Having fun with my astronaut buddy, Don Pettit

I have known astronaut Don Pettit since before his first space flight in 2002. He had purchased my book Introduction to Widefield Astrophotography and contacted me about about some astrophotography questions. At the time I did not know he was an astronaut candidate. He finally said that he was one of the lucky ones, that someday he would fly in space. Little did either of us know how quick that would be. Don was the Backup Science Officer for Expedition 6. When the primary candidate for that mission was medically disqualified for further space flights, Pettit took his place and was on the International Space Station within four months!

I soon found out how versatile and amazing a person Don was. To my surprise, I was included on his restricted email access while he was in orbit, meaning I could privately communicate with him daily while he was in space. That privilidge has extended through all three of Don's space flights. It has been an honor to assist him by providing daily reports and predictions about phenomena he loves to investigate while in space, such as aurora, noctilucent clouds, and sunspots. Indeed, after his six month flight on Expedition 30/31, Don joked that he might have been in contact with me more than his wife during that mission! Over the years when I have hosted astronomical events, I have never hesitated to ask Don Pettit to be one of my speakers. He always responds enthusiastically and marvels the audience with humor, science, and his almost child-like exuberance and passion for what he does in space. In the photos shown here, Don has joined me at the Arizona Science and Astronomy Expo in Tucson, the 2015 ALCON in San Antonio, and the 2017 Texas Star Party.

Below are some links to some activities that I have participated with Don related to all three of his space flights.

A visit to the ISS simulator in Houston, 2003

Watching Don's launch on STS-126, 2008

My Flash the Space Station project with Don

Where is Don Pettit's home away from home?

This interactive zoomable map requires Windows ActiveX controls. Depending on your browser settings, you may have to click on "Allow Blocked Content" to see the map showing the curent location of International Space Station

Source code to activate the above map provided by Simone Carbellini at SatFlare.com

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