What would you do if you were floating in space, blind?
Canadian Space Agency astronaut Chris Hadfield — who recently served as commander of the International Space Station — recounted his Gravity-like experience in a mind-blowing talk Monday night in Vancouver at TED 2014.
The astronaut described what it was like to be temporarily blinded while only holding onto the International Space Station with one arm in the almost incomprehensible blackness of space.
During a spacewalk, he said, his left eye went blind after a drop of a mixture of oil and soap solution, which the astronauts use to keep their visors fog-free, got in his eye.
He felt a horrible pain and started to tear up. But without gravity, those tears don’t fall; they just bubbled up and spread over his other eye. “Now I was completely blind outside of the spaceship,” he said.
“If you are outside on a spacewalk and blinded,” he said, “it would make you nervous and worried.” Because of all his training and preparation, the astronaut said he stayed completely calm. “Our natural panicky reaction doesn’t happen,” he said, “even if you are blinded.”
Hadfield was confident in his crew and his capabilities, so the ground crew let him keep working. He eventually stopped tearing up and regained his sight.
“Now we use Johnson’s No More Tears,” Hadfield said of the new anti-fog mixture. “We probably should have been using [that] since the beginning.”
This isn’t the first mishap to happen during a spacewalk, and it wasn’t the last either. Just last year NASA had to cut a spacewalk short after Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano almost drowned because of a leak in his suit’s plumbing.
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