NASA astronauts must prepare their bodies for the physical stresses of living and working in microgravity before they launch on a spaceflight. Fortunately, they get customized training programs and plenty of help from astronaut fitness trainer Corey Twine, who shares decades of strength and conditioning expertise with astronauts every day at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Twine’s official title is “astronaut strength, conditioning, and rehabilitation specialist.” He works with a team dedicated to ensuring NASA’s space explorers are in top shape before launch day and know how to stay physically healthy throughout their mission, whether they’re flying to the International Space Station or journeying around the Moon.
We sat down with Twine to find out how he launched his career – and what it’s like to get a phone call from an astronaut in space.
An Aspiring Athlete
“When I was a kid, I never pictured myself working at NASA,” Twine said. “I pictured myself working in the NFL or professional baseball or all of those other dreams that many kids have.”
Twine was an athlete in high school and planned to play at the collegiate level. But things changed after he began classes at Norfolk State University in Virginia.
“One of my professors was the first strength and conditioning specialist I ever knew,” Twine said. “I learned there are people who just train other people to improve their performance. And from that moment on, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”
Energized by his passion for strength and conditioning, Twine earned a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and exercise science at Norfolk State and a master’s of kinesiology from Michigan State. He worked with several collegiate and professional teams while taking his career to new heights.
From Weight Benches to Weightlessness
Twine was a graduate assistant coach for the Michigan State football team when he first learned NASA was looking for a strength and conditioning coach. Until that moment, he’d been entirely focused on sports, but he was excited by the new opportunity, and applied. He went to work with NASA in 2002 and trained space shuttle astronauts for their missions. Then, his path shifted again.
He spent the next 15 years as a conditioning coach in college football, first with West Virginia University and then the University of Michigan. From there, he went to work with the U.S. Army.
“It was an amazing opportunity to work with the soldiers who were doing so much to protect and serve,” Twine said.
Twine returned to Johnson Space Center in 2018. Today, he prepares astronauts for flights to the space station and for the Artemis missions to come, which will carry crews – including the first woman and first person of color – to the Moon.
Astronauts know Twine is always willing to provide guidance. He took that assistance to a new level one day when he received a mysterious call from “U.S. Government” on his cell phone. To his surprise, it turned out to be an astronaut about 250 miles above Earth aboard the space station.
“They had a question about their training,” said Twine, who chatted with the astronaut. Together, they worked out a solution in real time. “It was a great asset because we were able to adjust and do some things to help their training instead of just going through email.”
Advice to Students: Success Takes Effort – But You Can Do It
Twine recalls struggling academically during middle and high school and feeling intimidated about college. Fortunately, a friend who was a few years ahead of him shared some simple but meaningful advice: “No test is hard if you study for it.” If you put in the effort until you know the material, you’ll succeed.
“I remember to this day, the first test in my freshman year in college, I studied for a test for the first time,” Twine said. “I read every single thing in the chapter. I read everything in the back of the book. I read all of the information the professor gave.”
His hard work paid off with that test and he vowed to keep up that level of effort.
“I continued that behavior all through undergrad and also through grad school, and it worked every single time,” he said.
Twine cautions against believing you’re not smart enough and says you just need to put in the hard work.
Astronaut Fitness Trainer
Learn more about Corey Twine and how he helps NASA astronauts stay in spaceflight-ready shape in this episode of Surprisingly STEM.
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