Expedition 56, 57 astronauts share about mission in space

NASA honors crew members, team at Space Center Houston

HOUSTON – The NASA community celebrated the achievements of six astronauts and the thousands of hands on Earth who helped make expeditions 56 and 57 possible.

The public event included a NASA Crew Debrief and an awards ceremony.

The crews' mission? To show what conditions are like to live out of this world.

"We are six individuals representing the population of the Earth," American astronaut and 56 Cmdr. Drew Feustel said.

Feustel is one of five other space explorers who were honored Wednesday night at Space Center Houston.

Feustel was a part of Expedition 56 alongside American astronaut Richard Arnold and Russian kosmonaut Oleg Artemyev. Also honored were members of Expedition 57, including German-European Space Agency astronaut Cmdr. Alexander Gerst, American astronaut Serena Aunon-Chancellor and Russian kosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev.

"They are super brave, and space is the final frontier representing the ultimate human curiosity," said Abby Huff, a NASA intern who attended the event.

"We get to celebrate the work these crews have done, and we get to recognize the people, both the crews that actually went into space and did the great work, but we also get to recognize the folks on the ground who made it happen -- the flight directors, the flight controllers and other people in the program in the center," said Mark Geyer, NASA's Johnson Space Center director.

Feustel spoke to the attendees over images and videos that were playing in the background of the Space Center Houston Theater.

'"We spent roughly two days in between sleeping and waking, really not knowing what time or day it is, but eventually arriving to the International Space Station," he said. "It was quite an amazing sight to see as we approached."

"All of them have been doing experiments to how the body changes in space, how to grow things like vegetables and plants in space, which will be very important for travel in the future and also (they're) doing experiments that affect life on Earth, like, we do remote sensing for agriculture and those types of things," Geyer said.

Added Aunon-Chancellor, "We do this quite a bit during our mission -- drawing our blood, urine ... you name it. We do see changes in the eyes and changes in the vision on orbit. We exercise every day when we're up on station."

It is a rare look into their everyday lives in space.

"Here's Alex doing bench press," Aunon-Chancellor explained to the audience.

During the event, several awards were given out to those team members.

"Keep in mind that we have 3,000 civil servants at NASA Johnson Space Center (and) another 10,000 or so other contractors who support that program," said William Harris, Space Center Houston President and CEO. "NASA will be giving out, through Johnson Space Center, a number of service awards."

Said Geyer, "We have heroes in space and heroes in the ground making thing kind of mission happen."