Real-Life Astronaut Dishes on 'Battlestar Galactica'

NASA Astronaut Readapts to Life on Earth
Astronaut Garrett Reisman, Expedition 16/17 flight engineer, poses for a photo after signing the Expedition 16 patch, which was added to the growing collection of insignias representing crews who performed spacewalks from the Quest Airlock of the ISS.
(Image: © NASA.)

This story was updated at 1:51 p.m. EDT.

AstronautGarrett Reisman spent three unforgettable months living in space, but afterlanding he ended up on a different mission of sorts aboard the fictionalspaceship Battlestar Galactica.

Just weeksafter his return from the International Space Station to Earth last summer,Reisman found himself on the set of Sci Fi Channel's ?Battlestar Galactica,? watchingactors play at spaceflight as they filmed the final episode of the sciencefiction television series. The two-hour series finale airs Friday night.

?The wholespaceflight thing was still very fresh,? Reisman, 41, told ina recent interview. ?And then to be on the set where they?re simulating it, itwas pretty neat to experience.?

Reismandidn?t just watch. He donned the garb of Galactica?sColonial Marines for a short scene, though whether it will end up in thefinal cut is anyone?s guess, he said.

?There?s anextremely good chance that it will not even be in it at all,? Reisman said,adding that the scene is not integral to the plot.

In a Jan.15 issue of the entertainment trade magazine Variety, Reisman describedthe scene and his visit to the Vancouver set. Someone throws up on him and thenhe dies.

?I had somuch fun that day,? he told

Realstation, fake spaceship

Reismanwatched the original ?Battlestar Galactica? series as a child and followed itsrecent rebirth, which retells the story of an immense space battleship as itprotects a fleet of civilian spacecraft while fending off attacks from therobot Cylon enemy.

While hewas in space, Reisman turned the lights down aboard the space station andtuned in to the new series via computer with the station?s then-skipper, fellowNASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, as Galactica?s commander Bill Adama tried to keephis fleet together on the road to find Earth. The astronauts briefly spoke, whilein space, with the show?s producers Ron Moore and David Eick.

Whilewatching the show aboard the station, one glaring omission came to light,Reisman said. No one was floatingaround in weightlessness.

?Being ableto shoot across the room and fly, you just can?t beat it,? Reisman said. ?Whywould you deny yourself the incredible pleasure??

But Reismananswered his own question as he recalled the hours of exercise he had to doeach day just to stay healthy in space.

?There areactually scientific reasons you might want to do that,? he said. ?We have towork really hard to counteract the effects of zero gravity on the human body.?

It?s also alot simpler and cheaper to film a show without constantly mimickingweightlessness, so that probably helps too, he added.

Reisman wasalso surprised with how similar the communications protocols on ?BattlestarGalactica? are to those used between the International Space Station, itsvarious Mission Controls in the U.S, Russia, Europe and Japan, and otherspacecraft.

?There area lot of things on the show that they got right, as far as the communications,?he said, ?especially the communications between ships.?

Gettingthe word out

During his2008 spaceflight, Reisman was interviewed for Comedy Central's "Colbert Report,"but he?s not the only professional astronaut to appear on television.

Other spaceflyershave appeared on a variety of shows, included the International Space Station?scurrent commander Michael Fincke, who appeared with fellow astronaut TerryVirts in the last episodeof ?Star Trek: Enterprise? and had a line of dialogue.

Sciencefiction, Reisman said, has a very real ability to inspire the public inreal-life space exploration, though his passion was sparked by NASA?s Apollomoon missions. Growing up in Parsippany, N.J, he watched Super 8 films of thosemissions until they wore out, then he spliced them back together and watchedthem again.

?Sciencefiction works best when it?s done as an allegory,? Reisman said. ?That?s what?sso powerful about the new show. They take on a lot of contemporary issues.?

Unlike theoriginal ?Star Trek? television series, which tended to portray societal issuesas moral parables, the modern ?Battlestar? takes a more nuanced approach, theastronaut explained.

?The newmission drives at the gray area, where you assume what?s right and wrong, andit forces you to reexamine your concept of that,? Reisman said. ?Well, couplethat with some good spaceship shoot ?em ups.?

Watchingthe glitzy spaceships on ?Battlestar Galactica? zoom through space battleswhile the International Space Station stays firmly locked in Earth orbit couldfeel a bit disheartening at times, but there was a very positive upshot, Reisman said.

?Whenyou?re on the space station, nobody is actually shooting at you,? he said witha laugh. ?So that?s nice.?


The2-hour series finale of ?Battlestar Galactica? airs Friday night on the SciFiChannel at 9 p.m. EDT/8 p.m. CDT. Check local listings.

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