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Scientist, Astronaut, Explorer | Kathryn Sullivan

2020-01-14 | 🔗

Dr. Kathryn Sullivan is a distinguished scientist, astronaut, leader and teacher. She was one of the first six women to join the NASA astronaut corps in 1978 and is the first American woman to walk in space. Sullivan flew on three space shuttle missions during her 15-year NASA tenure, including the 1990 mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope.

She has also been recognized as one of the 46 distinguished First Women by Time Magazine, the 15 Women Changing the World by the World Economic Forum, and Time’s 100 Most Influential People and is the author of the children’s book To the Stars! and Handprints on Hubble, An Astronaut’s Story of Invention. And, funny enough, she began her career studying not the reach of space, but the depths of the ocean.


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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
The okay, so picture this you're floating on a space shuttle far above the planet, in space. And wearing a suit. You leave the vessel to find yourself walking in space That is the experience of my guest today daughter Catherine Sullivan. She is a distinguished scientists, astronaut executive, professor and the first a woman to walk in space, one of the first sir. Women actually join nasa as an astronaut in seventy eight. She flew three space shuttle missions during her fifteen years at nasa. Including the ninety nine emission that deployed the world changing hubble space telescope. That story by the way, including the heat,
huge discovery once it was launched at in didn't work and trying to figure out. How do we fix this massive telescope that is orbiting around the planet and how they eventually came to do that, the subject of a really fascinating new member of hers, called handprints on the hubble in time since nassau, she has held a very Eighty of senior executive positions, including presidential appointments the national science board, as the undersecretary minister of Noah, the national oceanic and atmospheric administration, the various appointments and academic institutions, and she has been recognised as one of forty six distinct first when by time magazine, fifteen women changing the world by the world economic forum and time is one hundred most influential people and has been awarded the explorers club, metal and Amy.
And nine honorary decrease? We talk about this, tired journey, including the early years, her deep. The nation and curiosity with all things: science, and how the world worked around her. The experience that led her credibly and very unexpectedly, to becoming an astronaut and how hard choices in her life has unfolded in the times. since then so excited to share this conversation with you. I'm Jonathan fields- and this is good life project- the How does a I even work where it is creativity come from? What's this, where to living longer, ted radio, our explores the biggest questions with some of the world's greatest thinkers. They will prize challenge and even change. You wasn't npr ted radio, our whatever you get your PA guests.
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New and original analysis as events unfold, that's economist, dotcom, slash project or just click. The link in the show notes to start your one month, free trial with the economist today, because the world won't wait. you were born across the hudson, but grew up in a light from what I know yeah, we moved out there when I was six aerospace was moving westward and my father went with it. I was so tell me about your dad. What born and raised in in new york. The greater manhattan area, pretty well a story. I think, as was my mother and their families the kids and their families overlapped in different social circles at how they met. He went to. I don't know what high school he went to one of the like brooklyn tech schools, very techy guy from the start and as everybody his age did enlisted in the army. Air corps started training for the seventeenth to go over to europe and was
just about to be sent over one, the war, the campaigns there ended, so they retrain them for between the nines and was just about to go to the pacific. When that all wrapped up, so he came back into the masters at n y- u just complete airplane geek, I think his first. was with Curtis right as a young design engineer, and we lived in young married apartments somewhere on the other side of that sum. Unreal age. Six. What his colleagues who had already moved west came back and said this is the promised land out here yeah. This is going to be the episode. It's all happening. It's gonna happen, yeah the the aerospace equivalent of plastics, my son plastics right. So we we drove across the country in fifty eight and stayed there until I finished while till I finished college. Do you remember if that drive? I have a cup Memories of that drive. I was six. My brother was my brother, sixteen months old or so that the age tat our first ever motel,
I remember it wheeling- must continue. We had never heard of one of these before the endlessly straight roads of kansas and- and this is all pre freeways, so your party bing on you, two lane highways that went through cornfields and then became main streets and then went back out into the cornfields. Remember a big dust storm outside of albuquerque, and I think that my brother and I we, this favorite seared in our minds, memory of being little kids, hearing a commercial and albuquerque for the grocery store chain, which was called piggly wigley five, six and seven, your arms with rat neighbour, best bouncing on the bad collapsing in laughter. Can you please yeah? That's defined! so so you- and I were another way- I ended up in the san fernando valley, the west end of at a place called woodland hills and and back then our house was essentially right at the edge of civilization we saved up three or four bucks. We could walk about one hundred yards from her home and rent horses and go riding, so this was really late sixties,
This was late fifties they slightly. If you gotta, though, the warner ranch area that has now all corporate offices, enlightened, in all that it was still farmlands. We brought our water corn from roadside stands man, something sounds from pretty young age, also you're are in to two things: maybe a lot more but maps and language model came well before it maps in a sense of exploring the area around me came much before the language parts. Number begging to walk with my mother when she walked my brother's through the little woods behind our apartment for his first day at school cause I'd seen them. I was curious. Out there. I was always off exploring with my brother and his friend, rather than seeing on playing with blocks at all so get out and you ll find observe. What's there what's it like, that was a long standing interest. I think the
happily triptych that we navigator away across the country with is probably the first entry point. My gateway drug maps sorry, member being mesmerized. There was this long skinny strip about three inches wide, but on one side, it just showed you that path you are going to be in on the other side, there's all sorts of information about what was just off to the left, her just after the writer thing you might want to see here, diner you might want to At their motel, you might wanna stay out there with their just so many layers of stories I remember, listening to my father and mother, talk about all the logistics of our trip that she flipped back and forth on those pages of most fascinating is a lot of foreshadowing, they're, probably probably more than actually happened, but I vividly remember that triptych sounds like I mean. Did you get? It sounds like that sense of adventure. That sense sense of curiosity, not just for what's on the path that everybody else is trotting but like what's just eleven witches
It was the seeds were planted at the earliest, as if they were either planted before I came out of the womb or installed very soon after I did that come at all from your mom as well. You know it's hard to trace where it came from, two different variation than is obvious in either of my parents, in some respects, both much more thoroughly? body and I was always you're whatever their, whatever their kind it up to the top of the hill. What would be like to climb a tree? What what? What what things look like if I gotta go higher rate so drying up, sir you're, a girl in the fifties and then sixties with this sort of like fierce interest and adventure, and yet this was a time and in america, especially where, we had sort of like society, has certain assumed roles like boys behaved. This way. Girls behave this way. How? How does that intersect with lateness? Really your wiring, I think it intersects by my good fortune having extraordinary parents and then never. I can't,
number, a moment where they ever signalled that's worth Is me or my brother. My brother could have been in that imbalance in one to two to and would have been? Well? That's just fine! Let's hope you explore you're interested movement- and I was sad- some interest in typical girl things, but much more in a much more adventurous and more than usual way, but that was just that was the nature of my curiosity and they were just completely invested in feeding and supporting our curiosity and importantly, your signalling and towards inoculating us with the notion that no one gets to edit. What you're interested in your interested in you are allowed to be interested in any. If you're interested in and we're committed to helping you explore that interest, no one gets to tell you you're, not interested in that they can tell you they think it's odd, but they don't get to tell you you're, not you're, not two there I mean what an amazing give. Certainly looking back to have that.
