Astronauts Describe What It's Actually Like Being In Space.

Our thirst for knowledge and unquenchable curiosity has led humanity to the final frontier space. However, there are still very few among us who have actually travelled outside our tiny haven of life and into the dark desert of space.

Here, astronauts describe what it is actually like being in space.


1. Chris Hadfield: Gosh, Im not sure how to describe it. I was there for the birth of all three of my children. I did the first F-18 intercept of a Bear bomber off the coast of Canada. I represented Canada in a bunch of different levels, including as a fighter pilot. I was a test pilot doing all sorts of very fascinating, challenging, brand new work. But nothing compares to going outside for a spacewalk. Nothing compares to being alone in the Universe; to that moment of opening the hatch and pulling yourself outside into the Universe.

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2. Russell Schweickart: When you go around the Earth in an hour and a half, you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing. That makes a change. You look down there and you can't imagine how many borders and boundaries you cross, again and again and again, and you don't even see them. There you are - hundreds of people in the Mideast killing each other over some imaginary line that you're not even aware of, and that you can't see.


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3. Nicole Stott: We have this connection to Earth. I mean, it's our home. And I don't know how you can come back and not, in some way, be changed. It may be subtle. You see difference in different people in their general response when they come back from space. But I think, collectively, everybody has that emblazoned on their memories, the way the planet looks. You can't take that lightly.


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4. Kevin Ford: It's a very, very different environment than I expected.

From the [spacewalks] there really is a distinct smell of space when they come back in. It's like something I haven't ever smelled before, but I'll never forget it. You know how those things stick with you.


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5. Buzz Aldrin: My first words of my impression of being on the surface of the Moon that just came to my mind was Magnificent desolation. The magnificence of human beings, humanity, Planet Earth, maturing the technologies, imagination and courage to expand our capabilities beyond the next ocean, to dream about being on the Moon, and then taking advantage of increases in technology and carrying out that dream achieving that is magnificent testimony to humanity. But it is also desolate there is no place on earth as desolate as what I was viewing in those first moments on the Lunar Surface.

Because I realized what I was looking at, towards the horizon and in every direction, had not changed in hundreds, thousands of years. Beyond me I could see the moon curving away no atmosphere, black sky. Cold. Colder than anyone could experience on Earth when the sun is up- but when the sun is up for 14 days, it gets very, very hot. No sign of life whatsoever.

That is desolate. More desolate than any place on Earth.


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6. Ron Garan: When we look down at the earth from space, we see this amazing, indescribably beautiful planet. It looks like a living, breathing organism. But it also, at the same time, looks extremely fragile.

... Anybody else who's ever gone to space says the same thing because it really is striking and it's really sobering to see this paper-thin layer and to realize that that little paper-thin layer is all that protects every living thing on Earth from death, basically. From the harshness of space.


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7. Marsha Ivins: Theres no way to anticipate the emotional impact of leaving your home planet. You look down at Earth and realize: Youre not on it. Its breathtaking. Its surreal. Its a were not in Kansas anymore, Toto kind of feeling.

But Ive spent a total of 55 days in space, over the course of five missions for NASA, and Ive learned that being out there isnt just a series of breathtaking moments. Its a mix of the transcendently magical and the deeply prosaic. It can be crowded, noisy, and occasionally uncomfortable. Space travelat least the way we do it todayisnt glamorous. But you cant beat the view!


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8. Edgar Mitchell (on flying pack from the moon): When we started home, I had a little more time to look out the window then the other guys, because my tasks had already been completed [...] I fully understood that the molecules in my body, the molecules in my partners bodies and in the spacecraft, had been prototyped in some ancient generation of stars. In other words, it was pretty obvious from those description we're stardust.

Well, that was pretty awesome and powerful.


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9. Luca Parmitano: While I was tethered to one of the arms of the space station, I had about 7 minutes of free time. My hands were free and I held a camera. Then, all of a sudden, I saw my first orbital sunrise.

In just a moment, all the colours of Earth appear out of nowhere.

