Commander Chris Hadfield speaks to Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about how he and his fellow astronauts meticulously prepare for every disaster scenario as a way of coping with fear:

Half of the risk of a 6 month flight is in the first 9 minutes, so as a crew, how do you stay focused? How do you not get paralyzed by the fear of it? The way we do it is to break down what [the risks are].  And a nice way to keep reminding yourself is, “What’s the next thing that’s going to kill me?”

And it might be 5 seconds away, it might be an inadvertent engine shutdown, or it might be staging of the solid rockets coming off, or it might be some transition or some key next thing, [for example] “We’ve already had one computer fail, and we’ve had one hydraulic system fail, so if these three things fail now we need to react right away or we’re done.”

So we don’t just live with that, though. The thing that is really useful, I think out of all of this, is we dig into it so deeply and we look at, “Okay, so this might kill us, this is something that would normally panic us, let’s get ready, let’s think about it.” And we go into every excruciating detail of why that might affect what we’re doing and what we can do to resolve it and have a plan, and be comfortable with it.

Read more highlights from Commander Hadfield‘s interview or listen to the full show HERE



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