To have. That is surely the family ethos from the earliest is absolutely I mean it really was like a best vaccine in the world, especially for a young girl who was gonna end up making her way into our places like geology and and aerospace there, where we're doing, which is touched, our languages touchdown, starting and about fifth grade. I think I'd I'd really always been fascinated by them, because they are you, I just even in little things like somber you're through musket his comic books. Union you'd see people that mice were talking other languages. He will have. How does another language work of Tamariki says the word we to you and your frenchman do here? We are due here. Yes, I mean. How does that How does that different between that sound? You heard what you understand it to mean: how does that actually work, because we only grow up? little kids know again in one language and a friend of a favorite held in on, I was about ten years old.
it turns out was a russian born very elegant russian born woman, who was teaching at the same school as my aunt, but she was the french teacher at that school and over a family dinner. She put me through a few pronunciation: paces the basics of french pronunciation and pronounced to the table that I was actually quite good at it, which was for like the first blessing from outside the family. I had hat for a talent that I was sort of sensing in myself, but hadn't really one not two yet and then I just made a really simple theory of action: cool, learn, a lot of languages and somehow parlay that into the getting to explore and travel that I had been dreaming about. We were a comfortable southern california family, but It's not a family that was rocketing off on spring breaks to exotic locations in europe or about to send me to boarding school or switzerland, and something like that, so I kind of figured out I've got to solve the puzzle of how do I get to do these adventures, yeah and
Language is not so much a gateway, but as something that's really gives you access at different cultures made me. Let you feel more comfortable stepping out into than on the right and being able to reach. some of their literature, some of their works in there including a sense of them before he really go to meet them. I think the other thing didn't It's me about that same age. I was a very precocious reader and I read james mature caravan somewhere around that time and I've I rented a couple times since I realize I probably got about four point: three percent of the total cod when I read it at age, ten or eleven, but again this adventurous life of the young foreign service officer. exotic places and the mixture of language and culture and figuring out and navigating through all of that was just wow. What lucky people get to have that kind of life there you end up eventually, You had up to santa cruz yossi santa cruz. Was your intention originally, when you went there to stay language was something else:
We're going to? U see santa cruz, because I had a great russian language programme and I was pretty basically solidly fluent in french and almost they are in german. By the time you graduate high school. By the time I graduate high school. the russian was the strategic language of the time. You know the geopolitics of the home. So I figured you if you want a high value skill. I had no idea that meant state department or translating or quite what, but that was ilia, high leverage, central language of of great importance in politics and business and a lot of things so and it was fascinating. It was in a different script. Was it's inscrutable to an american either by this point, the dramatic and romance languages that they look like ours, I was familiar enough with them to think. Let's try something a little more cyrillic- is definitely more challenging. So he is so you end up thinking this is raring to go and also sounds like the seed was planted. Okay, so, and even after this,
and up somehow and somewhere foreign service or yeah. Something like that. I bit all that was very dim mina my head, specific in mind- and it certainly Didn'T- have anything resembling a plan guessed. It was almost like looking at a distant mountain range and saying one of those peaks I'll figure out a way to get two one of those peaks and then your step by step trail by trail river by river. Just keep finding your way forward. Each pathway? That takes you further into that, of course, in those same years from about that moment, over the dinner table to finishing high school, basically, all of the space race happens the early days of the space race. All the way up to the apollo atlanta. Were you paying attention to that? I was mesmerized by the same thing. These are look what these people are figuring out? No one's ever done any of this before they're figuring out how to do it, they're kind of step by step in a bit of trial by
trial and error, but the amazing experiences the the views they had and again that I wonder what that would be like to see the earth. From that vantage point myself, I wonder what would I know what their pictures look like? What would it feel like to be the person seeing that scene, not just a girl on the ground? Looking at the picture? What would it feel like be the person walking on the moon, not a human being on earth, watching it happen that that alone was pretty amazing. But what would it be like to be the explorer who's there? The master of all that equipment, one of the people that you you created the plan you are you're, part of making it all happen, you're not you're, not handed something to perform as a test. It's like, I sometimes I can it to a somebody or to a playwright, your I'm on the stage as an actor performing the play, I wrote so you the whole experience is part of you. What would that be like when it at that?
have time. I mean when you have this awareness in this curious interesting, this question. What would it be like? I know down the road. This becomes a reality, but at that moment in Was there a sense of even well? Maybe this could be made legitimately was it? Was there that level of the possibility that was needed for like in your realm of possibility. I don't think I thought it all about possible at that point it really generated. Maybe I remembered sort of a deep yearning. I would love for my life to have this kind of discovery and adventure in it. I got you and I think it became almost an unspoken commitment. A driving force its out there somewhere, we will find a way, but it was not a particular. Maybe it's, maybe it s wrong or maybe it's track. I didn't put specific labels on that point, but the
draw. You know the fire in the belly was it was there, it was yeah, it was not blazing fire. It was like the embers that will not go out yeah, so you start out studying exploring russian, but you have this the undercurrent you, the embers of sort of It's other thing she kind of like they're on the side, but always there what shifts to you when you're at santa cruz into earth, science and oceanography, and that whole thing cause that is a profoundly different, or at least it seemed like a profoundly different path in studying russian language yeah the forcing function that move. My path over to the sciences was an unblinking demand from the university that, as a declared language, major the first thing you're going to do in your freshman year is take three science course. I was formed of this by my freshman adviser, whose a french let professors wall was covered. With rousseau texts, you laid out to walk back and forth and annotate them, and it was,
is jovial friendly guy and he had he had coached any number of french students through this before me. And he was having none of it. As I argued in the us, the media- and I believe that this may know what about it yet applying you're taking three courses and by the way he had pre scouted several science courses that everyone had found interesting and really informative, and they were very well talk and not too hard for french majors. So I suggest- If you go for these three and two of those were marine science classes, so the first court for first quarter, the first term of that freshman year, the first time in that freshman year in the third term. Were fascinating out in the field, meanwhile in general oceanography. The ocean is I'd, really never understood it before and taught by these very by basis, vibrant passionate young scientists- and I I think I kind of looked at my french profit, his quiet off office with his pipe and his daughter his foot and roofs are all over the wall, and these two young guys were always out of the shore.
