Chicago astronaut happy to be back on earth

March 5, 2008 3:22:38 PM PST
Astronaut Dan Tani, from suburban Lombard, is back on earth after four months onboard the International Space Station. For the last two weeks, he has been in Houston, debriefing NASA, and rebuilding muscle and bone mass.

ABC7's Kevin Roy talked to the astronaut via satellite.

Back on earth for two weeks now, after four months on board the International Space Station, astronaut Dan Tani says the toughest part of readjusting to gravity has been getting his balance back.

"I've been saying lately that it's like being on the tilt-a-whirl amusement ride for four months and getting off," said Tani.

This is the first time we have spoken to Tani, who is from west suburban Lombard, since his mission with the International Space Station and since he got the news, while orbiting 200 miles above earth, that his 90-year-old mother, Rose, had been killed when a freight train collided with her car in Lombard.

Tani says he was able to grieve -- in solitude -- even in orbit.

"My little room that I was living, on the Russian side, had a little window," Tani said. "I could look out the window and that was very serene for me to be able to watch the earth go by. So I certainly had time to be alone, reflect on my own thoughts, write e-mails and that was very helpful."

While his mission was filled with personal tragedy, there was also triumph. Tani got the chance to perform the 100th spacewalk from the space station, his sixth spacewalk in all.

Tani says the most difficult thing about being in space for that long is accomplishing some of the simplest things, like trying to eat in Zero-G.

"If you add a little sauce to it you have to put something down, figure out where to put your spook while you put your sauce in," said Tani. "So you get used to it but it takes concentration. And it's a real pleasure to be on the ground and not have to concentrate."

Tani lost 10 pounds during the mission. Now, back at home in Houston, he's training two hours a day, building up muscle mass, regaining strength for a future mission to be determined.

In the meantime, Tani says he is living his dream, but it has nothing to do with being an astronaut.

"My more important job right now is to be a dad and a husband," Tani said, "and that really is my dream and I just happen to have a really wonderful job to accompany that."