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Rocket Man

7:25 a.m.: Diablo is on the phone with Danville-raised astronaut Leroy Chiao aboard the International Space Station, thanks to a connection from NASA’s Houston headquarters.


DIABLO: Station, this is Peter Crooks with Diablo magazine, how do you hear me?

LEROY CHIAO: We hear you loud and clear; how do you hear us?

D: Loud and clear. When you voted from space in the recent presidential election, it was the farthest absentee ballot ever cast. How did you find out who won the election?

LC: We get very little real-time news. We do have e-mail to communicate with our friends and family. I was able to call a friend on an Internet Protocol phone to get the results of the election.

D: We both graduated from Danville’s Monte Vista High School. Did a favorite teacher inspire you?

LC: What a coincidence! Yes, I took calculus from Mrs. Shackelford. She kept me going on the straight and narrow.

D: It’s been four years since your last spaceflight. Did you miss it?

LC: My previous flights were space shuttle flights, which are like a sprint. On the station, you get a chance to take a breath and take it in. Getting to space is like a dream.

D: Is it difficult to sleep in space?

LC: At first, I wasn’t sure what to do with my head, because you don’t put it on a pillow; you’re just floating there. [But] I dream the same way I do on Earth—I dream about being in space.

D: Does a day seem longer in space than it does on Earth?

LC: Actually, the average day seems shorter. It’s not shorter because we’re in space; it’s just that we have a lot to do.

D: How much detail can you see of Northern California?

LC: When we got up here, we were passing North America in darkness, so we weren’t able to see too much, except city lights. Only in the last few days have we been passing over California in daylight. I just got my first [photos] of the Bay Area the other day, and they came out well. 

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