up in the mountains and doing miniature adventurous things but like every week and I'm gone with the there. I am that's amazing, I'm what's interesting to four. So for those who know nosey santa cruises round, the cousins were like northern california and its also tunnel right next, the monterrey done the north edge monterey bay, in fact right, which is also this legendary place for the study of the oceans right and new cannery rowan stein back and you all of that great literature it. It was not so legendary, then the where em, the researchers students were not even glimmers, probably get in the packard family, mind, but so I too long standing ocean heritage from the fishing fleets. Somebody else. First. from an observations of how neo worth those central, close fishermen right after the peruvians, realising something weird happens every few years, all the fish there
to be here- art and all these fish that never here simply are so yeah. I was in its one other at the centres of early surfing in the article the united states. So it's definitely an oceana place there. but in my man she moved to capital, surly, re or other in anyone's his own company, but he might be a wake up every morning have liked the perfect well, which does exist. Hit what you got, not a bad way to live your life you end up eventually you here, you go out on the other side, you're an ocean and our sciences, and still language is at all or just like. Definitely, it's an interesting language, because when I say when I call myself an explorer, I don't just mean you go to some other geography or punch punch of rival tickets and get passport stamps, every facet of I feel that the landscapes, the landforms, the bio, the bio to the people, the cultures. I mean all of that fascinated me. So
I also had always wanted some tend to go, live back to that. What is it like when you're speaking and living in a different language to go, live somewhere? Not just take the language in class, and so sir, my cited and set from about eighth grade on doing a junior year abroad programme, and that did not change just because I switched to the scientists the geography. place. I was interested in going changed from perhaps france or germany to Norway, where they had done. You don't you don't see any of in the ain't united states in california and a pretty solidly established oceanography sugar, and so that's so I ended up. Do my third year of universal Ghana. So then you come back from there when you come they know eventually, sometimes shortly after that, you also end up. Navy reserves was what was her window between than a missing yeah there's a long span between my graduate workin ending up an ocean. for in the navy that care about ten into my nasa career, so
I was really an overlap in so you come out. Then you go into the world devotion outer, hey yeah. I get my undergraduate degree in or sciences, specialty and marine I've become familiar while I'm in norway, with the work of scientists, adele, hussy, university and nova scotia and the bedford institute of oceanography nearby in the atlantic and pacific are very different places. Geologically from a C4 geology, point you and probably cause I loved norway, and it was right on my doorstep. Wallace all the plate, tectonics stuff was blossoming. I really want to work in the atlantic, so I went to nova scotia for graduate school and spent five years there being in deep sea geologist and map, a little corner of the sea floor and naming seamounts, and we all sorts of cool things there. When you're doing that. How much of that exploration happens with you deep under the water, versus use her like in the lab. Are you in a classroom you studying like how much of that is? Actually you out there in the environment, so
lot of it was me in the environment in that case, but it was a kind of a remote sensing. Projects are always on the surface ship and use instruments that you could toe through the water or put on the bottom of the ocean to collect the kind of data that would let you psych out that you hadn't that geology of this piece of the sea floor evolve. Man what's happening just in terms of it in the scope of Your fascination, your interests, while you're out there doing all this work, I'm et I own a little piece of the sea floor. No one's ever map to force her for the little kid that was always do the national geographic maps to actually be making a map. That's gonna go into the records and discovering that I charted these seem out for the first time that I was entitled to name them. I mean that crazy, some as they take you back to people It's is now I get to know what that I was spell super cool, but what would I was becoming most fascinated him. As a oceanographer augur geologist was
I want to go see. I want to go, see the actual geologic landforms on the bottom, so I I was at sea. I second cruise as a graduate student, was on an international oceanographic expedition that was jointly french and the? U s run out of the azores and was the first time that small submersibles, though to man submersibles with enough depth capability, we're going to go to and to these long ridges that run along the bottom of the oceans. These are the places where oceanic plates are actually coming apart, they're the big rift valleys with active volcanoes, and I got to be a a flunky and a grant on that crews, with all the luminaries of the field who were getting in these little submersibles and going down and being you're being like the field geologist on the ground, seeing all the stuff up, close and personal, so that kind of became the net Beacon on my horizon will be, and I I want to severe one here This was early enough. That I mean
they were the luminaries of the field. There were only two women aboard ship and I'll. Tell you how distinct the culture change was there? The captain of the ship that I was working on had his wife aboard that was allowed and we're going to head back into port and all the vip is from France and I'd say it's going to be out for this big celebration and I have been personally equipped One of the laboratories on the ship, I've driven the gear down from nova scotia. I then saw that on the ship, I've been running lab the whole time and the ship's captain comes up and informs me as we're heading into port. That she's going to need me to help serve hors d'oeuvres when we get to the port, and I, with with mothers caution about respect for your elders ringing in my ears, I managed to say politely that that would not be possible because I would have, representing my university in the laboratory that I equipped and they turned they are my heel and got out of here before I did something. My mother would not forgive me for. not yet
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Which just wasn't good work, as we have work to do after that line, and so we just largely ignored it. There I mean, did you feel a sense of why I has had? Does your experience that I mean knowing that your firstly bright, hard working person who is capable of anything and everything, and you showed up to do a job at like I said I think we just source that yeah that's not going to work there. No do this Did you have a chance to go down one? I did many many years later in my while at nasa, and finally, the best I have I got was just as I was leaving from my first stint, Noah and handing out to ohio. I did finally get out It was years late that was years later I was nineteen. Ninety six, I did finally get down to those really
using ocean vents worthy crazy volcanic landforms exist man and I got to fly the submersible on the bottom for a little bit thousand very cool. That sounds incredible. What makes you jump from the oceanography exploring the depths of the planet to NASA, while the the deep undercurrent of the interest is, how does this planet work and you it's it's flora, it's fauna, it's geological processes, the people that live on it so any kind of any opportunity to get a fresh new, deeper or wider perspective on that is intrinsically interesting to me and that the simple parallel I drew in my mind after I thought about the proposition a little bit is the amend. This makes no sense to go to to her miles further up to keep trying to study the ocean bottom twelve thousand feet underwater. That's not tents, that's not what nasa was looking for was notion, augur for who would come, try to do sea floor geology from orbit
They were looking for people that were scientist and engineers with an operational bent. This were practical skills to put together a field campaign or flying airplane or work on a research ship, because the way I came to think about the shuttle- and I think the way nasa was conceiving of it is this- is a research vessel. It doesn't go out onto the sea at twelve to goes up into orbit it thousands of miles an hour, but fundamentally it's meant to be a research vessel and take experiments, operations with that on behalf of different teams on the ground and in oceanography the scientific team gets go out to sea into conduct their operations and then come back home I swapped for another team with the shuttle we the people that were called mission specialists. We were going to be the proxies for the scientists for the the engineering teams that needed something done deployed. My satellite, please fix this thing please make these measurements run this instrument you're gonna, be our colleagues and alter either on the ground.
we were their eyes and ears and hands in orbit the incredible responsibility? It is. I mean it's, it's a crazy fun experience to get to fly in space, but you know some tens of people have put Millions to sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars in your hands and, frankly their career prospects for five to ten years to come and ask you to please: please go do right by me for the next five or ten days now. So when you make that jump How did you it I mean? Was there an outreach to you? Were you just curious and looking to to them and and how? How does relate the moment happened where you're like okay, so nasa? Yes, I'm in it's a crazy story I went home for christmas to California, one euro things would have been the christmas of seventy six. I guess, and my brother by sixty month older brother is actually the flying not in the family has been frozen.
