PORTLAND, Ore. — Kayla Barron, 34, never dreamed of becoming an astronaut. After graduating from Richland High School in Richland, Wash., Barron attended the Naval Academy and served aboard a naval submarine. It wasn't until she met an astronaut in person that she realized what her next mission in life was.
"I think if it wasn't for that experience, wasn't for the people who surrounded me and molded me into a young leader, who helped me develop as an engineer, I wouldn't have had the confidence to even apply in the first place, let alone that I would actually get it," Kayla Barron said in a conversation with KGW's Devon Haskins while she was aboard the International Space Station.
In early November, Barron, along with four other astronauts launched into space aboard the Falcon 9 Space Rocket. It was Barron's first flight into space.
"It was just an incredible experience. The Falcon 9 is an awesome ride and we had a really smooth and phenomenal flight up into orbit." Barron said.
Within weeks of docking at the ISS, she and fellow astronaut Thomas Marshburn performed a space walk to replace a faulty antenna, a mission that took more than a few hours to complete.
Kayla said it was like nothing she'd ever seen before, "There's something really special about looking down on the earth through a visor of a helmet because you don't have anything blocking your peripheral vision. When you're looking out the window up here, it's incredible, but you really know you're looking out a window. Nothing is blocking your field of view so you're getting a really big picture."
During the interview, she was joined by veteran astronaut Mark Vande Hei who will soon break the record for the longest consecutive time spent in space, set by Scott Kelly in 2016.
Vande Hei is on a 12-month mission aboard the ISS and had already been there for 6 months when Barron and the other astronauts arrived.
His advice to the newcomers was to understand that not everything will go smoothly.
"I would say the biggest piece of advice that I gave folks … Recognize that we're all going to make mistakes and be really kind to yourself."
Kayla said the crew spent Christmas with fresh food and treats which were delivered by the SpaceX Dragon.
"We got a lot of fresh Christmas treats, a lot of fresh food and some special holiday food and we had a big Christmas eve dinner with the entire space station crew. Our cosmonaut colleagues joined us. Then on Christmas day, we actually had a Christmas cookie decorating contest, which we invited the ground control centers from around the world to judge. So we had a pretty good time and had a lot of good Christmas cheer up here." Barron said.
Vande Hei said he always thought becoming an astronaut would be an amazing thing.
"I never thought it would be a real possibility, but the thing that always inspired me about was this idea that we get to explore and do it in a way that benefits all of humanity. For those reasons and the fact that it's a job that combines mental and physical challenges and everything about it is appealing to me," he said.
If you've ever dreamed of becoming an astronaut, both Barron and Vande Hei encouraged people to find things that push and challenge themselves.
"I would say find things that will push your boundaries, look for challenges, risk failure. Always be a team player, and by that I mean you should always try to do your best. Put more effort into getting the people around you to be their best than you standing out all the time as being better than other folks," Vande Hei said.
"Recognize there's no one path to becoming an astronaut. There are people who are in our office who are incredible astronauts from so many different backgrounds. So many academic interests, so many different professional interests. I think something's that really important is finding things that you're passionate about and that are challenging to you," Barron added.
Both will return to Earth in the spring.