasized that people always need to make greater effort and improve themselves, even if they have already become an astronaut. He said team work and social skills are among the most important factors for an astronaut as the job requires people to work harmoniously together.
He also suggested that people learn more foreign languages to better collaborate with their teammates.
Both men also underlined the important role of their relatives in supporting them in pursuing their dreams, especially in the face of difficult moments.
“The motivation from my family members helped me a lot to overcome difficulties. We were able to talk to our family members once a day and that was a wonderful feeling. We felt so lonely traveling in space, so hearing the voices of our relatives brought a lot of happiness to us,” Tuan said.
While talking about how to help his children nurture their dream, Tuan said that he let them choose their own career paths and only told them to consider their own capability, as he always advises other young people.
For Fuglesang, telling bedtime stories and writing books are two methods he has used to help not only his children but also other kids to keep pursuing their dreams, especially in terms of becoming an astronaut.
|* Born in 1947 in the northern Vietnamese province of Thai Binh, Pham Tuan was a pilot before becoming the first Vietnamese as well as Asian flying to space in 1980 for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics’ Intercosmos Research Cosmonaut program. He was also among the few non-Russian people presented with the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
* Born in 1957 in Stockholm, Christer Fuglesang was a physicist before his first mission on the STS-116 Space Shuttle in 2006, making him the first Swede in space, according to the European Space Agency.