I've been a map that he's been the flying and he's a corporate pilot at this point within hearing so he's been following the whole nasa selection he's already filled out a form to be considered as a pilot and be considered as mission specialist he starts lobbying me that I should also apply they explicitly want to have women and scientists apply there really eager and how many twenty six year old phds can there be in the world, and I know em off at first, because my first thought was twelve thousand feet of water is hard enough. You idiot, I dont, need two hundred more miles that crazy. I went away back up to nova scotia and then a couple weeks later, saw one announces ads in some scientific journal and It's one, the other shoe dropped and I made the comparison, the analogy to a research ship. Well that was a different prospect. I love doing the expeditionary part whether it was helping my dad plan, a fishing trip and drive the best
odor, flannel airplanes or my own little field trips. As a exploring young kid, I loved that your planet do it and deal with what comes up along the way and I'm good at it set up why if, by some odd chance you succeed. Caustic inhabit, gonna, have people apply I don't need a gazillion. They need a few by some odd chance. A you succeed to actually get to see the earth with my own eyes. From that vantage point, how can you later you got to at least try. That's like that question you had as a kid yeah you gotta at least try the odds are against you. The probability is you're carrying on with your life as an oceanographer, which is pretty cool, the workers on that get into the submersible wealth way, but you got at least throw your hat, lowering the worst that happens as they say now, so you did How did you learn that you were in it? So I had two tracks going at once: gossip. you knew the odds were very long about it. Do it and forget it,
and I'm in the middle of writing up my thesis- and you know I'm not the world's best correspondent or administrative organizer. So it's gone and it's like fallen completely out of my mind and I was pursuing more conventional postdoctoral fellowships and one of them was at columbia university. What was then called the lamont doherty geological observatory and I'm merely chunking along trying to type up my thesis and get through with all of this and the phone rings, and it's the professor at club. Here whose bostock I would be if I was picked guy named bill ryan and is totally lacking on my head saint, who are you Are you planning on entering the letter in which I offer you this post doc, which was lost somewhere in my office? Mature? And I you say, oh yeah, I will probably do
but there is just this one other thing that I haven't heard, and so we go into this conversation about the whole nasa thing and the serendipitous pointers. Bill ryan had applied to be ass in the immediately preceding ass, a selection, some nine to ten years earlier, the first time nasa like scientist. Ass rights, indeed been a finalist and he in the end was clad. He'd map and swore could because those eleven people they picked in our class were still waiting to fly and hid himself a lovely career as a very prominent, and successful oceanographer. But it may him really sympathetic and appreciative of where I was so I She had no idea where I stood at that point: go call him up and find out what's goin on, so I think I applied in january, so of seventy seven? And this is now late october- and I have not heard a word from nasa reach five,
if the guys that are doing this in their first first responses, haven't, we told you know already told me anything so he goes rummaging through. I could literally hear rustling papers in the background said. Oh that'd be because we're going to interview you in a couple of weeks, so what you so? What does this mean are you, you had a thousand or you had tent. Where does this fit in their? How far into what age of this am I he gave me colonel no information, about that at all, but said that they were. This was the final group of interviews and then decision blah blah blah and it would be announced by years end. So I let bill ryan. Have that and he held by postdoc open it, and it was really great. The classic line is the two things that
Stuck with me and fun writing about them in the book it. So you understand, the odds are that you are coming to be my post doc. You you can do what you can do, math the odds are you're coming to me, my bostock, but this is one you don't walk away from you make them tell you know so I'll, hold this open and then way what great strokes of good fortune. They told me us there and when that happens, what your emotion than their moment you are now am, I think, was the first thing because its it is really as if the world is, as I had known, it suddenly been put on pause. I mean for any ability to think about tomorrow or next relax. It's just stopped because some massive left turn ask
It happened. You know ability to really imagine that and of course, the world lights up. Venus is not selected astronauts in nine years. To really big thing, I'm an american but I'm living in nova scotia, so there's likely be a whole lot of this in canada until the? U, the switchboards light up, the press lights up the university. It's just I'd, never been never been in that kind of a whirlwind before, and it just happened in a flash. Was that every for somebody who's gonna like doing your own thing, just loving it an emerging yourself in the research and go around the world to then in the blink of an eye. not just know that you are going to space, but the entire world was now curious about you and focusing on you and wanting to know more had it headed that and you experience.
Yet the implications of all that, I think, dawn on me in stages and if NASA sent a film crew. This is the olden days I talked with the actual cellulose film crew. They sent a film crew out to the hometowns of each of the thirty five people they chosen made a little rag flick about. Each of us, like that's, never happened before so all of a sudden the guys I sailed with rapt into this, because they want to sailing, shot and took that did what all of that and how it worked through my laboratory in my apartment, in this sailing community I was in, was kind of crazy. It was just kind of along for the ride, in the bid. Exhilarating at the moment then they all went away. I'm it was a film crew visit for a couple of days and then life's or went back to normal larger reality of different. This would be in terms of living. Your life began to hit when we all reported down to Houston in, I think, was February january february, of seventy eight for our first introduction and one
senior nasa gal they're, the most senior person I think at the johnson space center female at the johnson space center took the six of us. The first six women took us aside and tried to just give us a little bit of coaching. A little bit of situational awareness. There was gonna, be it loose everybody moment, seats on stage and then turn everybody over to media for interviews and she realized. I don't think we had figured this out yet out of a class, a thirty five. There are six women there. Three african americans one asian american there have never been nasa's never had an astronaut like any of those ten people. So these ten arthur novelties and the
the twenty five extraordinarily accomplished and talented people were far too much like the ones they seem before. So that all the attention was gonna go to the ten odd people, if you will- and a couple of us will twenty six years old, this is my first job straight out- a gradual, my first ever full time. Job is ascot that crazy, so grossly unprepared, for I mean no interviewing skills, you're, just crazy, I'm just thinking how unprepared for every plate job I've ever had. What's on my first day, compared to like showing up. Oh, yes, your job is astronaut. Oh yeah yeah, I mean you know you walk into the army as a recruit you're on for that pillar, walking the army for the first time with four stars on your shoulder like what will seriously unprepared that's while and then you get dropped into this world,
I have, I mean, really, is sort of like a completely different universe within NASA also- and it's not like okay, so we have six months of training and then you get your goin up. I mean this is an intensive, intensive physical psychological. Academic training window the last four years. Yet it really, as an we came in and seventy eight. The shuttle was allegedly gonna fly within a year, but of course that ended up, the three year span. So we, through year long crash course, you hyper condensed grad school for astronauts, gunnar thing, every facet of engineering and physical sizes, biological scientists that could faintly pertained to spaceflight. We all went through together all thirty five of us on
phd in geology and and oceanography meteorology, one through the basic classes in the and medical doctors, one through the basic anatomy with us, and then they just started plugging us into support rules out serve in the bowels of the machine. I really kind of think of it as if they made a start at the mailroom, so you'd go. Do you, software verification work or some engineering advisory work and start to learn by working on the the building block teams for twelve fourteen months. Learn what it takes to bring spaceflight together, learn how the different pieces work it familiar with more. The technology learn the people in the higher. Key of the whole thing, and it was for us, it was. Seventy two I think was late mid. Eighty two! So bad four years before any of our class got assigned to a flight. There were. There were guys in line ahead of us and they flew the approach and landing tests in the first four flights and then starting with number seven
one or two word of us at the time started getting slotted in and we can have all completed the first cycle and nineteen, eighty three nineteen, eighty five, that and and just be clear, also because I just realized him- who probably haven't even mentioned- that we're talking about the special we're talking space shuttle and the shuttle missions. Yet at the beginning of the space shuttle program, its for its first four test flights in it's first, dozens of lights right, it's it's fascinating, also, sort of like the way you described the training. Was it it's like when you go into these giant corporations and they rotate you through all the different things and like you got
