The Garrett Reisman Journey

From Failed Boy Scout To the Stars

“If you would have asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I never would have said astronaut. It was just not seen to be within the realm of possibility for a typical kid growing up in New Jersey.” Garrett Reisman

NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman takes a self-portrait visor while participating in the first of three spacewalks scheduled for the Atlantis crew and their Expedition 23 hosts. (Image Credit/NASA)

Garrett Reisman, former director of space operations at SpaceX and a NASA astronaut, joined USC Viterbi’s Department of Astronautical Engineering as a full-time faculty member in June. In his career, he’s trained at Star City (“a secret, Cold War Soviet air force base”), walked in space (three times) and helped Elon Musk make commercial spaceflight possible.

Here’s a look at Reisman’s journey.  

(Photo credit/NASA)


Born in Morristown, New Jersey, the same year Apollo 8 orbits the moon. “Fun fact: I would later become the first astronaut to take a close-up photo of my hometown in New Jersey from space. But that’s really because no other astronaut knew where to find it.”


Second grade, failing multiplication tables. “My second grade brain just wasn’t wired for rote memorization. To this day, I get nervous whenever anyone asks me, what’s 6 times 7?”


Dressed as Captain James T. Kirk for Halloween. “To boldly go where no man has gone before — in search of candy.”


Joined the Cub Scouts but failed out of the Webelos before ever becoming a Boy Scout. “I just couldn’t handle the pressure of having to earn all those merit badges.”


Became a “Penguin,” the nickname for the 16th astronaut class at Johnson Space Center (the Mercury 7 were Group 1). “My desk at NASA was completely cluttered with silly penguin knickknacks.”

March 11, 2008

Reisman is the first Jewish crew member aboard the International Space Station (ISS). He logs 95 days in space during his first mission. “It’s hard to set a record in space these days. First man in space (Gagarin), first man on the moon (Armstrong) — it’s all been done. But first Jewish, full-time crew member on the International Space Station — that’s all mine. The unique distinction didn’t last long — the guy who replaced me on the ISS, Greg Chamitoff, was also Jewish. But I never let him forget that he’s No. 2! Oh, yeah, I’m also the first person to eat kimchi in space, but that’s another story.”


Interviewed live from space by Stephen Colbert for “The Colbert Report.” Stephen Colbert: “Can you prove that you’re in space right now? Take off your bracelet and spin it in that astronaut way. Oh, I can die and go to heaven now!”


Appeared as a Colonial Marine in the finale of “Battlestar Galactica” (a show he would watch while orbiting the Earth). “I get blown to bits immediately after first appearing on screen. Also, one of the other Marines vomits all over me. It was awesome.”


Final spaceflight aboard space shuttle Atlantis. Suffers a power outage while perched on a robotic arm 250 miles above Earth. “I might only be about 5-foot-4, but right now, I think I’m the highest person around!”

STS-132 Mission Specialist Garrett Reisman participates in the mission’s first session of extravehicular activity as construction and maintenance continue on the International Space Station. (Photo credit/NASA)


Took Joe Torre’s 2000 Yankees’ World Series ring and Bernie Williams’ baseball glove to ISS. “I was terrified that I was going to lose Joe Torre’s ring up there, but he said that the thought of his ring being lost in space actually sounded kinda cool to him. Fortunately, I returned it to him safe and sound, but that guy is all class.”


Joins SpaceX, eventually becoming director of space operations, responsible for all Dragon spacecraft missions. “After my final space shuttle mission, I saw this private company send a spacecraft to orbit and bring it back safely. This represented a whole new paradigm for spaceflight with tremendous promise for the future, and I wanted to be a part of it.”


Joins USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Astronautical Engineering, hoping to “train next generation of space engineers.” “When I graduated from college, you couldn’t get a job designing a new human spacecraft, but today you can. What a great time to be an astronautical engineering student!”

Garrett Reisman, seen here with son, Buster, poses next to his Cirrus SR-22 – nicknamed “Blue Demon” after his son’s favorite blue-masked Mexican wrestler.