Stories: THE ASTRONAUT
For Slovenia, a country so small, it sure has a lot of people of its descent going into space. After Sunita Williams, a NASA astronaut of Slovenian descent, who visited the country of her ancestors in 2013, another U.S. astronaut of Slovenian descent visited Slovenia in 2018. Randy "Komrade" Bresnik, a NASA astronaut who returned from the International Space Station (ISS) in December 2017 after spending 139 days in space. Together with his first flight on a Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2009 his total days in space amount to 150. Randy's great-grandparents were from Ljubno and Luče in Slovenia. They moved to the United States and settled in California. His grandfather was a photographer in Hollywood and Amelia Earhart's personal photographer. Randy is a photographer, too. "When they (astronauts) see Earth from space, everybody wants to become a photographer," he explains. In fact, it is a shared sentiment of astronauts that the beauty they see from the ISS is inexplicable. In his career, Randy flew over 80 airplanes. He was a test pilot and also flew combat missions in the Middle East. His trip to the ISS began in July 2017, taking off from Kazahstan on a Soyuz rocket. Apart from space walks it included various tests, growing letuce, cancer research, launching satelites, intercepting the Space X capsule etc.
This was the second visit to Slovenia for Randy and his family, but this time it was all about discovering the roots and promoting the majesty of our planet seen from space as one big blue marble without borders. Their visit included meetings with the president and prime minister of Slovenia, a tour of Herman Potočnik Noordung space center and a panel discussion on space technologies, an entire day with relatives in Ljubno and Luče where his great-grandparents were born, a visit to the astronomy club of Šentvid Highschool in Ljubljana and finally concluded with the last public presentation of his trip to space in the National Gallery in Ljubljana.