TACOMA — Ted Huetter, who worked for NASA for 10 years and sometimes wears a spacesuit, says he’s “an astro-not.”
Though he often looks ready for liftoff, his feet are on terra firma for his role as a representative of the Museum of Flight sharing knowledge about space programs.
On this hot summer day, his mission took him to the Tacoma Armory for “The Infinite,” where participants get a virtual-reality space experience.
His spacesuit filled two large suitcases and a backpack. Behind a curtained-off area Huetter unpacked and transformed.
The suit is warm. It has no air conditioning and only a small fan in the helmet to keep the visor from fogging.
Cecilia Rengifo, 5 ½, came for the International Space Station experience and said she “wants to be an astronaut or a doctor.”
She was accompanied by her stuffed “space bear” and said it wanted to meet an astronaut, so Huetter reached out to touch it with his space gloves.
Next, Olivia Nelson, 18, was there through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. She wore a bright orange jumpsuit and got a swag bag provided by “The Infinite.”
Her family and friends brought out their phones to photograph her and Huetter before she moved to the virtual ISS visit.
Though Nelson said she’s afraid of heights, she beamed throughout the adventure. “The virtual space station was super cool,” she said. “Going from inside… to the complete emptiness of space was so crazy. It really felt like I was the only one out there.”
Huetter took a break and returned to a curtained area to remove his helmet and cool off by a window air conditioner.
Dressed as an astronaut, Huetter has helped raise a flag atop the Space Needle.
He has greeted a Super Guppy aircraft delivering the space shuttle trainer to the Museum of Flight. He has golfed at Jefferson Park. “I hit the ball.” And he’s bowled. “I hit some pins.”
But the best thing about representing an astronaut, Huetter says: “It’s always an unexpected surprise. It brings so many smiles.”
Would he like to go into space? “Oh yeah. For sure.”