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Not My Job: We Quiz ISS Astronaut Scott Kelly About IHOP

BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I'm a pile of thinly sliced beef covered in Velveeta. That's right, I'm your Billy cheesesteak...


KURTIS: ...Bill Kurtis. And here is your host...


KURTIS: ...At the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago, Peter Sagal.


Thank you, Bill. Thanks, everybody. It is the time of year when the world is in transition - the Earth is moving from summer to winter - when we put away our white shorts and breezy halter tops and put on our corduroy pants and wool halter tops.


KURTIS: These days, my diet is 100 percent beef stew and hot cocoa.

SAGAL: As we adjust to the new, colder reality, we want to play for you some of our favorite moments from our old reality, starting with our conversation with astronaut Scott Kelly.


SAGAL: I have been reading your new book about your life and your mission up there called "Endurance," and it's fascinating. One of the things that amazed me is that in your description of the space station, it sounds a little grimier than I imagined it would be. You know, we see science fiction movies. Everything's clean and white. And it didn't seem that way in space.

SCOTT KELLY: Yeah. You know, it's a functional - it's a working and living space. And there's, you know, a lot of equipment up there. But any place that people live, I think, gets a little grimy.

SAGAL: Yeah, I guess so. Except you talked about, like, how things are floating around in the compartment. And, sometimes, you think they might be, like, a spare bit of candy that got away from the last meal, but you have to be careful because there are also mice on board.

KELLY: Yeah, you always want to make sure there's an M and an M on anything you eat.


SAGAL: Read it out loud first. And I was also interested - I assumed that you were in space. You were hundreds of miles above the Earth - that you would be cut off. But it seemed like you had Internet, email. You had cable. You watched CNN all day.

KELLY: Yeah, we had CNN on while we were working. We weren't, like, just watching TV all day.


SAGAL: No, the astronauts don't do that. The president does that. The astronauts have a job.


SAGAL: And there was one...


SAGAL: There was one story that you told that I couldn't get over - is that you talk about one movie night you had early in your mission. And you watched the movie "Gravity."



SAGAL: So this is a movie - a Sandra Bullock movie - about a horrible disaster that takes place in space, in orbit. And you're watching the movie in space, in orbit. And what were you thinking as you were watching this movie?

KELLY: You know, it's kind of like - a little bit like watching a movie of your house burning down while you're inside of it.

SAGAL: Yeah.


SAGAL: Whose idea was that?

KELLY: I think it was mine.


FAITH SALIE: Hey, Scott, you have an identical twin brother. And you're both astronauts, which I find so intriguing. So whose idea was it first?

KELLY: You know, I think we decided to apply independently of one another. But he actually applied the selection before we both got picked, so I guess it was his idea first.

SAGAL: And he was on the ground because, if I remember correctly, the point of you being up there for so long was because you're identical twins - same DNA - they could then see how your - you had physically changed at the end of your time compared to your identical twin on Earth. And so he sent you some odd things, if I remember.

KELLY: Like the gorilla suit?

SAGAL: Yeah, I was thinking of the gorilla suit.


SAGAL: Yeah. I'm going to just be straightforward. I was thinking of the gorilla suit. Why did your brother send you a gorilla suit in orbit?

KELLY: Why not a gorilla suit?


SAGAL: Well...

KELLY: There's never been a gorilla in space.

SAGAL: I guess that's true.

SALIE: As far as we know.


SAGAL: I guess that's true. And once you had the gorilla suit in space, what did you do with it?

KELLY: Well, you know, certainly, I had some fun. But, you know, the purpose behind this was not just to goof around. You know, me being a kid growing up that had ADD or ADHD and, you know, not being able to pay attention - often as an astronaut, when I go to a school, there's always that kid in the back that, you know, even an astronaut talking about space can't get, you know, engaged with that kid.

SAGAL: Yeah.

KELLY: But you put a video of a guy in a gorilla suit in space, no one could not look at that.


SAGAL: That's true.

ALONZO BODDEN: Hey, Scott, have you ever run into one of these crazy people that says the Earth is flat and nobody's seen it and say, excuse me, I have?

KELLY: Yeah. You know, I had - at some of my events, they actually have flat-Earth protesters that come out.

HONG: What?

SAGAL: What?

KELLY: Yeah.

SAGAL: People are coming out to protest?

KELLY: I love it. Besides the fact that, you know, science explains why the Earth is round, if you - those kind of people just don't believe in that. And that's - you know, you believe what you want. But if the Earth was truly flat, wouldn't the edge be, like, a really cool place to visit? Like, the best...


SAGAL: That's a really good point.

