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Astronaut Butch Wilmore speaks about life aboard the International Space Station; Receives Accomplished Alumni Award

On September 11, the University of Tennessee (UT) welcomed NASA astronaut and University of Tennessee Space Institute (UTSI) graduate Barry “Butch” Wilmore to campus to speak about his recent mission to the International Space Station (ISS) and honored him with the Accomplished Alumni Award.

Wilmore returned from the ISS on March 12, after completing a 167 day mission.

Over 350 students and faculty filled Cox Auditorium to hear Wilmore describe what life was like aboard the ISS. The crowd was captivated by videos and breathtaking photos Wilmore shared. He gave details about what a typical day was like aboard the station, which included a daily two hour exercise program of lifting weights and using the treadmill and bicycle to maintain muscle mass due to zero gravity.

During the mission, he performed three spacewalks, which he described as physically and mentally challenging, to prepare for new international docking adapters and future U.S. commercial crew spacecraft. He also completed a spacewalk with fellow astronaut Reid Wiseman to replace a failed voltage regulator.

Wilmore became the first person to use a 3-D printer aboard the station and assembled the very first tool, a socket wrench, which he constructed entirely in space.

Some people have issues with adjusting to zero gravity, but Wilmore had no issues and had no major mental or physical issues adjusting to being at the ISS, in space, or returning to earth.

“I had trained extensively for all aspects of what my responsibilities would be and was very well prepared for them. Likewise, upon return to earth I knew what was ahead and was mentally prepared for it,” said Wilmore.

This recent spaceflight was the second for Wilmore—his first being an 11-day mission in 2009. Wilmore described both flights as “equally rewarding.”

Wilmore envisions man space flights in the next 25 years going beyond low earth orbit to areas in our near solar systems which will necessarily heighten our understanding of things we currently may not even ponder.

Being an astronaut is an amazing opportunity and Wilmore encourages anyone interested in becoming an astronaut to “do what you love and if you are truly interested in being an astronaut, keep sending in and updating your application because you just never know…you may be chosen.”

Since returning from space on March 12, Wilmore continues to work full time as a Captain in the U.S. Navy and has been traveling around the world speaking about his time in space.

Wilmore received his master’s degree in aviation systems from UTSI in 1994 and is one of nine astronauts who have graduated from UTSI.

During his talk, UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek presented Wilmore with the Accomplished Alumni Award. Wilmore was recognized on the field during the UT vs. Oklahoma football game on September 12.