IRELAND’S only astronaut has said being in space “fills him with pride of citizenship of planet”.
Daniel Tani, 60, spoke about life among the planets and the “incredible” feeling of seeing earth from afar.
Mr Tani explained the training that astronauts must undergo before they take off into space.
He told how trainees must go 60ft underwater and live in “harsh” conditions with other crew members.
The Pennsylvania native said: “Part of our training to be an astronaut is to learn to be part of a very small crew and community for a long duration and that’s an additional skillset, getting along with people and living in small quarters for long periods of time.
“One of the things that NASA found to do for training is to find small and harsh environment places where we can go and live as a crew and do things.
“One of them is an underwater laboratory off the coast of Florida, it’s in 60ft of water on the bottom of the ocean floor and once you go down there, because of the pressure you can’t easily come up to the surface so you’re stuck like you are in a space station.
“So I’ve had the pleasure of working 50ft under the surface of the earth and then 400km above the surface.”
Mr Tani described the “incredible” feeling of working and living aboard a space station.
He told Dublin’s Q102: “[Space] is just fantastic to live and work on a space station. Not only are you floating, we call it microgravity because basically we’re falling around the earth with the space station so inside we’re floating around which is just fantastically fun.
“We have an incredible perspective of the earth from 400km above and so we have this beautiful view and we’re circling it every 90 minutes so it’s just a really incredible place to live and work.
“I get to see the earth and I see the beautiful rivers and mountains and the incredible colours of the deserts and oceans and what it really fills me with is pride of citizenship of planet.
“I come away feeling so honoured and privileged to be from the earth and I think that that’s really my primary citizenship and it doesn’t have anything to do with country or land or a school or a sports team – it’s really that I belong to this planet.
“If everybody could feel that, even for a moment, I think it could shift priorities and for a moment at least, we would minimise these problems of feeling like you belong to something else.”
Mr Tani and his wife – who is from Cork – are planning to visit Ireland in August to see family.
He said: “I’ve got real Cork connections, my wife and her whole family are from [there] so I spend a lot of time in Cork and west Cork.”
“[Cork] is where we met, I went golfing and there was a very lovely lady that was one of the managers at the golf course and I got to know her and fast forward, we got married and had a family.
“We were married in 2000, we dated across the ocean and when we decided to get married she moved over, so it’s been over 20 years now.
“We are planning to visit in August to see family we haven’t seen in a year and a half.
“We look forward to getting back as soon as the borders clear up and make sure everybody is healthy.
“We’re happy to be vaccinated and we look forward to all of Ireland being vaccinated”.
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Commenting on the death of Michael Collins – whose ancestors also came from Cork – Mr Tani said: “I only had the chance of meeting Mike Collins once, a long time ago and he was really a very wonderful guy.
“All of those guys are heroes… it’s sort of inevitable and it gives us a chance to look back and really appreciate the contributions those guys made to the space programme.”
Last week, the space legend passed away at the age of 90 from cancer.