5 Washington astronauts try to express outer space with words: "greatness that is beyond what I can describe"

There are 7,700,000,000 people on Earth. Only 562 have flown into space, and five of them live in this state.

So, yes, it's a very, very select group.

Three men and two women, aged between 44 and 85 years, who accumulated more than 2,440 hours without weight, with those shuttles flying through 16 dawns and 16 sunsets each day at 17,500 miles per hour, their eyes Seeing the Earth in deeper colors. that any photograph can match.

As the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing approaches, they may try to explain how it went there, but they recognize that it is not enough.

"I felt very connected to God and to greatness that is beyond what I can describe," says Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, of Lake Forest Park, who in April 2010 was a flight engineer on a 15-day trip in a liaison service to replenish the International Agency. Spacial station. She traveled 6.2 million miles in 238 terrestrial orbits.

"My brain wanted to rationalize everything, but some things just need to be absorbed and experienced."

He tried to explain it to his family: "the beauty of the heavens and the earth; the immensity that can not be shown because the photos have borders. "She says:" I'm sure my words fell short. "

Metcalf-Lindenburger, Bill Anders, John Creighton, Gregory C. Johnson and Wendy Lawrence are not students of philosophy, so they would expect to contemplate why we are here.

These were individuals with a background in geology, aeronautics, nuclear engineering, ocean engineering or as a test pilot. For some, however, what they felt in space was spiritual.

Astronauts Gregory C. Johnson, John Creighton and Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger are familiar with NASA's space shuttle trainer at the Seattle Museum of Flight. The three used this trainer for their transportation missions. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

Astronauts Gregory C. Johnson, John Creighton and Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger are familiar with NASA's space shuttle trainer at the Seattle Museum of Flight. The three used this trainer for their transportation missions. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

Says Johnson, from Kent, who in May 2009 did a shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope: "You can not look to the cosmos and not think that there is a higher power creating all this." And, he says, there is something else. "There has to be someone out there."

Anders, 85, who divides the residences between Anacortes and San Diego, was the pilot of the lunar orbit module for Apollo 8 in December 1968: the first manned spacecraft to successfully surround the moon.

He opened the way to Apollo 11 and made the trip launched by the powerful Saturn V rocket that had experienced flaws and flaws in the instruments. Apollo 8 was originally going to go to low Earth orbit, but the program for the program was advanced after the CIA intelligence failed to find that the Soviet Union was preparing its own moon landing mission. There were no setbacks on this trip.

Anders is the one who took the historical photo of "Exit of the Earth": the Earth that looks out from beyond the lunar surface. Time magazine included it among the 100 most influential photos in history.

"In the history of mankind, almost all people thought that we were the center of the solar system. We are not the center of anything, except in our own minds, "says Anders.

Actually, the planners had not thought that Apollo 8 was an unprecedented opportunity to look back on Earth. The crew took many pictures of the surface of the moon.

But, says Anders, "the moon was mistreated and ugly, uninteresting. And here was the Earth.

An audio recording of the mission has Anders exclaiming as he looks at the blue and white of our planet: "Oh, my God! Look at that picture there! Here is the Earth that is coming. Wow, that's nice! "

Using a Hbadelblad camera with a 250 mm lens, Anders took two color images, varying the exposure, including the historical one. The camera has been modified to include special large locks for film loaders and levers in the f-stop and distance settings on the lenses, for astronauts to use with pressurized suits and gloves.

"I'm not a great ecologist, but I think that image basically drove the environmental movement," says Anders.

For him, the image means: "We must treat the Earth with care and not as people who throw bombs and rockets".

On Christmas Eve 1968, Anders, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell sent a message of peace to Earth. They took turns reading the book of Genesis. In the Anders portion: "And God said: Let there be light, and there was light."

He says that Borman came up with the idea.

"In those days I was more religious. I thought it was a good choice. The history of creation goes through many beliefs, almost all beliefs, "says Anders.

Dreams come true

For these astronauts, a common thread is a fascination for space that began in childhood.

Metcalf-Lindenburger is 44 years old and now works as an environmental geologist in soil and groundwater issues.

She still wears the ring she bought when she was 14, has a crescent moon and a star, and took her on the shuttle.

I was around 8 years old when the 1983 movie "The Right Stuff" came out. He saw him with his parents in Loveland, Colorado. That same year, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. She was hooked.

There is the majesty of space, and then there are the less than majestic aspects of a space mission.

Metcalf-Lindenburger, like 60% to 70% of astronauts, vomited due to what is called "space movement disease".

Without a sense of up or down, the vestibular system of cameras and channels in our ears that gives us balance "is not receiving any signal," she says. "I was sick during the first hours in space, and on my return."

Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, of Lake Forest Park, flew on the space shuttle Discovery in April 2010. (NASA)

Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, of Lake Forest Park, flew on the space shuttle Discovery in April 2010. (NASA)

Something more than some astronauts notice is that the space smells a bit of metal. Well, it's not really the space.

"When we bring the spacewalkers back to the air hatch, and we open the hatch, it smells of metal. It is likely that this is an interaction of our outfits and tools that come out and interact with the sun's radiation, "she says.

Johnson, 64, a 1972 graduate of West Seattle, had never flown on a plane until he was 17 years old. "My father was frugal, we made trips by car.

But he saw planes when the family picked up someone arriving at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and wondered how such large objects could fly. Thus began his interest in space.

Johnson is now senior vice president of the New Shepard suborbital rockets project for Blue Origin by Jeff Bezos.

John Creighton, 76, of Burien, was a pilot on a shuttle mission in 1985, and a commander in the shuttle missions of 1990 and 1991.

The 1961 Ballard High graduate remembers three things that sparked his interest in space.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik I, the world's first satellite. It was the size of a beach ball.

Remember that he climbed on the roof of his family's house in Ballard about an hour before sunset to try to see Sputnik illuminated by the sun.

And then there was the annual visit of the Blue Angels flight squad for the water races, and the headlines about Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet cosmonaut who in April 1961 became the first human being to fly into space. Completed an orbit

Sometimes Creighton talks to school children. "If you want to become an astronaut, do not let anyone tell you otherwise, I am living proof that dreams come true."

"A good walk"

What all astronauts remember is the great power of takeoff.

The energy released at full power by the three main engines of the shuttle is equal to that created by 13 Hoover dams, according to NASA.

In a takeoff, says Creighton, "Until you experience it for the first time, you do not appreciate the tremendous brute force that traps you in the seat, with all the vibration on top."

That would last 2 minutes, 11 seconds, says Creighton, then the solid rocket booster would shut off and, shortly thereafter, the bolts that held the thrusters would be discharged and the rockets would be ignited to accelerate the shuttle until it reached orbit.

"You hear this boom, boom, boom. It only lasts between half a second and second, but it seems longer. It catches you by surprise, "he says.

Briefly, the windshield is engulfed in flames.

"I describe it as sounding like World War II happened right outside the windows."

Astronauts can have a dry mood. "It's a good ride," he said, adding, "built by the highest bidder."

Wendy Lawrence, 60, of Ferndale, Whatcom County, traveled as a mission specialist on connecting flights in March 1995, September-October 1997, June 1998 and July-August 2005. She works part-time in the Alabama Space Camp and Kennedy Space. Center Visitor Complex in Florida and is on the advisory board of the Bothell campus of the University of Washington.

He was 10 years old, his family lived just north of San Diego, and he remembers Apollo 11 and Neil Armstrong taking those first steps on the moon.

"My brother and my sister and I were lying on the floor in front of the TV, I was absolutely hypnotized, it absolutely caught my imagination, I remember thinking: I want to be an astronaut when I grow up. back, I looked at the rest of the family and said that. "

And then there's the first time you do not weigh, not for a few seconds in a simulation, but really, in space.

"You push and somersault through the crew compartment," says Lawrence.

Lawrence also talks about that sense of wonder that only astronauts can feel the first time they see the Earth from above.

"On my first launch, the commander of the mission grabbed me and put my face in the window. "Take a look!", Remember Lawrence. The photos I had seen did not compare to the real ones.

"Our eyes see a much more dynamic range of colors, and there's the vivid 3D effect," she says. "You can see the clouds over the ocean, and then a much higher thunderstorm."

The crew of Apollo 8 goes from the meeting room to pick up a van that will take them to the launch pad in December 1968. The mission in which humans first circled the moon was Apollo 8. (NASA)

The crew of Apollo 8 goes from the meeting room to pick up a van that will take them to the launch pad in December 1968. The mission in which humans first circled the moon was Apollo 8. (NASA)

One more question

The five astronauts were asked this question: if world leaders could experience space, would it change them?

Lawrence: "Yes, no doubt, you do not see obvious borders, you see a place, you see the Earth in an intensely black space, it looks very small and very fragile, this is our home."

Creighton: "I hope you appreciate more what we are doing with the Earth, I could see the tropical rainforests of the Amazon, and you were seeing that more and more lands are being destroyed and the roads are starting to grow more and more."

Anders: "I hope so." I have been so disappointed with the behavior of the so-called world leaders these days, I'm not sure what they would do. "

Johnson: "I do it, we would focus everyone to work more as a team of humans to take care of the Earth."

Metcalf-Lindenburger: "Maybe, if they thought as teammates and saw Earth as their precious spacecraft, but I'm not sure it matters, they are who they are, I do not see the world leaders exchanged for space."

Those are three pretty encouraging responses in five. Taking into account the times we live in, it's not bad.

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