The idea of floating in space is scary, even if you haven't seen "Gravity
." But despite the inherent risks of a spacewalk, it must also be a thrilling, mind-blowing experience. And thanks to the multitalented astronaut Chris Hadfield
— who was recently interviewed on NPR's "Fresh Air" about his new book, "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" — we now have this poetic description
of what it's like to be a human satellite:
"The contrast of your body and your mind inside ... essentially a one-person spaceship, which is your spacesuit, where you're holding on for dear life to the shuttle or the station with one hand, and you are inexplicably in between what is just a pouring glory of the world roaring by, silently next to you — just the kaleidoscope of it, it takes up your whole mind.
"It's like the most beautiful thing you've ever seen just screaming at you on the right side, and when you look left, it's the whole bottomless black of the universe and it goes in all directions. It's like a huge yawning endlessness on your left side and you're in between those two things and trying to rationalize it to yourself and trying to get some work done."
Of course, space isn't all glory and kaleidoscopes. Hadfield also addresses the terror of venturing outside the International Space Station, noting that "you can get claustrophobia and agoraphobia — a fear of wide open spaces — simultaneously on a spacewalk."
He's quick to point out, however, that he and other spacewalkers aren't superhuman. "It's not like astronauts are braver than other people; we're just meticulously prepared," he says. "We dissect what it is that's going to scare us, and what it is that is a threat to us and then we practice over and over again so that the natural irrational fear is neutralized."
Confronting fear is part of a broader mindset espoused by Hadfield's book, which aims to convey the perspective an astronaut gains in space and relate it to more earthly concerns. "Astronaut training turns popular wisdom about how to be successful on its head," the book's Amazon description
explains. "Chris gives us a rare insider's perspective on just what that kind of thinking involves, and how earthbound humans can use it to achieve success and happiness in their lives."
To hear Hadfield describe more details about life in space — including the inability to burp — check out this interview from Thursday's "The Cycle" on MSNBC:
And for more insight about spacewalking, check out the BBC video below, in which six-time spacewalker Piers Sellers describes getting "complete vertigo" at the edge of space:
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