“Top Gun” star Tom Cruise and NASA astronaut Victor Glover bonded virtually over fast planes and SpaceX spaceships in a wide-ranging conversation about astronaut training.
NASA’s Johnson Space Flight Center posted the hour-long conversation on YouTube on Friday (Jan. 28), rebroadcasting a November 2021 conversation during the World Extreme Medicine conference.
Cruise is the one asking most of the questions, as he appears to be mentally preparing himself for his own spaceflight in a few years, during which he will be the first Hollywood star to go to space for real with a visit to the International Space Station.
Related: Axiom Space plans to build a movie studio module for the International Space Station by 2024
“I have a few questions for you, if you don’t mind,” Cruise says near the beginning of the conversation, encouraging Glover right away to “call me Tom.”
Tom Cruise’s upcoming unnamed space movie, co-produced by U.K.-based Space Entertainment Enterprise, may also benefit from a newly announced inflatable space station module with a production studio commissioned from Houston-based Axiom Space.
Meanwhile, for Glover, it was a chance to showcase astronaut training along with what it’s really like to be on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. Glover flew on the first operational SpaceX taxi for astronauts, a mission known as Crew-1, that landed in May 2021 after 167 days in space.
“The Dragon has a touchscreen. The displays are also where the controls are. That’s quite different than flying an aircraft with a stick and a throttle,” Glover said, admitting he was skeptical at first about the design.
“I was like, ‘I don’t know guys, I need my interceptors. I need something to move around,” Glover, who is also a U.S. Navy Captain with more than 3,000 flight hours of experience, recalled of his reaction. “But as I learned more about what the vehicle does, and what its purpose was, the touchscreen actually was wonderful. It worked great.”
Glover shared some anecdotes about “pulling Gs,” or experiencing several times the force of Earth’s gravity, in both fighter jets and aircraft.
“In the fighter, the Gs go from your head to your toe,” he explained to Cruise, “and that’s why we practice these specific maneuvers to keep blood flow to your brain. You stay conscious and you don’t gray out or blackout, but the Gs on a rocket launch goes into your chest. And so you naturally can can sustain more Gs in that direction.”
Cruise is a certified pilot himself, with many fans of the action star likely already aware that he did many of the helicopter stunts in 2018’s “Mission Impossible: Fallout,” according to Screen Rant.
While he sat in the passenger seat of an F-14 during the blockbuster 1986 hit “Top Gun,” Cruise recalled in the interview with Glover briefly pulling 9.5 Gs, or 9.5 times the force of Earth’s gravity. But after discussing G-forces during launch (the Falcon 9 forced about 4 Gs on the crew for a few minutes), Cruise then asked Glover what he would consider the most demanding part of the mission.
Glover said it depends on how you frame the question, whether it is a short-term thing or a long-term thing, but he would pick the four spacewalks he performed during his mission.
“You’re moving around in a suit that can weigh, with your body, as much as 1,000 pounds [450 kilograms] — and you very rarely use your legs,” Glovers aid. “It’s like running two marathons, but on your hands the whole time. Your hands and fingers are very sore when you’re done with this.”
Cruise added that he’s been fitted for a spacesuit, but he didn’t mention if his upcoming mission would include a spacewalk. No non-professional astronaut has been on a spacewalk, although Cruise fans might bet that he would try — given he has done other high-profile stunts for movies like actually climbing the massive Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai for 2011’s “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.”
In the conversation, however, Cruise shifted to asking Glover about countermeasures the astronauts usually take in space, which commonly includes things like a couple of hours of cardiovascular and weightlifting exercise daily. Astronauts also get some “time off” to pursue hobbies and enjoy festive meals with their crewmates, among other mental health items.
Cruise also asked if Glover felt any weaker across his four spacewalks, given he was losing bone mass in space, as is usual for long-duration space missions. Glover said no, and noted he actually gained a little muscle mass thanks to regular exercise with the space station’s Advanced Exercise Resistive Device that uses pistons for weightlifting.
“By the time we went out the door,” Glover explained, “I felt stronger, actually, over my mission. [But] I did lose a little bit of bone mass. I lost about 2% of my bone mass, and they [doctors] say I’ll have that recovered in about a year.”
Most of the conversation, in fact, covered health in space. The two pilots go over everything from how to deal with routine itches in your spacesuit, the menu items astronauts get to pick, readjusting to Earth’s gravity after splashdown, and smaller changes in how the body functions after a long period of time in space. (When Cruise heard that basic astronaut training does not include skydiving, Cruise promised Glover that the two of them would jump out a plane together sometime.)
They also chatted about the view from space. Glover said during his time in the capsule on the way to the ISS, he did have to stay focused on the mission. But he did have some time to relax and take in the views as he took off his spacesuit, went to the bathroom and otherwise made himself comfortable for the 27-hour journey to the station.
“I went to the to the window and looked out,” Glover recalled, adding that he was at first surprised to see the Earth was sideways due to the orientation of the spacecraft. “I felt like I was underneath the Earth,” he added. “I was just amazed at the view, how much detail that I could see … so I just grabbed my iPad, and I started recording a video. It wasn’t that I wanted to share the imagery with people. I wanted to capture the feeling that I was just awestruck.”
We also learned about how the space station smells, as long as you’re not right beside the toilet. “It smells very much like a factory; it has this machine sterile metallic quality to it, and it very much smells like a workspace,” Glover said. “You know, when you walk into a hospital, you sense that? Yeah, it smells like a hospital, it’s got this antiseptic, germ-free quality.”
Toward the conversation’s end, Cruise told Glover that he was conducting the conversation from England’s Duxford Aerodrome, south of Cambridge. “This is a Spitfire behind me right here,” he said, referring to a single-seater British warplane used during World War II.
“We’re flying a bunch of stuff,” he added, saying it was in support of the new movie “Top Gun: Maverick,” currently expected to be released in May 2022. “We’re gonna be flying this thing when I get off here,” Cruise said of the Spitfire. “We’re gonna go fly some Spitfires [and we’ve] got a Mustang here, too.”
Cruise also promised Glover a ride in the Mustang sometime, which Glover said was always a “bucket list” item for him as he has not yet had the opportunity to fly that aircraft type. “You had me at hello,” Glover joked. “Yes, sign me up.”
You can watch the full interview below and on YouTube.