The landscapes resembles a view from the Bible. We orbit around Earth at about 38,000 km/h and in a direction opposite to Earths rotation. All of a sudden, you see an orbital sunrise. All the colours rise from darkness. Imagine first the colour of the sea, the millions shades of blue, white waves, ochre land and green forests. In just a moment, all the colours of Earth appear out of nowhere.

In that moment, we perceive all the uniqueness and magnificent beauty of our planet. Earth is the only planet we have, the only one hosting life as we know it. Yet Earth does not belong to us, neither does our future: it is up to us, but it does not belong to us. This is the time to think about our planet and how to take care of it.


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10. Neil Armstrong: I was surprised by a number of things, and I'm not sureI can't recall them all now.I was surprised by the apparent closeness of the horizon. I was surprised by the trajectory of dustthat you kicked up with your boot, and I was surprised that even though logic would have told methat there shouldn't be any, there was no dust when you kicked. You never had a cloud of dustthere. That's a product of having an atmosphere, and when you don't have an atmosphere, you don'thave any clouds of dust.

I was absolutely dumbfounded when I shut the rocket engine off and... (continued on the next page...)


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I was absolutely dumbfounded when I shut the rocket engine off andthe particles that were going out radially from the bottom of the engine fell all the way out over the horizon, and when I shut the engine off, they just raced out over the horizon and instantaneously disappeared, you know, just like it had been shut off for a week. That was remarkable. I'd never seen that. I'd never seen anything like that. And logic says, yes, that's the way it ought to be there, but I hadn't thought about it and I was surprised.


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11. Scott Kelly (after spending a year on the ISS): The hardest part is being isolated, in a physical sense, from the people on the ground that are important to you There is certainly a loss of connection [to] the folks on the ground that you feel for and love.


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12. Leroy Chiao (describing being in zero gravity for the first time): Your inner ear thinks youre tumbling: the balance system in there is going all over the place Meanwhile your eyes are telling you youre not tumbling; youre upright. The two systems are sending all this contradictory information to your brain.


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13. Sandra Magnus: The night sky is inky black against the night horizon of the Earth. In the night sky, though, sparkle uncounted points of light, some white, some red, some orange, all of different sizes. They are everywhere. The Milky Way is clearly evident. It rises up from behind the Earth like a glowing white path leading off into the distance, inviting you to follow. The stars surrounded the Earth and wrap around her horizon - a blanket of light illustrating that we are not alone. You are swimming in a sea of beautiful lights that can only be seen in the dark.

As you gaze at the multitude of points glittering in the night, it is hard to imagine that each one is a world or worlds or stars like our sun. They are so remote and seem so tiny. The vastness of space is truly evident as you watch the Earth turn slowly beneath. It is awe inspiring and overwhelming all at once and oh, so beautiful!


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14. Don Pettit (in regards to the "space smell'): It is hard to describe this smell; it is definitely not the olfactory equivalent to describing the palette sensations of some new food as tastes like chicken. The best description I can come up with is metallic; a rather pleasant sweet metallic sensation. It reminded me of my college summers where I labored for many hours with an arc welding torch repairing heavy equipment for a small logging outfit. It reminded me of pleasant sweet smelling welding fumes. That is the smell of space.


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15. Greg Chamitoff: Seeing so much blackness, while seeing the Earth so brightly lit, was a contrast that surprised me more than expected. Although we are not so far away from the Earth in this orbit, different from being in an aircraft, the sensation was of two objects, our ship and the Earth, both floating in a dark void. And then there was another feeling (continued on the next page...).

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It wasn't that the Earth looked small, in fact it looks huge - the biggest thing you've ever seen - but from here you can see its shape, its size, and you get a gut feeling of being able to measure it with your own eyes. It's not the view, but this feeling that goes with it, of being able to measure it, that really washed over me as we began our approach to the station.


