Q&A: Professor’s husband to launch into space next week
A UH Air Force ROTC detachment commander’s husband will blast off to the International Space Station Oct. 11 on a Russian rocket.
Professor of Air Force Science Lt. Col. Mary Catherine Hague’s husband Nick, who is also in the Air Force, is a NASA astronaut who will fly on a Russian Soyuz rocket next week for a six-month stay aboard the ISS.
The Hague family will leave for Russia this week in lead up to the Oct. 11 launch. Nick has been back and forth between Russia and Houston for the last two years, training for his mission.
The Cougar: Going back a few years, when Nick was applying to be an astronaut, what was going through your mind when he was accepted?
Catie Hague: He actually applied three times. Got accepted on his third and I was very excited for him. I know this is what he always wanted to do, but I think I was also a little surprised in a sense. Because I wanted him to get it, but I didn’t realize what all comes with that as far as the support structure behind making his launch a success.
TC: Where will you be next week in Russia when he launches?
Hague: He’s never launched before, and I’ve never been at a launch in person. From my understanding, we are close enough to watch it launch, feel the rocket and smell the exhaust. We will be right there on the ground as he goes up.
TC: Are your children excited for him? What have they been saying?
Hague: They are very excited. I have an 11-year-old and a 7-year-old, both boys. The 11-year-old is very excited, the 7-year-old is a little nervous. They’ve been waiting for this day for a few years. They’ve been pretty excited to go over and watch it actually happen.
TC: How often will you be able to communicate with him?
Hague: I should be able to talk to him almost every day. He’s able to call me. I can’t call him, but he can call me. Every week, NASA has a really good family support system where they set up video telecoms with us, almost like Skype. We’ll do that once a week so that we can talk to him for 15 minutes or 30 minutes or whatever it is, catch up on the week’s events.
TC: Have you ever been separated from him for six months or longer before?
Hague: We are both in the Air Force, so we’ve both deployed before. As a matter of fact, he was a stay-at-home dad with our oldest son for an entire year when I was in Baghdad in Iraq. We’ve both done the single parent thing before. We also have jobs where we have been separated at different locations for different months before across the United States or around the world.
The Air Force has really prepared us to go through this deployment of sorts at the space station. It will work out pretty well, I think. We have a good understanding of what it takes, to be separated and to maintain that family connection.
TC: How do you explain to your children that flying in a big Russian rocket is a safe procedure?
Hague: We’ve done a lot of explaining, what it is and how it’s designed. We are big into LEGO, and we did the Saturn V LEGO model. As we did that, we were explaining the boosters and the various stages. I think them knowing as much as they can possibly know has helped them understand the safe history that the Russian rockets have had over the years. I think that probably has calmed their fears a bit, as it has mine.
TC: With him being away so long, what will be the hardest part for home life?
Hague: I think the holidays will be hard. They are always hard when you are separated from family. Our men and women in the military know that, we live through that all the time. That’s kind of the tough part, especially for the kids. We’ve got lots of family that comes to help us out and lots of support here, with the University of Houston. My staff here at the University of Houston is fabulous. Everybody is pitching in and helping out and making it as easy as possible.
TC: What has your staff been saying to you?
Hague: The staff is pretty excited. They are going to watch from here. We will have lots of supporters back in Houston watching. The cadets that we teach here, our Air Force cadets, are pretty excited. Many of them will eventually get into space operations when they graduate and commission in the Air Force. It’s a high interest for them, as well. I know a lot of them will be watching and cheering us on.
TC: Do you know what he will be doing up there?
Hague: A lot of research. That’s primarily what it is, (the ISS) is a zero gravity lab. They do all kinds of research testing human physiology. He had a sample of one of his muscles removed so they can look at muscle atrophy. I know they do cancer research. I think the Russians are actually taking up a 3D printer this time. Lots of different experiments going on at the International Space Station to hopefully to teach us more about who we are and help human kind progress.
TC: How often will you be able to send care packages and what will you be putting in them?
Hague: We get to send up probably about four or five different care packages in his entire six-month deployment up to the space station. It’s very limited in size, because weight is a problem. We send cards, we will send some cookies, maybe some Tabasco sauce for a little spice and little things like that. It will be fun for him to open those up every once in a while and get something from home.
TC: Are there any future plans for him to go up?
Hague: I don’t know. We will see how he does this time. If he does a good job, maybe NASA will let him go again. For right now, this is his first time so he is definitely focused on this mission and very excited for the opportunity.