By necessity, touring to space means leaving Earth — however that round-trip journey additionally means coming again to Earth, and for retired NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, that piece of the expertise was essential.
Stott outlines how residing and dealing on the International Space Station modified the best way she thinks about residing on Earth in her new ebook, “Back to Earth: What Life in Space Taught Me About Our Home Planet — and Our Mission to Protect It” (Seal Press, 2021). (Read an excerpt from “Back to Earth.”)
Stott opens “Back to Earth” by telling the story of Apollo 8’s well-known Earthrise picture and inspiring readers to search out their very own second of such planetary reflection (with out having to journey fairly so far as the lunar orbit that mission’s crew reached.)
Space.com known as Stott to speak concerning the ebook, her time in space and what she’s been doing since returning to Earth. This interview has been edited for size and readability.
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Space.com: Why did you wish to write this ebook?
Nicole Stott: This shouldn’t be a memoir. Really what I wished it to be was the story of how now we have achieved such wonderful work as this worldwide group on the International Space Station. If I needed to sum up the message within the ebook within the easiest way it could be that I feel the best ability we might study as Earthlings is methods to be crewmates and never passengers. There’s an enormous, large distinction.
Space.com: It appears notable to me that you simply waited some time after retiring from the astronaut corps to jot down this, how did that point have an effect on you?
Stott: I feel if I had written this ebook quickly after retiring, it could have been a really totally different ebook. It might have been extra the memoir, the how did Nicole become an astronaut. Lots of people like listening to these tales, and I take pleasure in studying the books that my colleagues have written about these experiences, and I feel that’s compelling in a technique.
What I’ve discovered attention-grabbing, although, is that there is little tidbits in all of these tales that talk ultimately or one other to what I’m making an attempt to get at in “Back to Earth.” And as time went on, I discovered that for me, wow, these little tidbits had been completely the extra highly effective factor.
I hope everybody who reads it finds their very own name to motion from it, how they’ll discover this path to being crewmembers, and that that may come to life for them via one thing they learn on this ebook. What factor can they do of their lives that may permit them to tackle that position extra strongly? What else can they be doing? I do not imply it to be prescriptive in any method. But I need it to be one thing that they’ll learn and maybe latch onto ultimately that encourages them to search out their very own path, discover their very own position.
Space.com: How did you go concerning the course of of mixing your recollections from space with the Earth-related themes and subjects you wished to cowl?
Stott: Each chapter is a name to motion by itself based mostly on an expertise I had in space, whether or not that is the coaching that we do or how we find yourself working collectively or the philosophies that now we have to create a profitable mission.
The first chapter is “act like everything is local.” There’s this sense of, “What’s going on on the other side of the planet?” or, “Oh, that doesn’t affect me, because I don’t live there.” But while you go to space and also you look again at Earth, it is like, “Holy moly, we live on a planet.” It’s one place that, regardless of the way you take a look at it, is linked — interconnected — and we’re, due to that, interdependent. So something I do in a single place is, in a technique or one other, whether or not we understand it or not, affecting each place else and everybody else.
I attempt to use this expertise of seeing Earth from space to convey collectively the important thing components of how we expertise that down right here on Earth. What I attempted to do in every chapter is share some side of what it is prefer to dwell in space, what introduced this fashion of being to gentle for me, and the way that affected the best way we might efficiently work as a crew onboard the space station. Then, I showcase work that is taking place in space that’s according to that, after which additionally showcase somebody who’s already working in not only a very passionate method however in a really profitable strategy to convey that method of being to life, doing issues right here on Earth which are enhancing life for all of us.
Space.com: Your astronaut class is nicknamed the “Bugs” and you’ve got this beautiful unhappy story of watching damselflies as a child after which realizing you hadn’t seen them in years and years. When did you make the connection between these two snippets of your life?
Stott: It was whereas I used to be writing the ebook, I used to be beginning to consider experiences I’ve had. Part of what I share in that chapter is there’s been rather a lot within the information with respect to extinction-level occasions — just like the “insect apocalypse” — and also you learn a headline like that, and you are like, “What the heck?”