KELLY: I mean, I'd build a house there. I'd look over. My bedroom would be hanging over the edge.


SALIE: Yeah.

SAGAL: Given the things you've done, I have no doubt that would be the case.

SALIE: There'd be cats just pushing things off the end.


SAGAL: I know, because you say, that the thing that everybody asks you about is the toilet up there. And I was going to stay away from it. But then in your book, I found out something amazing, which is this weird barter system you have with the Russians in which you would give them, I guess, extra energy - or from - that you generated from the solar panels, and they would give you their urine.

KELLY: Yeah, that's part of it.


KELLY: Yeah, we change - we turn it into water, and then we drink it.


SAGAL: I guess - so you take their urine. You change it into water. You drink it. It turns back into urine. It all just seems so pointless when you think about it.


KELLY: And I know what you're thinking. That guy drank his whole - his pee for a whole year, right?

SAGAL: I wasn't thinking that.

KELLY: But actually, I drank everyone's pee.

SAGAL: Well, I was going to ask, could you tell whose it was?


KELLY: No, but it does taste better than the water in Florida.

SAGAL: I can imagine.


SAGAL: Commander Scott Kelly, we are honored to talk to you. But we've invited you here to play a game today we're calling...

KURTIS: International Space Station, meet International House of Pancakes.


SAGAL: So long before the ISS was launched, another institution showed us what we get when we cooperate across nations - namely, five different kinds of artificially flavored syrup. We're going to ask you three questions about the pancake chain. Get two right, and you win our prize for one of our listeners - a short stack of voices on their voicemail. Are you ready to play?

KELLY: I am ready.

SAGAL: All right. Bill, who is Commander Kelly playing for?

KURTIS: Cameron Nixon of Indianapolis, Ind.

SAGAL: All right. Here is your first question. IHOP, seemingly so harmless, has been involved in lawsuits such as which of these? A, IHOP v. PSF - they sued the French NGO Pancakes Sans Frontieres for diluting their brand; B, IHOP v. Apple - they sued the computing giant, saying the name iPad sounded too much like IHOP; or C, IHOP v. IHOP - they sued the International House of Prayer for using their acronym while preparing people for the rapture?

KELLY: I would say A.

SAGAL: You're going to say A, they sued the French non-governmental organization Pancakes Sans Frontieres...


SAGAL: ...Which, presumably, would bring pancakes to needy people in war zones?


KELLY: Not my area of expertise.

SAGAL: All right, yeah. So you're going to go with...

KELLY: Let me - so C.

SAGAL: I think C is a better choice, yes.

HONG: Yay.


SAGAL: They sued the International House of Prayer. It's confusing because both IHOPs are considered symbols of the end times. All right.


SAGAL: Next question - IHOP got in trouble for a marketing tactic in 2015. You probably missed it. You were in space. What was it? A, a TV ad with actress Kendall Jenner preventing a riot by giving a Rooty Tooty Fresh 'N Fruity breakfast to a policeman; B, a tweet which said their pancakes are, quote, "flat, but they've got a nice personality"; or C, an attempted viral campaign where they covered sidewalks in pancake syrup and told people to, quote, "slow down and come on in to IHOP"?

KELLY: I'll go with B.

SAGAL: You're an engineer, and you figured it out. That's right. Yes.


SAGAL: People thought that that was not as funny.

HONG: So offensive.

SALIE: Not so funny.

SAGAL: Not so funny. Not so funny. So they took it down. All right. Last question - when the first IHOP opened in New York City's East Village a few years ago, neighbors rose up in protest. Why? They felt, A, quote, "Swedish pancakes were an offensive cultural appropriation"; B, they didn't like a sign out front that said, New Jersey taste without New Jerseyans...


SAGAL: ...Or C, it stank of bacon 24/7?

KELLY: That's interesting. You know, no offense. I mean, I like bacon, but I'm going to go with the bacon smell.

SAGAL: That's right.




SALIE: This from a man who drank his own pee.

SAGAL: Well...


SAGAL: He was also a man, if you read his book, who was stuck up there smelling things a lot in an enclosed space. Bill, how did Commander Scott Kelly do on our show?

KURTIS: Very impressively. Scott, you were studying up there, weren't you? You got them all right.

SAGAL: Congratulations.


SAGAL: I do want to ask - you've reached the pinnacle of flight. You - everything you could fly, you've flown, from the space shuttle to, now, the International Space Station. What's next for you?

KELLY: I'm going to fly the International House of Pancakes.



KURTIS: All right.

SAGAL: Scott Kelly's new book is "Endurance: My Year In Space, A Lifetime Of Discovery." Scott Kelly, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT... DON'T TELL ME.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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