Q&A: NASA Astronaut
A.J. 'Drew' Feustel
Erin Maher | December 11, 2017
NASA astronaut A.J. ‘Drew’ Feustel will be taking the sport of tennis to new heights when he leaves for the International Space Station on March 21, 2018, and returns on August 28, 2018. The avid tennis player and fan will attempt a tennis match in space during his voyage, powered by Net Generation.
USTA.com recently caught up the astronaut to talk about space and sport.
USTA.com: Did you ever think your profession as an astronaut would cross with your passion for tennis?
Drew Feustel: Not really. It’s neat to see our personal interests help to share the story of space and space exploration. I think the key for us is that we can get the public interested in what we’re doing and why we’re doing it through common interests like tennis and sports. It’s a really neat opportunity for us to reach out and share those stories. ADVERTISEMENT
USTA.com: If you could bring any tennis player up to space to hit with you, who would you bring?
Feustel: That’s a good question. You know, I think [Roger] Federer would really enjoy some time in space. He seems like the type of guy who might like to ride on a rocket and spend a little time floating up there. So we’d have to give him a chance at it.
USTA.com: What would you say are the similarities and differences in training to be an athlete versus being an astronaut, both physically and mentally?
Feustel: Like any athlete, obviously we try to stay fit. Tennis is a great way for me to stay agile, flexible and have that quick-moving capability. Not that we need it as astronauts, but I think it helps us with focus. Being able to concentrate on the game, concentrate on the ball, really think about the task at hand and have that laser-sharp focus that we use in a lot of aspects of our training and space flight preparation. Fitness is key, aerobic fitness is key for us in space, and we exercise three hours a day while we’re up there. So we share a lot of that goal to stay fit, stay focused and stay sharp while we’re up there.
USTA.com: To the best of you knowledge, what NASA inventions, if any, have been integrated into the sports world, and may have helped tennis players or tennis and sports technology.
Feustel: You know that is a great question, and one that I certainly have not researched before, so maybe I should say I owe you an answer on that. But certainly, 75 to 80 percent of the experiments that we do in space is really done to benefit life on Earth, and of course we have a lot of technology spinoffs that are related to the miniaturization of hardware, new developments in clothing such as cooling garments, may not have direct application to tennis but certainly some of the work that we do is critical to life back on Earth.
USTA.com: What do you enjoy most about tennis?
Feustel: I love watching tennis and just watching the shots. I don’t know how some of these folks can make these angles, the speed at which they can get to the shots. The determination, the diving shots. Those things to me are amazing. Just that persistence, you know? The unwillingness to give up, to chase the ball, to get the shot, it’s amazing to me. Even when someone’s down, even when they know they’re going to lose the match, to see them go after it, give it their all. That to me is what it’s all about.
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Follow Drew on his journey to the International Space Station: