4 years ago
No, the first day you actually got up there, was that the first time you had ever been in space? On my first mission, yeah, the first time in space. So your first view of the Earth from above? Yeah, it was right there. What is that like? Well, I didn't see it right away because I was in the mid-deck, the downstairs of the shuttle, and there's only one window down there, and it's in the corner. Okay, so it's in the hatch, and it's like the size of a dinner plate. And I was up there, you got a lot of work to do as soon as you get up there, so I'm working like crazy, and after about 30 minutes, I see this pale blue glow coming from that window. And I'm like, that's the Earth, you know, I should have a look at that. And I was super excited for this, you know. So I wanted to be ready. So I paused, I closed my eyes, I meditated, you know, called whatever you want. I just got ready. And when I felt like I was ready, I floated up to that window, and I opened up my eyes, and I gazed out for the very first time at the Earth from space. And what that felt like is really, really hard to describe in words, but if I had to pick one word to describe what I was feeling at that moment, it would be, man, really? Just man. Just man. I mean, it was all right. It was pretty. It had a lot of like those Earth colors, like blues and greens. Right. But man, we've all seen pictures of the Earth from space. Okay. I mean, we got like HD video coming down from space now, where it's just spectacular. You could see stuff in that video that you can't even see with your own eyes, like the aurora and all that. And I'm sure like John Glenn and Yuri Gagarin had no idea what to expect. And so when they looked out and they saw the Earth, they freaked out, you know, and it was amazing. And it was beautiful, but it was it was underwhelming. I guess my expectations were so high. Like I felt like there should be like some heavenly choir, and then we should all hold hands and sing kumbaya. Yeah. Most people that have done it, they talk about this realization that you like this inescapable realization that we're all on this thing together and that all these boundaries of civilizations and cultures and countries and continents are all nonsense. We're really just all in this one thing together. Yeah. They call that the overview effect. And a lot of guys come back and talk about that and they really feel it. And they talk about a world without borders. And it's a beautiful sentiment. And I don't want to knock that in any way. But, yeah. Yeah. It's like, like, really? A world without borders? What did you expect to see? You expect to look down and see like dotted lines between all the countries? You know, I guess you do. It's inescapable when you look down and you see the planet and you realize that we're all in the same boat, you know. But that didn't strike me as a sudden realization because I think it's because I knew that before I went. You shouldn't have to go and strap into a rocket and blast off and look at the Earth and know that basically we're all human beings, I think. I mean, I think the things that unite us are so much stronger and more important than the crazy little things that divide us, like race or sex or nationality or politics or whatever. And at the end of the day, we have this one home and we're all stuck here together. So I had that strong knowledge before I went. And maybe that's why when I look down, I'm like, yeah, there it is. Okay, I get it. But it wasn't like all of a sudden, like, the shade was pulled back and there was like suddenly a new realization about life. Is there one place that's the spot on the space station to get the view? Where you really get a big window? There's this huge window called the cupola that wasn't there in my first mission, but it was there in my second mission. So I got to see it the second time. They added a window? Yeah. It's not yet. It's like, hmm, let's get the saws all and put the... How do you add a window to the space station? You just, you know, get the... No, they added a whole module in the module. Oh. Had this cupola, which is like a... Is that it right there? Is that what you're looking through? That's exactly it, yeah. Wow. So that's pretty tight. It's like a... It's a dome. And so you get the full 360 view and it's spectacular. Wow. And we tell the guys that don't get to do a spacewalk that this view is just as good as doing a spacewalk. But it's not. It's not. It's not. But don't tell them because it makes them feel better. They're gonna listen. Yeah. What is a spacewalk like? Oh, man. Well, first I gotta tell you that the likelihood of me doing a spacewalk was like slim to none. When I first got there, they tell you that when you're interviewing to become an astronaut, they go talk to some of the other astronauts. And so I went in there and we had this presentation about spacewalking, and it seemed like to be the ultimate experience, just an incredible thing. And I wanted to do it bad. So I went and I'm talking to this one astronaut, he's a pretty tall guy. Those of you that can't tell from the podcast, I'm 5'4", okay? So I'm not like a real towering individual. A little vertically challenged, I guess. And I'm talking to this real tall astronaut, and I said, you know, just heard about the spacewalking. Sounds awesome. I've been living in California. I've been doing like some rock climbing, some scuba diving. Maybe that'd make me a good candidate to do a spacewalk. And this tall astronaut looked at me, like right in the eye, and he laughed in my face. He said, what are you? Four foot what? How rude. I know. My first thought was, you know, I thought astronauts were supposed to be polite. And this guy, like, was not being nice. But he was actually just being brutally honest. You know, it was kind of tough love. And he was like, listen, the suit is one size fits all. You're going to get in that thing, and it's going to swallow you up, and you're not going to be able to do anything. You're going to