I know a little bit about everything, but then at the end of that they're like okay, so pick the one you want to start with, but for you it sounds like the intention was different. The attention was look, there's only a handful of people that that are going beyond this. You know really far away from the surface of the earth and the more each individual can know about every part of this thing, the better it is for everybody yeah. I I think that's right. I mean astronauts kind of need to be generalists and operators we don't have to be. The best scientist I don't have to know as much about atmospheric physics as the person who created the experiment I'm operating, but I need to know enough about and about the scientific objectives that they haven't. Certainly, the master, the engineering and how their instrument interacts with the space shuttle. So generalist is good. I think another perspective on at this occurred. Me later my career, I move beyond it, and I have some experience in the corporate world of your
swimming or or seasoning a cadre of people to be potential successors to the senior most people in the company la higher up in the company. The more responsibility you have for the for the totality for all the interconnections for all the interdependencies that not see if it's just in one role in one department, so some exposure to the finance side? The shirt service? Aside the operating side, the engineering side gives you a better aptitude. if you do end up in the ceo seat, to understand how those functions need to work together. Astronauts are not the ceos in the ass right now pilot. Neither the commander of the shuttle is the ceo of admission that the person on the ground called the flight director technically, but you have you have a very central and pivotal responsibility and visible position, and so we think the role of ashraf is in part to be an integrator and a connector
and you will be better at that, if you ve had some inciting experience into the building blocks the come together to make a flight happened. Then, if you just focused on your sticking motor skills, there near the systems that you play a key role as systems integrated systems operator, so get a sense of the whole system met so you're in there for about four years training and always different areas, and then you learn okay. So much going up. What's that like when you actually learn So this has been real in terms of like I'm here, I'm in the program, I'm training, I'm doing all this work and learning all these things, but now is about to get real and a whole different level yeah. So I think, when you're selected as an astronaut, you become a real astronaut to everyone, who's, not in the astronaut corps, and certainly I certainly felt- and I think, a lot of our classmates. Based on your conversation over beers on different evenings yeah, we moved the bar a little bit. You would yeah, it becomes really real
if I've flown and I've done a successful mission- and you know, then I can really wear the title. Last drop feeling like I completely fill out the jacket right now. I've got the flight suit and I've got the nice pin, but haven't actually done it yet so to get tapped, put into sequence at that starts a whole nother training flow adjust, you're back at the start of a learning flow that will getting more and more intense and more more detailed and specific to the particulars will happen on your mission, not the generic. How does the electoral system on a space shuttle work, but the particulars of on your flight? The circuit would be connected to that experiment with that super breaker and that level of detail cause you're the operator and you're the troubleshooter and you're through. Person. You you're you're, every three years, the wrench turner. If a bigger the window cleaner, if need be theirs, the five or seven of you, We are all of those things, so you start marching up that roadway as well. If you
around aircraft operations or flight operations of any sort. You know how fluid schedules tend to be an schedules and launch schedules. The launch manifest was very, very fluid and early shuttle day, so there is not a sort of on the signed and we have a date but I think I'll believe the date when the solid rockets ignite- and you know right up until then something could shift. There could be a big technical problem that grounds the hopefully for awhile. There could be a problem with our payload that slips it right whilst you you're eager and your racing along the, are moving at a very fast pace through this intensive syllabus of things that needs to get them and eager for the months. days, months and weeks and then days before flight to shrink, but cannot always a little bit bated breath I believe that when you see that definitely comes against late, eighty four october for activity for your and the challenges
What's it like when you're you're suited up and you're walking like you're, taking that walk with your crew to launch pad yeah. That is a pretty unforgettable moment, and it's one. If I could remember us, as I walked down the hallway, I could remember had flashes of remembering one King, John Lennon, Alan shepard and neil Armstrong and buzz all my concept. I they walked this hallway. They they walked this hallway they suitor up in this room. They went down this elevator. They walked out with the same doorway. They got onto a very similar vehicle and drove out to the launch pad, and I watched that is ten sixteen year old girl and a decade later, I'm a colleague and six years after that, I'm doing it. And it was all right through the house, a mirror smaller were yesterday, today and tomorrow or kind whirling around in your brain. With these little many flashbacks.
that you can indulge in a lot of that cause. Of course, life's could get real busy in a couple hours, so very focused on what's ahead. But with these these reflections passing through my mind about how how amazing, actually now be the person who's walking down this hallway and getting that van and drive me out that aunt pattern and then sort of wondering how many little kids girls boys, both I mean little kids are watching us do this and maybe getting that same fire in their belly, that same passion rising in them to be a part of something so amazing some day when you and you you bored, did you call the shift? You call the shuttle, the shuttle, so you board the shuttle. Everything's checked, it's go time. I can you. Can you even put words
the experience of left off sure, but they fall, but they really shores of the you have already it's a it's, a crazy hybrid it, sir. It's partly earthquake its we we used. It was like sitting in dumpster with your friends beating on the dumps with a sledgehammer is loud. The first stage of a special was loud, a progressive cause, your beer right right now, you're writing, firecrackers and there they burn very turbulent lace. Like gives you the earthquake, clear thing you somebody's pushing on the back your chair, but simple and crushing, but its impressive. Maybe you ve felt that kind of push, maybe at the bottom of a roller coaster, may be in a super suki sports car that you punched off of it. If a clip, but you fell it for a fraction of a second, and this goes on for a half minutes and somewhere in that first lift off. I remember realizing. I have felt about this kind of acceleration before, but
This is really going on for a long time. Yeah, it's earthquake rock concert, dumpster. Giant push on the back your chair there, emotionally, what, I went through your mind during that experience you know I think I was just absorbing trying to absorb the sensations, the physical sensations. At that point, it's we're going and just soak that all in on our first flight on my first flight, been through months and months and months of simulations and every simulation of a lift off goes wrong with two exceptions: the first time you do the practice they let you see what lift off probably will be like nothing going wrong and the very last training session before you go down to the cape like okay. Let's just remind you, probably none of the weird stuff that we've thrown at you for months. Probably none of that is going to happen. This is probably what liftoff will be
Every launch in between two three five ten things break, alarms going off all the time: some fair number. If they they push both the mission control team and the flight crew. Their goal is to push you so hard saturate. You was summoned things going on that you will invariably miss something, and so the asset skills simulator less our colloquially known in the astronaut korea's assent kills because use ash the orbiter in the ocean, or you know some. If you don't make it a number of times so to be actually in the space shuttle for a real lift off the first time and sorta suspend that cynicism that comes from all the disastrous scenarios That was also one of the four I was staring remember staring at the instrument panels very intently weight. for the alarm. You can not daring to believe them. The next eight enhancements will go smoothly. We really will end up in orbit there, but we did is, did the sensation of fear enter? They create
adolphe or or you or or is it literally like it can't be there too? Certainly it it can't be there, as as, as fear has stop using your tracks, chilling your tummy, if it really that your reaction. We need you not to be on the spacecraft yeah. I guess that was sort of almost expressly screened out to overtime. To a certain extent. I yeah I to a certain extent on it's. I don't mean to say I mean individuals react differently. One of my classmates has written in his own books about his prelaunch experiences and he he writes candidly about night sweats, unreal fear. So the way he processed it mean it's risky. It's hazardous people do die doing this stuff, you're writing a bomb if you've got understand what you're doing here, but different people process that fear and and deal with it or process that risk that hazard there in different ways, but even this guy who's written about it when he's in the spacecraft
as the ability to to be there, you have to be there as part of the solution to anything that needs to be done. You can't be there as the person that diving under the table there. It's almost like there's no room for that at this moment in time, It's the guys in the front of the airliner compared to the people in the back of the airliner and zero to seventeen thousand five hundred miles per hour, eight and a half minutes two thousand miles an hour faster. Every minute in round numbers unreal unreal, it's quite a ride. You get up your first mission, a taste and a limb part of that is you
