Fifteen years ago, Ricky Arnold was a middle school science teacher with an incurable wanderlust. His career as a teacher took him from Maryland to the Middle East to the islands of the Pacific. But even that wasn’t enough.
In 2006, Arnold completed Astronaut Candidate Training with NASA, and in 2009, he went to space for the first time.
He’s back up there now, having joined the International Space Station crew in March of 2018, where he continues to teach. On June 25, Arnold connected with the students at Spruce Street School in New York City to give them a personal interview on the realities of life in space.
The students asked him about his day to day life as an astronaut, the scary bits of the job, and how his path led to where he is now.
“Looking back at our home planet is a life-changing experience,” Arnold told them about the view, which he described as one of his favorite parts of life in orbit. “When you get up here and look out of the window for the first time, all you want to be able to do is take everyone you’ve ever met and bring them up here to have a chance to look back on our home planet and realize how special and beautiful it is.”
He also told the students that in addition to taking photos of the view from space, astronauts also like to read and play guitar when they’re not working.
As far as career advice, he pushed for students who wanted a space-related career to “be a well-rounded person and be persistent! Keep applying!” He encouraged them to study STEM subjects, like he had. Before teaching Arnold was an oceanographic technician for the Navy. That was the scientific background that allowed him to become an astronaut.
After Arnold’s interview, the Spruce Street students got to interact with a panel of NASA scientists, who answered more of their questions. With a bit of an ulterior motive. According to Matthew Pearce, an education officer for NASA, half of the agency’s workforce is on the verge of retirement. These students are the organization’s future.