Christopher Sebela

writer, wronger, rearranger

And I could see what they would be saying in the science books of the future. This was gonna be my legacy. My children and my grandchildren would read in their classrooms: We would know if there was life on other planets, but Gabby and Daniel’s dad broke the Hubble Space Telescope, and we’ll never know.

And through this nightmare that had just begun, I looked at my buddy Bueno, next to me in his space suit, and he was there to assist in the repair but could not take over my role. He had his own responsibilities, and I was the one trained to do the now broken part of the repair. It was my job to fix this thing. I turned and looked into the cabin where my five crewmates were, and I realized nobody in there had a space suit on.

They couldn’t come out here and help me. And then I actually looked at the Earth; I looked at our planet, and I thought, There are billions of people down there, but there’s no way I’m gonna get a house call on this one. No one can help me.

I felt this deep loneliness. And it wasn’t just a Saturday-afternoon-with-a-book alone. I felt detached from the Earth. I felt that I was by myself, and everything that I knew and loved and that made me feel comfortable was far away. And then it started getting dark and cold.

Because we travel 17,500 miles an hour, ninety minutes is one lap around the Earth. So it’s forty-five minutes of sunlight and forty-five minutes of darkness. And when you enter the darkness, it is not just darkness. It’s the darkest black I have ever experienced. It’s the complete absence of light. It gets cold, and I could feel that coldness, and I could sense the darkness coming. And it just added to my loneliness.

For the next hour or so, we tried all kinds of things. I was going up and down the space shuttle, trying to figure out where I needed to go to get the next tool to try to fix this problem, and nothing was working. And then they called up, after about an hour and fifteen minutes of this, and said they wanted me to go to the front of the shuttle to a toolbox and get vise grips and tape. I thought to myself, We are running out of ideas. I didn’t even know we had tape on board. I’m gonna be the first astronaut to use tape in space during a spacewalk.

But I followed directions. I got to the front of the space shuttle, and I opened up the toolbox and there was the tape. At that point I was very close to the front of the orbiter, right by the cabin window, and I knew that my best pal was in there, trying to help me out. And I could not even stand to think of looking at him, because I felt so bad about the way this day was going, with all the work he and I had put in.

But through the corner of my eye, through my helmet, you know, just the side there, I can kinda see that he’s trying to get my attention. And I look up at him, and he’s just cracking up, smiling and giving me the okay sign. And I’m like, Is there another spacewalk going on out here? I really can’t talk to him, because if I say anything, the ground will hear. You know, Houston. The control center. So I’m kinda like playing charades with him. I’m like, What are you, nuts? And I didn’t wanna look before, because I thought he was gonna give me the finger because he’s gonna go down in the history books with me. But he’s saying, No, we’re okay. You just hang in there a little bit longer. We’re gonna make it through this. We’re in this together. You’re doing great. Just hang in there.

And if there was ever a time in my life that I needed a friend, it was at that moment. And there was my buddy, just like I saw in that movie, the camaraderie of those guys sticking together. I didn’t believe him at all. I figured that we were outta luck. But I thought, At least if I’m going down, I’m going down with my best pal.

-A View of the Earth by Michael Massimino

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