so not staying inside the whole time, yeah that real real treat of my first space flight and it was pretty cool flight. One major said of the experiments and the satellite. We were going to deploy we're all about earth sciences. So I loved that because of those experiments, the cameras and radars that we're going to make measurements of different features on the earth Our orbital plane was inclined to the equator by fifty six degrees. So we were going to see all the territory on the earth between fifty six degrees, north latitude and south latitude lot of shuttle missions. If they're not doing earth scientist stay within twenty eight degrees, which is mainly oceans, so I was delighted we're going to get to see so much of the world and then
they are the gravy, the gravy, on top of the icing on top of the chariot, that they put him. If everything is tapped to do a spacewalk with they respond to demonstrate some new technology now was developing to refuel satellite. So I was pretty much a trifecta as far as I was concerned are in what in so many curious is run here too in china to defend rather whole, but one is just the very first time you have the ability to take your own eyes and from space, look back and see the earth. What that experience was late for you on and then following the immediately behind. That is the minute you stepped out into space. Ass, though the first absolutely first moment I had a chance to see the earth by own eyes. I got in trouble. It was a fraction of a second after the main engines cut off, and I finally,
lifted. My gaze from the instrument panels and looked up through the six bigwood knows that face forward and we're upside down at this time. So there's this big arc of blue and white earth and the upper part of the windows, and it in literally took my breath way and without having any ability to think about. I just blurted out wow Look at that and, of course, the engines of shot off were still in the middle of a critical checklist, so about crippen. Our commanders will shake his hand at me a little bit and says no, no, not yet, and of course, so now I'm thinking grade eight and a half This is my first flight I'm getting into merits for my commander. This is not what you want start, but if I'm not the only rookie that set that eight and a half minute later reaction, it's breathtaking, the other fun part of that eight and a half in that story when the main engines cut off a routine your call the shuttle time was for the commander to radio down to Houston
The main engine cut off, good may go and then or in the number, was the velocity that he showed on his instruments. So crypt does that new used in challenger good me, go twenty five sixty eight and we're all expecting a nice little cap com draw to come back and say Roger this. Really angry british voice, pops, the airwaves as eight and a half minutes after leaving the Kennedy space owner implored aware over england, and it turns out the whirl airforce had some it's out on a training range, nine him, was below us and they thought they owned. One radio frequencies that we are using so this guy gets on radio to chew out whoever has jump on his radio free It was just and cared like change. If I remember right yeah, it was just hilarious, that's to fully and stepping out into space, so step. Of course, is the wrong verb: okay,
the guys who got the good fortune landing on the moon stepped out of a lunar motto cause they were still in I he only one six what we have here on earth, but they could walk there in gravity if you when you step out of the air lock on this day, space station, spatial you're really swimming out its. It is very much like swimming and in fact, underwater tanks or the place that you can practice those those activities, the only sort of semi I could only way you can do that so you're swimming out and for us we came out through on our backs. You would have thought we're on our backs. Along the like along the same direction of the tail, the arbiter and the first thing you're thinking about as your safety tattler cost. You are sort of a mountain near here, so there's your attach one before you loosen the other one when you finally get your tethered in and start to move around a little bit to pick up your tools and things like that. That's when you have a moment to kind of pivot away, you have to pivot your
body away from the shuttle to see the environment around you, and it was it's pretty amazed that without window frame to be sorta hanging off the space shuttle like you were, as if you were hanging off a tree limb and just have this planet sliding by beneath your feet, hm Carl Sagan called it a pale blue dot. We didn't get that far away, so I call it a vivid blue beach ball. Those sounds ready. It do you have any sense when you're, when you're out there, like that of up or down on are or serve perspective. In terms of I mean you can orient yourself to note the pebbly dot blood without having the surly, the experience of the sense of gravity pulling in a particular direction do have a sense of direction at
beyond like the visual aid? It really is just the visual, but as your inner ears, not giving you any signals and nothing is pulling you in some direction and that's kind of part of the fun of working in microgravity is you? Can you can redefine the directions at will so something that was always the the starboard bulkhead? You can declare that to be the floor or you can Were it to be a ceiling, a door that we used to come down a hallway and turn left through a doorway? You could declare that to be a hatch in the floor and and just can
yourself that you're floating along and diving through it instead of turning left through it. If you're working around won't work when we are working around the space shuttle, the shuttle itself was the common frame of reference, because you typically working on something that's attached to the shuttle and your crewmates in the cabin that may be helping with camera work or may be helping with the robotic arm they're really operating that frame of reference as well, so that your tail was up to sort of talk about the tails up. Even if the tail was pointed towards the earth- and we had a very particular kind of frame of reference, vocabulary to keep ourselves straight about one. What am I talking about the the x Y, easy axis of the space shuttle? What am I talking about, which whales are pointed right, When did life start getting so complicated, buying a home, complicated home finances, certainly not a walk in the park raising kids, she hath it's a lot then
there's insurance. What if my policy doesn't cover this or what? If I have to make a claim in the middle of the night, good news state farm. Is there for your what ifs you can reach them? Twenty four seven file a claim on the state farm mobile app or simply call your agent to ask anything. So even if life gets insurance doesn't have to be like a good neighbour stay farmers there collar gotta state farmed outcome for a quote today. you end up becoming. They tell me from getting it right that the first? U S, woman, to do it this work is, is, after all, even present in your mind before during or a meeting We after or are you just they're doing the thing that you're here to do an and, if its not actually present at all, is their time some time later, where it becomes something too it really was essentially not present to me for
assignment up till to doing it. It's my first spacewalk- and you know if you'd like to do a second spacewalk. It's probably a good idea to succeed it for one so that's entirely where I was it an as an amazing experience is a complex experience here pilot in command of your own spaceship. That's what a spacesuited It is your own body shaped spacesuit, an spaceship yo mastering all of that being comfortable in it and then so competent in a comfortable in it, that you can mainly focus on doing other work, not just on managing the system, so that was really all I m still is really what it was to me. I appreciate the opportunities the historical first gives me, and principally the ones it gives me too
hopefully inspire and motivate your other young people. I never was someone who felt a big ego need to have fanfare or I didn't be apply- to become an astronaut to get press and headlines or to become famous. I did it for the adventure of discovery for the the opportunity to be part. I happen to believe the space program has been a huge net benefit to our country. two to humanity and to get to be a part of the team. That's doing those amazing things in opening this base frontier and bringing the power of the orbital perspective back to earth. To get to be part of that effort was an amazing thing net and that's what drew me so I could have been the nine hundred and forty third woman to do a spacewalk and I put a protest at exactly the same. Yeah and end in fat. Your second mission, you end up on discovery, launching something which would make a profound difference on on so many different levels, but
but in the intervening years there was a huge tragedy at nasa and fat. So you come come back down on the challenger or twelve. Forty months later, the challenger goes back up, and this is a story that everybody remembers and you know a minute minute and a half into that flight. The entire thing just goes up in smoke and flames, and everyone was watching that yeah like that. The news covered it like in part also because it also is one of the crew. Was this this near, like public school teacher and- and this was the same vessel that that you were on what is going through your mind and heart when that happens. Well, I was not one of the people that was watching it on tv. I was actually on an airliner flying back from California. I had been out in the san Francisco bay area.
working on the hubble space telescope, which we were slated detect orbit in october that year and I'm just fly home. We do our work in the middle of the night and humble so I'm pretty exhausted, and I learned when we landed at Dallas thomas and I was making my connection to my houston flight. That's when I picked up the fact- and I picked it up by calling the office to tell my secretary. I was too exhausted went to work. So I hadn't seen the news I'm in this little bubble, and it was just you know. It was stunning. I mean just she said: the shuttle exploded, which was not A sentence that could compute could imagine a number of other scenarios of how a shallow might have been and the crew loss, but it exploded was just not just didn't register, so that was not of our world.
world, stopping fully numb moments and, I think, are beyond num Num disappointed, sad you're angry. How to patent who screwed, what a powder we screw this up something killed. Seven of our people for five of my folks for my classmates, we gotta figure out what happened and we gotta get back to fly. If I've been. I was really.