be useless. So this is impossible. Forget about it. So I was kind of pissed off, but I wasn't going to let this guy stop me, right? So I get there. I got the job, and I go down for my first training exercise, which was in this huge pool we got in Houston. And it's like, it's 100 feet wide, 200 feet long, 40 feet deep, and we can fit like most of the space station in there. And they get a crane that comes by. They put you in the suit, which weighs, you know, something like 175 pounds and stuff. And then in addition, you're in it too. It picks you up and it plops you in the water, and you float around, and it's kind of like being up in space, and that's how we train. So I get down. There's my very first exercise, and I could tell in the first five minutes of this training exercise, that big tall astronaut that laughed in my face was right. I was not, I was failing. I was not doing well. I was screwing up. I was like, it just wasn't going well. Why do they make a one size fits all suit? It seems... They have the ability to alter the arms and the legs a little bit, and they have, it's actually three different size upper torsos. There's a medium, a large, and an extra large. But that's it. It's limited, and because it costs a lot of money to make different sizes, so there's only the gloves that can tailor, because that's actually the most important thing. But I'm getting my butt kicked, and I got a needs improvement, which is NASA's nice way of saying you failed, right? But I wasn't ready to give up. I went and I knew I was going to need help, so I talked to the people that make the suit, and they did some of those things. They shortened up the arms. They fixed it up a little bit for me, and then I talked to the trainers, and we said, okay, yeah, we've got to think outside the box here. If we give you the standard procedure, you're going to be at a disadvantage, but maybe we change your body positions instead of going straight onto the worksite. Maybe we come at the worksite from the side, so we get more reached that way, and we started working at it, and we got better and better. And the end of the story is that I got to, eventually I got the highest possible qualification to do the most complicated spacewalks we do, and I ended up doing three different spacewalks over the course of my career. And that big tall guy that laughed in my face, he didn't get to do any. That's what you get for talking shit, sir. Look at you out there. Yeah, that's me. Now, what is that feeling like? Because it's got to feel insane when you're strapped to a space station that's floating around, and you're just hanging by a cord. Yeah. Well, you're holding on tight, and you do have that safety tether that you see there, and they can prepare you for everything except for the visual. So when you are in the pool, you're staring at the pool wall, and when you get up there and you see the whole earth below you, some people go out there and get a sense of fear of falling. But of course, if you let go, you're not going anywhere. The space station's moving 17,500 miles an hour, but so are you. So it's kind of like doing a wing walking on an airplane, but with no air to blow you off the wing. So when you look at the space station, it's rock solid. But you look down, and some people get the fear of falling, and then they hold on real tight, which is a terrible, terrible mistake, because we call it space walking, but you're not walking. You're doing everything with your arms. So you can wear your arms out? Exactly. So now if you're climbing and you get kind of totally thrashed in your forearms, and now you get that claw hand and it's useless, you can do that. And you've got like seven and a half hours to go, and that's bad. So you're out there for seven and a half hours? Yeah. What if you have to pee? Diaper. Diaper. Yeah. Poop as well? Try to avoid that. You do your best? As a scientist, I had to experiment, right? Of course. So during a training exercise, I waited till like the very end, just in case, and I let one go right before they pulled me out of the pool one day, and I've never ever to do that again. Is that number one or number two you let go? Number two. Oh, boy. Number one is no big deal. Yeah. Save that project. I could have told you what was going to happen. That's disgusting. And you're doing it in the pool too. You're not doing it in actual space space. Yeah. To be one of the rare people that it's actually pooped in space would be very interesting. That's it. You know, we keep all these records. I don't know who's got that record. It's not me. Diaper. Boy. So you just have to let it go when you're up there. Yeah. So what are you doing when you're out there? So if you're doing seven and a half hours worth of work? You're basically doing maintenance. So it's kind of like being a mechanic or a technician. The way I describe it, but the suit is like so hard, it restricts everything you do. Because it's blown up to about four pounds per square inch. And so even just closing your fists takes work. Because the suit's like a balloon. It wants to stay like this. And so just closing your fingers takes effort. And over seven and a half hours, that gets really fatiguing. You're moving your arms, everything is. And the suit can only move. Like you can't do this, right? You can do this maybe. So your ability to raise up your shoulders is really limited. So you're trying to do all this work, but you're working inside this suit. And I describe it as like it's like trying to change the oil in your car while wearing a medieval suit of armor. It's hard. And what kind of maintenance are you doing on the outside of the spaceship? You know, we're cleaning the windows, getting the bugs off. And like, no, we're – oh, yeah, that's another – on this particular spacewalk, we're assembling a robot that we took up there. But we did other things like we put a new antenna on top of the space station. We swapped out a bunch of batteries that were getting old, you know, stuff like that.