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In Their Own Words: Stephen Frick
STEPHEN FRICK: It's a challenge, because it's one of those things, it's hard to explain if you haven't been there. But the main things are the view. I mean, the view of the Earth from space is just astounding and amazing. It's more beautiful than the highest mountaintop you have ever seen. But you're also, you're up in the space environment where everything above you is blackness. And you can see the Earth below you and the atmosphere, and it looks so beautiful and green and blue.
Well, I think the moment that stood out for me was my first real look at the Earth on my first mission.
You launch and you're very busy for 8 to 10 minutes as the engines are going and getting you safely into orbit.
And then you're still quite busy for the next whole orbit, basically, as you get the orbiter changed around from being a rocket on launch to being an orbital
vehicle. We're busy in the front, we've got our suits on, it's kind of uncomfortable.
And then there was a moment about an hour into the flight where I happened to look out to my right, out my right window, and I looked down,
we were over the Pacific, and there was Hawaii right below us and it looked just huge. We were only about 90 miles up at that point,
which seems like a long way up, but the Earth looks pretty big from there. And I just saw the beautiful Hawaiian Islands passing underneath as we
went over at five miles a second. And that was a really amazing sight. That really burned into my memory from my first mission.
It varies very much from one person to the next. For me, it was about a day. You know, you spend your whole life down here at 1 G and then you're
thrown into this zero-G microgravity where you're just floating and everything's floating. It takes awhile for your body to get used to that.
But after about a day, you're kind of back to normal and you can do your work for the rest of the mission.
And it's the same in reverse when you come home. You've spent almost two weeks up in zero G and you come back on entry and into land,
and it takes your body a couple days to kind of get used to being back down here in this 1 G environment. But that's about all. After that,
you're back to normal.
It's a very different experience. I mean, the shuttle's coming in as a glider, so we're very interested after we do our deorbit burn on the other side of the
world, basically, of tracking our progress very carefully across the Pacific and then across Mexico and the Caribbean as we come into the Kennedy
Space Center. And then once you get close to the Kennedy Space Center, coming in on that steep dive,
lining up with the runway and getting it touched down much faster than an airliner or even a tactical jet would touch down.
We spend a lot of time practicing, a lot of practice approaches, all have well over 1,000 by the time we get to do it for real. So it's an interesting task,
but we get a lot of practice for it.
Probably all of the folks that are currently astronauts, you know, we didn't think we were going to be astronauts when we grew up.
We just decided to do something that we really loved and were really interested in. And we went down a path that eventually we found out, hey,
I can go fly to NASA with this resume. So we did, and then we were very lucky to be picked. So if someone's interested in spaceflight,
and I hope most people are because it's an amazing experience, the best way to get there is to do what you're really interested in.
Do what you love and that'll give you the motivation to really do well and to excel, and that's really what NASA's looking for.
We love to have folks that are great at what they're interested in, what they do, and we can make use of that.
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