I was really worried about, may be foolishly, maybe needles worried, but while the venting and trauma and anguish about the loss of the crew and and and in particular of loss of crystal mccall of somehow I mean she, I I guess it sensible that she became the icon of the lost crew, but if the country had decided that the pain of that loss was so great that we are just not can and do this anymore, not compliance based anymore lay up the shuttle yeah, I would have felt really cheated. I would have felt like I have been sniggered. I didn't think I was doing this.
just because it was good tv or fun rides for people. The the equation and the analysis. I've done for myself when I applied to the program was a bother to worth the value to the country versus the risk that I would be signing up to take. If I went down this path- and I concluded- as I spend a couple of weeks- thinking about that- that and I'd grown up around airplanes and small boats, I'd known people who crashed airplanes and were killed. This is not novel to me. But my conclusion was the value of this to the country, and mankind is enough. For me and if the bank on the competence in good faith of a lot of people, you won't ever get to see or no or coach or buck up yourself. I'm confident enough in that, and I believe enough in the value. That's why I was willing to take the risk and if we were gonna quit after one accident, because it was sad television or that with that
It made me crazy them, because the programme went on a semi harris and not not entirely shut down, but everyone was grounded for a window of time. The fleet, was grounded. The bright programme was very busy trying to analyze what had happened and find the root causes and and figure out the mitigate actions and make the corrections the reengineer, in whatever, whatever adjustments in either the hardware itself, where the way we operate in the hardware. What adjustments do we need to make to remove or lower the risk of anything like this happening again there behind the scenes you and your team are also still working on what would invention become the hubble telescope, and this becomes the second mission, where
go back up and about- I guess about two years later. Eighty six, ninety, ninety one, ninety okay, so it was a longer window of time than that, so you finally go up and and you either, that the hubble exp, I think, we've all heard of the hubble right and it's this thing in the sky. That takes awesome, pictures or explain like why this really is so profoundly important. Well, they it's important to astronomy, is a bit of a stretch to ask a geologist to to explain very well just in terms of like a general context in terms of like us and end what it means to be here and how much value provides. You ve been hobble is an amazing instrument in a number of ways and the idea of putting a telescope above the atmosphere of rose. I mean a decade before us. Take even took me way, early ideal.
Word in the engineering was barely able to figure out how to do that, and before too long by by the sixties, the ideas not just to put a telescope up above the atmosphere but to have ass, rots tending at maintaining it. This this idea comes out her time, their hardly art. Yeah scratch yeah there's like nineteen sixty three. So by the time we come along, there is a real telescope. It's about the size of a school bus. It exists, it's been built, it has an architecture, that's friendly to maintenance, you'd be easy to get up the pieces. You might need to change, but there's not yet been the detailed work, then, to be sure that you have the tools and the other equipment that will actually let you do that maintenance and that was sort of a centre part of what Bruce Mccain so my were assigned to do from nineteen eighty five, when we are tapped for the flight until whenever it went into orbit which ended up being ninety ninety, instead, nineteen eighty six. But we can foresee even then. That is that these of the mirror: the capability of the instruments, even the first generation instruments it had such
promise to revolutionize astronomy and, how many ways in Lyman spencer, who first wrote the movements of motivating proposal? Nineteen forty six have been his description of what this telescope might do was extraordinarily preshent and how revolutionary could be too, and I we were all through old at that prospect. Amped, to deliver an instrument like this that might so transform how we understand our universe, how it works, how stars form what our galaxies? What else is out there our place in all of this? I think what I certainly didn't and couldn't afford seen, and maybe nobody really did was now the rise of the computer age on us were parallel path, would intersect with hubble and bring another set of transformations, because hubble hobble in its images of entered
pop culture and pop art in the popular imagination, in a way that I can't think of any other scientific instrument ever that has had as widespread and as pervasive an impact through general society. As humble as you, you see it on people's clothing and lunchboxes, and on posters at the imagery is everywhere. It's that dramatic. It's that inspirational and to telescope the top there today in twenty nineteen is, I would guess, it's probably about a thousand times better instrument than the one that we put an orbit in ninety ninety, because this foresight about giving it an architecture that makes it maintainable and the prep work that bruce and I and others other engineers did from eighty five to ninety. To be sure, we had the full toolkit that would really work and we need the details. You'd never get up to the telescope.
I say: hey guys, the rent doesn't fit, or I can't reach this- that preparatory work. Let five different shuttle crews not only fix things that had broken or gone wrong, but take up in the next generation of detector. The next generation of solid state memory may, everything, more reliable, more efficient, better power density and far better resolution, for the astronomy, so probably about a thousand times better instrument, at least than what we put up in de ninety there. I that's amazing, an alarm sweaty, considering the considering what happened I'm shortly after so you guys you go up, you have a successful mission. You launch the harbour and then realize that the images are coming back fuzzy, so this is like years and years and a zillion dollars best men and tons of research and thousands and thousands of people hours and something's, not right.
And everybody's waiting for the super incredible picture that is going to be this galaxy as seen from mount something or other telescope, and here it is seen from Hubble, and it's going to be here. The scales will All from your eyes- and you will see the nurses you never did before, and it won't focus and Steve holly, entirely wolden spent some anguished weeks were as well as they were lifting the telescope out of the pale obey, were it does it by this kind of its teeth. It was a very tight fit and it had kind of oscillated and walked around a little bit as they were lifting it out. They'd been very ginger about how they put it up out of the payload bay, but then it turns out it. We can't make it focus, and there has been a couple Anguished weeks, thinking or well, we must have bump that have long been something's out of alignment, and you know we kill bubble telescope, so I I know that
were relieved. They were probably the only to people on planet earth that were relieved to discover that the real flowers in the mirror, the big, mirror itself and then this then becomes the story of some lateral thinking in a clever engineering insight that truly pop into a humble engineers, mind when he was in the shower one morning. Meeting in the netherlands and thought about how you move, shower heads up and down on a rod and bend and inhibit them different directions, and I gave him the flash of inspiration to think about. How could you get the trick? Is I need to get
new optics, either lenses or mirrors into the guts of the telescope. How do I do that? It's in orbit, it's built, it's assembled and I'm talking like into the right into the gut to the telescope, and the insight was where we've got boxes, that we have instruments that put optics right in the middle of the telescope there the scientists met. We could take one of those out if I could figure out how to get the new mirrors in there very, very precisely so that you're, the bad news was you had screwed up and the mirror was wrong. the good news was you screwed up very precisely, and so you could calculate precisely the fix you need and just the way your eye doc can calculate the fixed. They need to give you a prescription ones and then the trickles get them in there and that's where this shower head. Inspiration became the idea for a device with multiple arms. The could pop these mirrors into place
intercept the bad light and turn it into good light. So the weird like the weirdo doing me, as is, is thinking myself. One is that one guy preferred bass over shores. He's too hard have gotten a european bathtub, so so I mean it. It takes some time, but but but that is near the disrepair actually able to be made, and it is made and- and, like you said now, gash were going on thirty years thirty years now, If and where this is still up there. Like you said it's, it it'd be evolution, that's happened and what? What what's there now compared to what was there as kind of stunning and what producing and sending back to us well in the engineering commitment one was built was for fifteen, your life story, double that, so it's doubled in his life and that's down largely to the maintenance you can repair.
