Today’s guest is Nicole Stott, a veteran NASA astronaut. When the idea for Le vital corps Salon was only a scribble in a notebook, I scrawled a list of roles in which women likely had to navigate BS and mitigate burnout. (Y’all know how much I love lists, right?) Astronaut, of course, was on that potential guest wishlist. While I believe almost anything is possible, I knew the odds were small. Astronauts are busy folks. Yet, here we are. Today’s episode is proof-positive that intentionally aiming for the stars may well get you there - for Nicole and me. Tune in to learn how this episode came to fruition, but first, a little more background on today’s guest.
Nicole’s NASA experience includes 2 space flights, 104 days spent living and working on a space shuttle and the International Space Station. If that wasn’t enough, she performed 1 space walk and was a crew member on the final flight of Spaceship Discovery. Yet, one of her most memorable experiences is painting the first watercolor in space.
Nicole has soared to the heights of outer space and dove to the depths of the Earth’s ocean as a NASA aquanaut. She’s now incredibly dedicated to sharing the beauty of Earth from space with others, especially through art. In this episode, Nicole and I talk a lot about art and how she ended up painting in space, her relationship with space and Earthlings, and the interconnectivity between all of these things.
Whether your feet are firmly planted on the ground or you are orbiting the Earth, this episode is ready for your listening pleasure in T-1 click below. Let’s lift off with Nicole!
Selected link love + resources from the episode:
Space for Art Foundation (Nicole’s work now)
ILC Dover (maker of space suits and contributor to the Space Suit Art Project)
One Strange Rock, National Geographic w/ Darren Aronofsky (featuring Nicole and hosted by Will Smith)
Chasing Space: An Astronaut's Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances by Leland Melvin (book)
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Quotes + selected highlights from the episode
All of this wisdom is from Nicole herself (with some minor edits for readability).
[00:10:10] On the schedule, there's eight hours set aside for sleep. Thank you. [Kara note: If astronauts zooming around the Earth can regularly fit in a solid 8 hours of Vitamin Zzz, I want to challenge everyone listening to make their sleep a priority, too.]
[00:10:54] There are also two hours of exercise. This is done as a countermeasure to what space is doing to your body. No gravity is wonderful when it comes to floating and flying around, but your brain and your body also figure out that you don't need bones or muscles anymore to survive up there so they don't waste any energy maintaining them. We have to be very deliberate about an exercise routine.
[00:16:15] [On the experience of being in space] It was a pretty unique and very special experience. It has impacted me very positively for the rest of my life.
[00:16:13] [On the experience of being in space] It comes down to three things for me. I didn't necessarily think about them before I flew. They are: We live on a planet; we're all Earthlings; and the only border that matters is that thin blue line of atmosphere that blankets us all. Those three things, to me, are the basic definition of who and where we are. It speaks completely to the interconnectivity of everything that goes on here on Earth.
[00:17:23] We have built this space station that essentially mimics what Earth does for us naturally. It's the most complex thing we've ever done as human beings. It's hanging there in space with the 6 crew members living on it peacefully - successfully - from all these different countries around the world. I really believe we as Earthlings need to accept that we are crew on Spaceship Earth.
[00:19:59] I think those three things I mentioned - the Earthling [status], planet, and thin blue atmosphere - is there the very base of what we all have in common. Accepting that interconnectivity is huge. I think it drives us to be long-term thinkers, not just short term thinkers, and that drives us to accept that we have to cooperate with each other to survive.
[00:27:32] [On finding solutions for redistributing Earth’s resources like air and water to ensure our survival] We can take actions individually and collectively to make those things happen without relying on our government to do it for us.
[00:35:23] In the end, it comes down to all of the thousands of people on the ground and those six crew members on-board the station to understand they are part of something that's so much bigger than any one of us. I try to apply that in my daily life, too.
[00:37:50] [On being a mom working on the Space Station] I wanted my son to feel like he was part of my crew. I want him to feel that way now. If I enjoy doing something, I want him to know that and I want him to experience it whether that's flying airplanes or scuba diving. By sharing those things with him, he will have discovered what he loves. He might not like the same things, but he'll through those opportunities other opportunities will open up for him.
[00:55:12] The rocket ship doesn't care if you’re a boy or girl. We were just doing the job. I think young girls absolutely need to see female role models. For us [females] to have the confidence to do things that seem impossible, I think we need to be out there. We need to be the examples. We need to be present for young girls.
[01:01:19] [On making the decision to retire from space flight] As impactful as [my time in space] was, I needed to share my experience in a new way. I needed to answer the question, “Do I need to fly in space again?” If I did that honestly, the answer was, “No.” The question became, “So, how do I share it?” I just kept coming back to the opportunity I had to paint in space.
[01:02:20] I think of art as a universal communicator. It was a way to get out there and to tell people about what I had experienced, to also encourage them to know what we're doing in space (and that’s it's all about improving life), and to really encourage that Earthling and Earth appreciation.
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