‘You Cannot Press Pause While You’re Flying A Jet’: Why Planes Help Astronauts Prepare For Space

In between these sweet, sweet video shots of jets in the video above, you’ll find some wisdom about why it’s so important that astronauts climb into these planes for training. Turns out that flying has a lot to do with preparing for very quick-changing situations in spaceflight — whether it’s in a cockpit or in a spacesuit.

“Psychologically, being in an aircraft is very similar to being in a rocket because you are dependent on this machinery,” says astronaut David Saint-Jacques in this new Canadian Space Agency video.

“You are in an uncomfortable cockpit. You’re wearing a helmet, oxygen mask. There’s tens of dials in front of you. You have to monitor all that data; the radio, on many channels talking at the same time. You have to constantly filter out what is important and to make decisions that could have big impacts. You cannot press pause while you’re flying a jet.”

Saint-Jacques and fellow Canadian Jeremy Hansen took part in this video to mark the 110th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first powered flight, which took place Dec. 17, 1903.

And there’s more to this video than jets — you can see astronauts participating in spacewalks and also the ongoing European Space Agency CAVES expedition series in Sardinia, Italy. There’s even a quick glimpse of the Snowbirds, a famous military flying demonstration team in Canada (which Hansen flew with earlier this year).

For more information on the T-38s used for astronaut training, check out this NASA link.

A T-38 plane parked in front of space shuttle Discovery in this undated photo taken by NASA astronaut Story Musgrave, who flew six times in space in the 1980s and 1990s.
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

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