repair, replace batteries and solar rays and tape quarters. So you ve been able to keep it running and you been able to upgrade the onboard technology every time you replace something so that gadget that was built in the early nineties and install the ninety ninety three to correct couples, vision, it's no longer needed. You can go see the national air and space museum? It was brought back to earth because each new instrument, when the science was upgraded, a new observing program, a new idea that team of new scientists would build that optical prescription into their instrument, and so it's all new optics and new detectors and just an amazing machine. You end up doing one more mission and then finally come down
for that, like you, have you ve now left the planet. Three times you have experienced things that the smallest, smallest smallest, were. Senator percentage of human beings have and will ever experience, and you as an adventurer who also clearly has this bigger, serves sense of civic duty, comes a time where you decide. Ok, like this season is ended. What leads to that decision? There were a couple. this that led to that decision, one was, I was having a lot of interesting opportunities in my navy work and in some
collateral assignments that nasa have given me to step up in and have a leadership role in different projects and activities, and the astronaut office is a pretty flat organizational place. So there's not a lot of surely not a lot of capability to develop your leadership talents and in starting in the program at age. Twenty six as a you were totally wet behind the ears baby, I'm just kind of reaching that early mid career point where I'm starting to think about my own leadership capability and what to do with it payment how to work on developing it. And secondly, I had noticed- I think, in the years between the hubble flight and my third flight. My third plate was and very much oriented towards understanding the earth, earth sciences, atmospheric physics. In particular, I had noticed that I was beginning to get more and more interested in following what was happening in
geological and or sizes literature. Something was sort of pulling back to earth and a final piece of that, I think, was our third flight came not long after the first persian gulf, so we looked down over the area around kuwait and the persian gulf. He could still see this big black smudge or the net she had fallen out from the thousands of oil wells that were torched. A good friend of mine was the chief scientists that now at the time- and I was hearing for hers when we talked about the issues along the coastal zone that they were worried about the fall out and the consequences of battle, and there it was looking down from orbit the vantage point that all of them kind of wished. They could have to see the whole area in context, and something in me now wanted to be active in a role that helped bring the space vantage point back down to earth and make it.
or make it make it a value to issues and decisions that we all face here on earth, as as heads of household or heads of company or heads of state to every different level, how we interact with our environment, what kinds of, decisions. We make and really be very richly informed by the space perspective in and keeping the pulse of the planet, that's kind what nor does the simple distinction draw between now and nasa. Besides, no doesn't have asked, rots is It was business really is to connect knowledge of the earth an understanding of the earth, measurements monitoring, connect that with real people, facing real issues, making real decisions and be that sort of broker and packager of of information.
I helped them and then as it as it turned out, not not long before my first like this friend, who was the chief scientist needed to step down from her post for personal reasons and called up and told me, she wanted to suggest me as her replacement. I said yes and for that possibility with her one visit to the no administrator and then put it out of my head and went off to complete my third and final flight, but he called the day we landed back. He called like moments after I had changed on my flight to and said that I was indeed the person he wanted to pass along to the white house as the prospective nominee I built right, may tents, there was there a moment or or a window of time. Where are you had any sense of grief. Following the decision to sail cassa this chapter, his clothes like I unless something changes on some dramatic way like my time and space is now behind me in. I dont think
If there ever was anything resembling grief, I mean I'd had three great flights. You know great cruised, remarkable experiences. I characterize that as the perfect blend to me, as, if you're glad to be going but sad to be leaving that's probably about right and you're good people great times never have probably never have a headline font as big as my ass rot fonts, but it was done. It was. It was good. It was enough there and you take that experience and all of the just knowledge but profound shift in perspective. I guess to now nowhere for those who don't understand what is no, actually so there in his national oceanic and atmospheric administration and its
an agency that sets within the department of commerce because it purposes information that helps the economy thrive. it came about in nineteen. Seventy richard Nixon signed into law to bring together under one roof. These scientific agencies that focus on banning the oceans, the atmosphere, how they function and how they interact within how they touch an impact society and at its basically all day is gathering billions and billions, and billions of data points from literally everywhere from deepening ocean surface to oliver land up from the sky, looking back down and feeding, intellect massive supercomputers and and allow with really intelligent people trying to figure out what does this mean and how does it help us in some right. It is your national, whether service it is yours and army. One service, it is every nautical chart you ever touch
it is your national marine sanctuaries. It is you, countless things that touch net know it touches every american life pretty well, every day, at least in the form of your weather forecast, whether you get it from some app on your phone or your television broadcaster, it's noaa data and no models and no experts that originate the information that is coming to the what's it like for you being part of this one giant, yeah, the one federal agency where you're part of a small crew, but also part of a bureaucracy but they're, very discrete missions and you're working with a small group of, altogether too then step into a large federal agencies with levels and levels of bureaucracy and its also its political appointment, sue your like you're used to navigate what it's like to be in the most extreme environments, deep underneath the ocean surface
and yet gazillion miles up above the planet. This is a different. I thought it was them Think I was may probably about a bee may be minus student on how organs satiable dynamics work when I showed that over two noah- and I got a crash course and and became awfully good at and actually but innocent to me, it became an interesting jigsaw puzzle that there still such clarity of purpose. this and sense of service and mission within Noah and Noah's significantly smaller and in terms of total number of people. You can find that sense of shared purpose and shared mission. Then it's about finding the ways to keep people moving towards that common direction
We have no point having a personal fight over whether two plus two is four or two plus two is five, and at some point, if we're both serious about putting the right weather forecast out whoever's defending the two plus two is five position is going to give up, because someone's gonna lose their life over that map, as we sit here and here's a little over two years ago, your time into a wrapped, which feels like it's kind of like this was this was the beginning of a new season for you and so over this. I am curious now having all these incredible experiences and being such a yours adventurer. What is this season like? What is the adventure? That's ting free now, so I consider myself rewired rather than retired, got it and I'm serving on a number of boards from corporate and some nonprofit boards, and I I really enjoy that. From the point of view. The opportunity to sort of.
critique and join in and help shape strategy. And then some of the tactics to achieve that strategy, but its climate overview effect role. that I really enjoy. I've got a gag olive content. Hurry and younger associates and that I'm coming coaching and mentoring and an informal fashion, and I really like having that the two availability in the mental bandwidth availability to really you'll be present with them and talk with them and spent some time of priests it and understand. Where are they and what are they wrestling with? Instead of you shooting off a quickness of between thirty four other emails? I have lived in Columbus, ohio for twenty three plus years. It's a great in order to live and am also really liking. Having time to plantain and cultivate saw my seen there, so I ve got more time for other people now, way that the intensity of my earlier careers didn't really. Quite let me do
My bucket list item- I am still doing adventuring- I the great good fortune to have worked for a long time without that's like national geographic, inland blood and silver see. So I get occasions to go off different places like the high arctic or the antarctic. My bucket loosed item was to have a puppy and have the time and the flexibility to enjoy raising the young dog and just hanging out with a pooch Andy. I do so as we sit here in the context of a good life project, fills a good place to come full circle. Also, if I offer up the phrase to live a good life, what comes up to explore and to learn and to give Thank you. Thank you. So much for listening and thanks also to our fantastic sponsored, who help make this show possible. You can check them out in the links we have included, intraday show notes and while you're at it, if you ve ever ask yourself watch it
with my life, we have created a really cool online assessment that will help you discover the source code for the work that you are here to do. You can find it add, spark a type dot com, that's s, p, r, K, e t, why p dot com or just click the link in the chain and of course, if you haven't already done so, be sure to click on the subscribe button in your listening app. So you never miss an episode and then share share the love. If there's something that you've heard in this episode, that you would love to turn into a conversation, share it with people and have that conversation is when ideas become conversations that lead to action. That's when real change takes hold see next time the.
Transcript generated on 2023-06-24.