I attempted to determine “how can I relate what I’m reading about something that’s happening on a planetary scale to something I’ve experienced in my own life?” And I spotted that wow, I can not bear in mind the final time I noticed one in every of these little stunning bugs that I had been surrounded by as a child. Thankfully, due to among the individuals I spoke to, I found that they haven’t disappeared, they’re nonetheless with us, whereas not in mass like they had been and the way I bear in mind as a baby. I simply bear in mind crying and being so grateful that they weren’t gone.
Since then, I maintain my eye out for them and I, very thankfully, have come throughout them once more. The different day, there was this one lone blue damselfly on the glass, and I took an image of it, as a result of it simply shocked me. It was like this little present from God or one thing to remind me that it is vital for us to concentrate to those creatures and the position they’ve with us, but in addition that they have not left us but. It simply jogged my memory — and that is one thing I attempted to share within the ebook too — that we simply must be open and searching for the awe and surprise round us on a regular basis.
And that little damselfly comes again — I do not know if it is the identical one or not. But I feel there’s issues like that in all of our lives, proper? Where we have simply one way or the other moved alongside in our life and we overlook about issues, after which they arrive again for no matter motive to remind us of one thing particular or to assist make us conscious of different issues which are happening round us and to assist us open our coronary heart — not simply our eyes, however our hearts and our minds — to what these items are sharing with us.
Space.com: You write favorably about watching spaceflyer Guy Laliberté’s space station go to in 2009. I’m curious what your ideas are on non-public spaceflight now with the Inspiration4 mission again from orbit and Axiom’s first flight sure for the space station scheduled to launch subsequent 12 months?
Stott: I’m so enthusiastic about all of this. I feel it is elevating consciousness in individuals. Some persons are not so happy with it. Others, like me, I’m actually, actually enthusiastic about it. And I’m actually hopeful that the individuals that are not happy or do not perceive the goodness on this, that perhaps they have not been aware about or have not been enthusiastic about space exploration on the whole. If you take note of what is going on on within the space business, actually all that is taking place in space is finally about enhancing life on Earth. I truthfully consider that.
Guy coming to the station — someone might take a look at that like, “Oh, here’s this billionaire who got to fly to space, spent 10 days, 12 days on the space station, checked that off his bucket list, and then moved on.” What I noticed in Guy and [other private visitors to the space station], each single one in every of them, for positive, had their private motivation of eager to fly in space one day, to expertise that on each stage that you would be able to, after which thankfully had the chance to try this. But I can also say that for each single one in every of them, in a technique or one other, that mission was a mission. It was larger than simply them and their need to fly in space. Guy was an ideal instance of that: He used that complete flight in a strategy to lengthen on his mission on Earth to make individuals extra conscious of entry to scrub water.
I feel that in a technique or one other, that’s taking place with all the individuals which are going to search out their strategy to space. It’s actually true for astronauts which are a part of NASA or the federal government applications. I do not suppose all of us do it as a result of it is this journey. There actually is the adventurous a part of it — I’m going to drift, I’m going to fly, I’m going to experience a rocket — however I’d not have achieved any of that if I did not consider that the work was worthwhile and that I used to be going to be a part of one thing that was bringing again one thing good to Earth. I actually would not strap myself to a rocket with my seven-year-old at residence watching me try this if I did not consider that what I used to be going to do was going to have some optimistic impression on his life, on his future.
Space.com: Is there anything you want to focus on concerning the ebook?
Stott: The name to motion factor is an enormous deal to me. I really need individuals to learn this and positively be impressed by what we’re doing in space to study extra about that and the way these items are enhancing life on Earth. But [also] I need them to search out their very own private name to motion as Earthlings, as crewmates.
I can not oversimplify it any greater than I do with what I realized from all of the complexity of space, which is:
Oh my gosh, we dwell on a planet.
We are all Earthlings.
The solely border that issues is that skinny blue line of environment.
Those are completely the three issues that interconnect all of us on our mission as crewmates right here on Spaceship Earth.
I’ll admit, I didn’t myself actively consider all of these issues, these easy issues in my every day life earlier than flying to space. And I need individuals to understand them, to convey them into their very own lives and understand that you do not have to fly to space to know these items. And it actually, actually ought to encourage us to wish to dwell like a crew, to respect and deal with one another and all life we share the planet with — and the planet itself.