Astronaut Chris Hadfield opens his TED talk with this question: “What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?”. Colonel Hadfield is a talented musician who created the first ever music video in space – his rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” which speaks to a loss in verbal communication: Ground control to Major Tom …
Ground control didn’t ask Colonel Chris if anything was wrong with his vision during his space walk because they couldn’t see that he had gone blind. It was an internalized experience that he describes beginning at the 7:56 mark of this stirring video.
Your natural reaction to being temporarily blinded would be to panic, but in virtual reality training astronauts practice things such as this going wrong. As Hadfield quipped, astronauts have a saying that “There is no problem so bad that you can’t make it worse”. So they practice incapacitated crew rescue, simulations in which literally anything can go awry. Turns out it was just a mixture of oil and soap that got in his eyes that temporarily blinded him, and now they use Johnson’s No More Tears to avoid that problem. Yet what Colonel Hadfield is really addressing in his TED talk is one’s ability to conquer fear, and in a way it’s about leaving naiveté behind.
Kristin Hadfield has noted that neither of her brothers could follow in her father’s footsteps because they are color blind (not a temporary condition, and a disqualification for becoming an astronaut). She is not a candidate to follow in dad’s footsteps either because she experiences motion sickness, a deal-breaker of sorts. Even absent these physical issues none of the Hadfield children seem to share their dad’s penchant for risk-taking in space. All is not lost, however. There are plenty of risks to take on earth, and Hadfield’s perspectives are valuable in overcoming the fears associated with them. Aside from a nice book that he wrote on preparedness and the power of positive thinking, Chris has the courage to sport a perfect moustache.