Meet NASA astronaut Richard Arnold, and his corner office view. Mission specialist, space walker, lifelong Redskins fan.
[Editor’s Disclaimer: This is not to suggest that all astronauts are Redskins fans, or that there is any relationship between NASA and the Redskins. Arnold is just a fan who happens to be an astronaut, completely independently of his employer.]
Arnold, 47, grew up in Bowie, Md., went to Bowie high school, Frostburg State University, and the Maryland for graduate school. He spent his childhood as a huge sports fan, cheering on the Redskins and the Orioles. While some little boys grow up wanting to be astronauts, Arnold actually grew up wanting to be a pro athlete.
“I grew up watching the Redskins and wanting to play football like some of those guys, and watching the Baltimore Orioles wanting to play like some of those guys,” he said. “I found out I was a little bit better at math and science than I was at sports, so I went the other route.”
That other route led him to the NASA astronaut program, where he eventually got to take the Discovery space shuttle up the International Space Station. Think you’re good at packing light? Arnold only got to bring two items with him on business trips, and one was his favorite Redskins T-shirt.
“I took the picture to prove it was actually there and to the show the window out the view, which is something you always want to share with people,” he said. “I was probably around 200 to 240 miles above Earth, depending on where we were, and traveling about 17,000 miles an hour. That shirt has gone around the Earth 202 times.”
But who’s counting?
This was a big moment for Arnold to share with anyone. He was brought into NASA as an astronaut candidate in 2004, and moved his family to Houston. He spent about five years in training to finally get into space in March 2009, where he did several space walks to help build the station.
But that’s not the only thing that Arnold shared with the Redskins.
“Coincidentally, we have an annual safety day down here and we had Joe Gibbs as a speaker one year,” he said. “”It was great–he gave us a really good talk about his view on leadership and stories about teamwork.”
He continued: “Some of the best ones were about getting John Riggins to come back and play and to buy into the system. The stories were with the characters and personalities that I knew, and how he shaped them into a championship team.”
After the presentation, Arnold hung around to say something to Gibbs personally.
“He stayed up after he gave his talk just to say hi to people,” he said. “I just handed him the shirt and said, ‘Hey I took this on Discovery and I would like you to have it. Thanks for the great work.’”
In exchange, Arnold got to hold one of Gibbs’s Super Bowl rings.
Gibbs clearly appreciated the shirt in the moment, but the magnitude was greater after he saw Arnold’s photo from the station.
“After I sent him the picture, then I think he actually believed it was up in space,” he said with a laugh. “He wrote thanks back for the picture, and said they’re are going to hang it up at Joe Gibbs Racing.”
Arnold said that ever since the shuttle program has been shut down, he’s continued much of the same work that he does. Right now, he’s continued to train for private missions and Russian flights. But if there’s one thing that he’s really looking forward to, it’s getting a winner back in Washington, specifically the Redskins.
Does the lifelong fan have any predictions?
“I’ll tell you what I know: you have no shortage of sports broadcasters up there who will tell you make predictions,” he said. “So I know there is one thing you do not lack, is opinions about what the Redskins need to do. I will say it appears that they are playing as a team more, and that was one of the messages that resonated with Joe Gibbs.”
Maybe he’s a better prognosticator than he gives himself credit for.
Tags: astronaut, Joe Gibbs, NASA, richard arnold, washington redskins
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