Mark Kelly, The Spirit of Exploration

Published on01 MAY 2015

Retired astronaut, retired US Navy Captain and author of the New York Times best-selling memoir Gabby: A Story of Courage, Love and Resilience, Mark Kelly discusses space exploration and the human desire to explore.


On the feeling of liftoff: “Imagine if you are on a train going down the railroad tracks at 1,000 miles per hour, and you just keep accelerating. The space simulator mimics the systems and procedures, but it can’t simulate the feeling of this experience – like you’re on the edge, the tip of a needle and almost out of control. We accelerate from zero to 17,500 miles an hour in just eight and a half minutes. Two minutes later the rocket boosters come off, and a little while later the engines shut down and you’re in space, going around this big planet with 7.5 billion people every 90 minutes.”

On his approach to teamwork: “When we started training for a [space shuttle] flight, I would sit my crew members down and tell them, ‘You are required to question my decisions. You don’t always have to do it out loud where I can hear you, but if you think we should be doing something differently, and it affects safety or mission success, you need to tell me about it. We’ll figure it out together.’ [This approach] will always make for a better environment and a better team.”

On seeing the big picture: “In the military and in the Navy, we talk about compartmentalization – focusing on the stuff that you can control. I try to pay attention to details, but I don’t sweat the small stuff [now]. It can be challenging, but you have to remember there’s stuff you can control and there’s stuff that doesn’t matter – you just have to try to do your job as best you can.”

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