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16. Peggy Whitson: The most impressive view is the curve of the planet at the horizon. That curve is the special place where it is possible to see the layers of atmosphere extend beyond the surface to meet with the blackness of space beyond. Relative to the size of the Earth, it seems impossibly thin, less than a finger-width. The atmosphere carries all the shades of blue in that thin band, closest to the planet a glowing blue, like sunlit water over white sand, extending to the deepest blue-purple mixture that holds the blackness at bay [...]

I am sure that after I return, I will again miss watching the curve of the Earth.


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17. Clayton Anderson: Living on the International Space Station (ISS) gives me a perspective that I often imagined on the ground, but now I am blessed to have first hand knowledge of that perspective and to put it simply, it boggles my imagination! It is a place that is absolutely free of borders; a place where its beauty is for lack of a better wordoverwhelming. I have been amazed at the differences you can see from orbit, simply by the change in the suns angle, the time of day or the direction from which I look.


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18. Sunita Williams: We really have the most beautiful planet in our solar system. None other can sustain life like we know it. None other has blue water and white clouds covering colorful landmasses filled with thriving, beautiful, living things like human beings. We are lucky, and to quote a great movie, we are a privileged planet. I do hope there are other wonderful planets living and thriving out there, but ours is special because it is ours and ours to take care of. We really can't take that too lightly.


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19. Leland Melvin (on coming back home): Driving felt interesting because you've been travelling at 17,500 miles per hour. And then you come back, get in your car, and your going 60 miles per hour. It changes the way you think about speed.


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20. Don Pettit (getting ready for a space walk): In the sci-fi movies, astronauts can quickly don their spacesuits and in short order, be out the door in the vacuum of space. They seem to always be in a hurry to chase bad guys, alien monsters, or look for holes in the hull spewing out precious atmosphere. In the reality of our current technology, it does not happen this way (continued on the next page...).

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Perhaps with future invention it will be more like in the movies, but for the present, we have less advanced technology.

Nothing happens fast during the preparations for a space walk.


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21. Ed Lu: After our 6 months in space, we will have actually aged slightly less than everyone else on the ground because of an effect called time dilation. It isn't by much (about 0.007 seconds), but it is one side benefit of flying in space!


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22. Jeff Hoffman: You do, from that perspective, see the Earth as a planet. You see the sun as a star we see the sun in a blue sky, but up there, you see the sun in a black sky. So, yeah, you are seeing it from the cosmic perspective.

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23. Marsha Ivins: One of the strangest experiences in space is one of the simplest on Earth: sleeping. On the shuttle, you strap your sleeping bag to the wall or the ceiling or the floor, wherever you want, and you get in. Its like camping. The bag has armholes, so you stick your arms through, reaching outside the bag to zip it up. You tighten the Velcro straps around you to make you feel like youre tucked in. Then you strap your head to the pillowa block of foamwith another Velcro strap, to allow your neck to relax. If you dont tuck your arms into the bag, they drift out in front of you. Sometimes you wake up in the morning to see an arm floating in front of your face and think, Whoa! What is that? until you realize its yours.


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24. John Grunsfeld: Whether in our own backyards, on a cold and remote mountaintop, or in earth orbit, the beauty of the heavens is always present, and the drive to explore and to indulge our curiosity is always strong.


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25. Scott Kelly (talking about looking at Earth from the ISS): The more I look at it the more I feel like an environmentalist. There are definite areas where the Earth is covered in pollution all the time. This is a human effect not naturally occurring.


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26. Bill Oefelein: There's something special about seeing your home from the air and something I found even better about seeing it from space.


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27. Dan Bursch: Flying through Station is more fun than I thought it would be. We fly like Superman from one end to the other, being careful to know when to slow down and what big pieces of structure to miss (if you hit something hard, it still hurts!)


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28. Nicole Stott: The food is wonderful. Of course we have a mix from all the partners now. The result is a sort of orbital smorgasbord that includes food from the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan and Europe.

I think you can find something for everyone.


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29. Frank Culbertson: This is a lesson for all of us: It's amazing what you can see when you just plain stop your hectic pace for an hour and open your eyes wide to watch the world go by. There are a lot of surprises and a lot of beautiful sights in this creation. Let them come to you.


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