Astronaut Doug Wheelock gave a presentation at work this week about his time on the International Space Station and as the station’s commander. He was a great story teller and had all kinds of humorous stories. But the thing that stood out most was his one regret. His only regret was the three or four days that he got too busy and forgot to look out the window.
His advice that he had just told the current ISS crew prior to his presentation was “don’t let a day go by that you don’t look out the window.”
The view of Earth from space must be spectacular and breath-taking. The images certainly are; I can only imagine how much better it is in 3D. Wouldn’t you just love to lounge there like astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson in the above photo (taken by Doug Wheelock) literally watching the world go by? It would be a struggle, I imagine, to keep the astronauts from doing that all the time because it would so enjoyable.
During the research and writing of Bold They Rise (the space shuttle book David and I wrote, due out next year) and in present-day astronaut interviews, astronaut after astronaut name both viewing and photographing Earth as a favorite space pastime.
But like here, life up there is busy too. Work, meals, exercise, housekeeping, downtime, and so on. Wheelock said on the handful of days he didn’t look out at Earth he worked all day and when he went to bed realized “I didn’t even look out the window today.”
What struck me is — don’t we do the same down here? Sometimes the view of Earth is pretty spectacular from right where we are. We don’t have to be in space to appreciate it. But we miss it all because we just go to work, go about our business, and go to bed.
Great advice, Doug. To astronauts on Earthlings alike.
I don’t blog about NASA or space stuff all that much — don’t want to mix business and pleasure — but this new game by the Challenger Center is worth sharing. You play football — throw, catch or block — on Earth, the moon, Mars and the space station, taking into account the different levels of gravity on each surface when you choose how much force to use. It’s made for kids, but there’s nothing that says big kids can’t play too.
My junior high and high school Bible teacher used to recite this rhyme to us.
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
The meaning behind it — that the littlest things can affect such bigger things — hits me all the time! I think in some ways it’s a blame game, a way to take the responsibility off of ourselves and blame it on something else, in this case a nail.
I was reminded of this poem once again when I read this passage from “Some Trust In Chariots,” a book I am reading about the space shuttle Challenger incident. It is written by Gene Thomas who was launch director at the time. To set the scene, in the book Thomas has just written about the two days before Challenger launched and how and why launches were scrubbed on those days.
“I realized that had these two fateful incidents never occurred, the entire Challenger catastrophe might also never have happened. That fateful January 28, 1986 may have been avoided had we not gotten an incorrect weather prediction on Sunday, January 26. Challenger may never have occurred had we not experienced the failure of a two-bit hatch tool on Monday, January 27. Had we been able to launch under the conditions of either of those scrubbed opportunities, Challenger’s crew may have been spared. Surely the ‘O’ rings would have sealed properly under warmer conditions and America would be relishing the lessons of a teacher in space rather than mourning seven dead heroes. What a major part every event in history seems to play. Each minute detail must be in place to lead to a significantly historic event.”
This idea of how seemingly small details can have such large impacts is a topic I’m working on for another blog post. But I couldn’t let the opportunity pass of sharing a real-life example of something that I think deserves a lot of thought. Stay tuned ….
I love this first sentence from an article in this week’s paper, headlined “Solar system is dented, not round, space probes show.“
“When viewed from the rest of the galaxy, the edge of our solar system appears slightly dented as if a giant hand is pushing one edge of it inward, far-traveling NASA probes reveal.”
Later in the article they quote a NASA scientist.
“We used to assume that it’s all symmetric and simple,” said Leonard Burlaga, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “It’s literally like a hand pushing.“
Reminds me of the song we all learned as a kids, “He’s got the whole world, in His hands.”