Victor Glover talks about his time in space: ‘A remarkable view’

Glover was the first Black astronaut to live on the International Space Station. 

It’s been almost a year since astronaut Victor Glover finished a mission in which he was the first Black astronaut to live on the International Space Station. 

Glover went to the space station in November 2020, during the height of the pandemic and as the country was reeling from George Floyd’s murder. He returned on May 2, 2021.

In an interview with theGrio, Glover, 45, talks about his time in space, how his family and mentors influenced him, and what’s next.

Interview was edited for brevity and clarity. 

theGrio: What does it feel like to be in space?

Victor Glover: There is a moment where there’s just the two of you in the airlock, they pump all the air out [and] it goes down to vacuum.  And then we open the hatch and there it is just space between you and the Earth, empty emptiness. Nothing. No structure for 260 miles. We were there installing an antenna on the European laboratory.

And after hours of working on that, we had to connect the electrical connectors. We were plugging it in, and one of the plugs didn’t work. And so the ground had to talk it over and we had a few minutes just to sit around and look around. And that’s the first time where I was actually there to sightsee. I looked around, the sun was down and I was looking at the earth, the city lights, and then the sun came up right as I was staring out into space. And it was such a remarkable view.  

NASA astronaut Victor Glover on his way to the SpaceX Crew Dragon at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. . (Photo by Red Huber/Getty Images)

Did being in space make you think differently about life on Earth?

If we keep being bad to the planet, it’s going to get rid of us. We need to protect the planet because we also need to protect human life. Those are the two things I think I meditated on quite a bit just looking at the earth and seeing how much of a connected system it is. Being able to see the Atlantic Ocean and seeing dust fly from the West coast of Africa over to the East coast of the United States. The earth is like a giant cell and all the pieces are working together for the common good. I came back with the goal of trying to share how connected we are, and how much of a priority it needs to be for us to protect the planet, and one another, because they’re one and the same.  

Why is it important for people to go to space?

One of the purposes of going to space is for us to learn more about how we can help humans on the planet. The technologies that we’re developing, the medications that we’re using and advancing aren’t just for human spaceflight, it’s for humankind here on Earth.

I was subjected to this condition called osteopenia, which is like space-induced osteoporosis, and that’s something that disproportionately affects women on earth. We don’t really truly understand what causes osteoporosis. And we are still learning about what causes osteopenia, but what we do know is how to combat osteopenia. And that benefits people who suffer from osteoporosis.

What are the similarities between the first moonwalk in 1969 and going to space today?

One of the things that kind of was on my mind as I was preparing for this mission — with all of the different things going on in our country, economic social, and civil — it was important to me to be the best representative I could [be] for humanity, right, and all the facets of what that means. And something that just kind of resonated In the back of my mind was, you know, Gil Scott Heron’s poem, Whitey on the Moon.

And you know, if you’re not familiar with it, go listen to it because the struggles of our people are so well captured in the movies and music of our generations. And so, if you think about where the world was when we were sending people to the moon, the civil rights era, voting rights, honestly, it was very similar. There were similarities to now. We’ve made great strides since then. But we still have a lot of work to do.

How did your family play a role in preparing you to be an astronaut?

Being in school was important to my parents. Going to church, making sure that I was learning and serving in the community, and doing some service for others, was always important. My grandparents around the holidays, I remember, would have us go to nursing homes to take gifts to the folks that were residents. So I always think of the holidays as a time to do service. The importance of education as a way to change your circumstances, and to have opportunities, are things that my parents made sure to keep in front of me and my younger brothers. [It’s] what I’m trying, to pass on to my children as well.

Were mentors a part of your journey as well?

Talking about my mentors in elementary school, high school, and college, and through my military service, is really where the story is. Many of those things would not have happened if I didn’t have a group of people who loved me, invested in me, and supported me. And that’s the biggest reason that a [man] from Pomona was able to live on the International Space Station for almost six months.

Victor Glover received his Bachelor of Science in General Engineering in 1999 from the California Polytechnic State University. He also holds three master’s degrees in Flight Test Engineering, Systems Engineering, and Military Operational Art and Science. He served as pilot and second in command of the Crew-1 SpaceX Crew Dragon, named Resilience, which landed on May 2, 2021.

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