This episode is part of the Destination Moon Podcrawl, marking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Please check out our partner podcasts, including The Flight Deck, Geekwire, Stuff You Missed in History Class and Radiotopia’s The Truth.
All she had to do was open the window shade.
Soyeon Yi was minutes into her trip to the International Space Station aboard a Soyuz rocket in 2008. She could feel gravity’s pull loosening, until she had the sensation of floating within the straps that held her in place. And she knew that through the window was a sight only a few hundred people in all of human history have ever seen: the Earth from orbit.
There was just one problem.
“In training, always, the medical doctor told me, ‘you are very, very vulnerable to motion sickness,’” Yi said. “So the doctor told me, ‘please, please do not try to look through the window. If you look through the window, you’ll have extremely hard motion sickness.’”
Yi now lives in Puyallup, but at the time she was the first and, to date, only South Korean astronaut. She said she tried to hold back from feasting her eyes on the blue planet outside her window.
“It’s really tempting!” she said. “Finally, after getting to the orbit, and everything’s stable, and I decide[d] even if I have motion sickness I cannot miss this moment. And I opened the shutter and looked through the window: There was a beautiful Earth down there. It’s a real Earth.”
And did she get ill?
“Yeah, of course! I got sick, I threw up every 10 minutes,” Yi said, laughing. “Still, I remember it’s really awesome.”
Space exploration is, in some ways, the story of nerves and fear and vertigo, all overcome by humans’ insatiable curiosity (and/or Cold War mandates). On today’s Sound Effect, it’s stories of people inspired by space exploration.
We hear from Julianne Dalcanton, chair of astronomy at the University of Washington, about the special relationship she has with the Hubble Telescope. Master bladesmith Bob Kramer explains how he folds real “shooting stars” into the homemade steel he uses to make world-class kitchen knives. And we hear a symphonic composition inspired by nebulae, those hazy features of the cosmos that sometimes birth new stars.