Astronaut tells of astronomical difficulties in balancing responsibilities

Ben Miller
Layout Editor

There is no answer to balancing work and family life, but that does not mean you stop trying, said a retired astronaut to a crowded Gentile Gallery Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

Kevin Chilton, retired four-star United States Air Force general and retired NASA astronaut, spoke to Franciscan University of Steubenville students for an hour before taking questions on his experiences.

Chilton said he thought he had decided his career at 12 years old, but he kept getting sidetracked with opportunities such as Air Force Academy and becoming a test pilot.

Chilton likened balancing life’s many challenges to a professional juggler.

“The juggler never drops the balls. Well, why is that?” Chilton questioned. “Because they’re professional jugglers; they spend a lot of time practicing juggling.

“The juggler has time to practice; we don’t,” Chilton said.

In the United States Air Force (USAF), there were different suggestions on how to balance your life, Chilton said. He described his balance as a “seesaw” and explained that his wife, as a reserve in the USAF, used a triangular method.

“You have your family in one corner, you have your reserve job in the other corner, and then in the other part was your regular job,” Chilton said. “She had a much more difficult job than many, in that she was my spouse … and the expectations in the military of an officer or commander’s spouse are very high. … And that was her third point of the triangle.”

After the talk, Chilton opened the floor up for a Q&A with the audience.

Many of the questions revolved around Chilton’s time in space.

Students asked Chilton about his experience bringing the Eucharist into space with him.

Chilton said that he took the Eucharist with him on all three trips into space and that it helped him through rough times and helped him to celebrate good times.

“It was so cool,” Chilton said.

“I was waiting for the right time,” he continued. “We had some difficulty on that flight … I could tell a point where (Pierre Thuot) was emotionally very low … and I said, ‘Pierre, I think this might be a good time to share the Eucharist.’ … So we quietly said a prayer and received the Body of Christ in space.”

Chilton also told a story of sharing the Eucharist with two other Catholic astronauts near Easter.

Freshman Faith Sirilla said she was impressed by Chilton’s metaphor of a juggler.

“You’re always going to have a lot of things,” Sirilla said. “We work on taking care of it, staying on top of it and adjusting your view toward your situation in life.”

Chilton’s wife, Cathy Chilton, who is also a retired USAF general, was originally going to be present but did not attend due to family matters.

The talk was hosted by the Leadership Institute.