National Geographic : 2018 Mar
72 national geographic • march 2018 Careers in space U.S. (337 people) Other countries (101) U.S.S.R./Russia (118) Short stay (< 30 days) Extended stay (> 30 days) Intervals between spaceflights 1960 1970 1990 2000 2010 100th person in space 200 300 400 500 First human in space: April 1961 First woman in space: June 1963 First human to walk on the moon: July 20, 1969 Oldest human in space: 77 years old page 76 Longest cumulative time spent in space: 878 days (5 missions) First space tourist— one of seven people to pay the Russian Space Agency for a trip to space On the cover Longest cumulative time spent in space by an American: 665 days (3 missions) page 68 page 77 Ed Lu 36 years elapsed between John Glenn’s spaceflights Longest time continuously spent in space: 437 days Valeri Polyakov Yuri Gagarin Neil Armstrong Valentina Tereshkova Dennis Tito Leland Melvin Samantha Cristoforetti Mike Massimino page 74 Karen Nyberg page 70 page 76 Gennady Padalka Peggy Whitson John Glenn It’s an inherently unnatural thing, spaceflight. After all, our physiology evolved specifically to succeed on this planet, not above it. Perhaps that’s why it can be difficult for astronauts to de- scribe the experience of seeing Earth from space. Italian space traveler Luca Parmitano says that we haven’t yet developed the words to truly convey the realities of spaceflight. The building blocks of modern human communication, words are necessarily constrained by meaning and con- notation, no matter which language you choose (Parmitano speaks five). And until the mid-20th century, there was no need to express what it means to see our planet in the fiercely primeval essence of space. “We just don’t think in terms of spaceflight,” he says. Seeing Earth from space can change a person’s worldview. U.S. astronaut Nicole Stott flew twice on the space shuttle Discovery and returned with a new drive for creating artwork depicting the view. Canadian spacefarer Chris Hadfield says that while orbiting Earth, he felt more connect- ed to the people on the planet than ever before. Kathy Sullivan, who in 1984 became the first American woman to perform a space walk, re- turned with an abiding awe for the intricate systems that come together to make Earth an improbable oasis. “ The thing that grew in me over these flights was a real motivation and desire ... to not just enjoy these sights and take these pictures,” she says, “but to make it matter.” After retiring from NASA, Sullivan led the Na- tional Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for three years, using the robotic eyes of orbiting satellites to pursue her passion. She says Earth from above is so captivatingly beautiful, she nev- er grew bored looking at it. “I’m not sure I’d want to be in the same room with someone who could get tired of that.” Even when words fail us, a single picture of home from above can change the perspectives of millions of people. In 1968 the Apollo 8 crew became the first people to rocket far away from Earth and loop around the moon. On Christmas Eve, astronaut William Anders snapped what would become an unforgettable image: a lush world rising above the sterile, cratered lunar horizon. Now called “Earthrise,” the photo- graph boosted awareness of our planet’s beauty and fragility. “ Twenty eighteen is the 50-year anniversary of that iconic picture that helped define the en- vironmental movement. What are the course cor- rections we need to do now that will help us get to the hundredth anniversary?” asks U.S. astronaut Leland Melvin. He’s working with a coalition of fellow space travelers to rethink how we balance ecological health and human needs. The project will use astronauts’ experiences to help others adopt more sustainable lifestyles. Clearly, a desire to protect the planet is com- mon among those who have left it. Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka has logged more cumulative days in space than anyone else. The allure of spaceflight kept him on the job for 28 years, but something even more powerful than gravity kept bringing him home. “ We are genetically connected to this planet,” he says. And to the best of our knowledge, Earth is unique in its ability to support life as we know it. The past decade of astronomy has shown us that we are one among billions of worlds in the Milky Way galaxy, but our tangled web of geology, ecology, and biology makes this strange rock the only one in reach that’s just right for humans. There really is no place like home. j Contributing writer Nadia Drake once applied to be an astronaut and now feeds her curiosity by covering the cosmos. Photographer Martin Schoeller’s cover story on the Amazon’s Kayapo people appeared in the January 2014 issue of National Geographic.