In discussions about how to become a well-rounded astronaut, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills are always mentioned. NASA astronaut Scott Tingle added an "A" for "arts," making it STEAM, and that helped mold him into what he is today — an International Space Station crewmember.
Tingle started playing guitar when he was 15 years old, and in a new NASA video, he said that the activity "provided all the things he was lacking at the time." Along with Tingle talking about his musical experiences, the video showcases some of his guitar-shredding techniques; he even shows off finger-tapping skills that guitar legend Eddie Van Halen made incredibly popular during the late 1970s and 1980s.
"What I love about it most is that it can be loud, a lot of stress relief, or it can be soft, or it can be however you're feeling at the moment," Tingle said of the guitar. "It's a great projection of emotion." [Scott Tingle talks to Space.com from the ISS (Video)]
Tingle has a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Southeastern Massachusetts University (now called the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth) and a master's degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University. He was a captain in the U.S. Navy and is a veteran test pilot. In 2009, he was chosen to join NASA's astronaut corps.
On Dec. 17, 2017, after nine years of NASA training, Tingle boarded a Soyuz MS-07 spacecraft in Kazakhstan and blasted off to the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time. He is currently serving as a flight engineer on the orbiting lab's Expedition 54.
In the new video, Tingle also describes how the experience of playing in a band applies to his work today. "Team skills are very important in a rock band," Tingle said, explaining how he and his bandmates had to weigh differing ideas while developing original songs.
Similarly, when working at NASA, "patience and seeing the value of ideas that other people offer" is very important," Tingle said. A musical setting helped him hone those abilities. "The same skills I learned by being in a band, I still use today," he added.
Tingle's band went on to play at high schools, colleges and clubs in the Boston area during his teenage and early-adult years. The group even had an original song make a "Boston Top 10" list, according to Tingle.
One thing is for certain: Whether it's music or spacewalking — Tingle performed his first extravehicular activity on Jan. 23 — the astronaut rises to the occasion, and his STEAM skills had a lot to do with his success.