Alexander closed his eyes and took a deep breath, his stomach doing somersaults, nervous and excited at the same time. He heard the loudspeaker across the courtyard switch on.
A booming voice came from it. “Launch in thirty seconds.”
Alexander checked if his seat belt was securely fastened for the third time since he got in the spaceship. He gripped the armrests at his sides, trying to calm himself down.
The astronaut took deep breaths, he had been waiting for so long to go to space. Ever since he was a kid, his dream was to be an astronaut and go to space. When he applied to NASA, his dream finally came true, after twenty five years of waiting.
“Five seconds til launch.” The voice said into the loudspeaker again.
Alexander took a steadying breath.
This is it, I’m finally doing it. Alexander thought.
Alexander felt the spaceship vibrating beneath him, and suddenly, he was blasting away, towards space. He was finally going to space.
The spaceship passed through the atmosphere and slowed down, the black sky surrounding him.
Alexander felt the ship jump a bit, that must’ve been the carrier rocket detaching. He pushed a few buttons on the controls in front of him and made the ship coast for a bit.
Alexander stood up and examined the spaceship from the inside, everything looked good. He made a quick report back to base and looked outside.
He was amazed, he was finally here, the stars standing out against the black sky. Alexander turned his gaze to the left, and froze.
The Earth was huge! It looked as if it was hanging in the void. The other astronauts had told him about this. It was called the “overview effect.” It happens to most people when they see Earth for the first time.
Alexander remembered what they had told him: “That when you’re so far away from Earth and can see the whole planet, you become fully overwhelmed and in awe of seeing your planet. Of seeing the unity and fragility of life.”
Another astronaut had said “It’s the uncanny sense of understanding the ‘big picture,’ and of feeling connected to and yet bigger than the intricate process bubbling on earth.”
A few astronauts had said that it gave them a new kind of self-awareness.
Alexander remembered the book Ron Garan wrote that he had read so many times, he had memorized one part of it, and thought about it at that moment.
It was when he grabbed onto a mechanical arm on the International Space Station in 2008, he was flung over the space station and back:
As I approached the top of this arc, it was as if time stood still, and I was flooded with both emotion and awareness. But as I looked down at the Earth — this stunning, fragile oasis, this island that has been given to us, and that has protected all life from the harshness of space — a sadness came over me, and I was hit in the gut with an undeniable, sobering contradiction.
In spite of the overwhelming beauty of this scene, serious inequity exists on the apparent paradise we have been given. I couldn't help thinking of the nearly one billion people who don't have clean water to drink, the countless number who go to bed hungry every night, the social injustice, conflicts, and poverty that remain pervasive across the planet.
Seeing Earth from this vantage point gave me a unique perspective — something I've come to call the orbital perspective. Part of this is the realization that we are all traveling together on the planet and that if we all looked at the world from that perspective we would see that nothing is impossible.
Alexander now understood what he had meant. He had the same feeling that Ron Garan had described then.
Alexander had seen pictures of Earth from space before, but it was so different seeing it right in front of him. He now understood why Buzz Aldrin, one of his role models, along with Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins, had called it “a brilliant jewel in the black velvet sky.” The three of them were a part of the Apollo 11 mission, they were some of the first people to look down on Earth from space.
Alexander could now say that he was one of those people to have experienced that feeling, to know what it’s like to see your planet from afar. He could now say that he had fulfilled his dream. His dream had been to go to space, but seeing Earth like that was more than enough for him. He considered himself lucky to have seen it, despite being on an important and relatively time sensitive mission. His mission was supposed to do some surveillance and repairs on a satellite that was hit by a floating rock and wasn’t reparable from the NASA headquarters.
Alexander drank in the sight of Earth, of his planet, he never thought that he would actually be here, fulfilling his dream. Everyone had told him how hard it would be and how few people actually get accepted at those kinds of jobs. He had proven them wrong. He had shown all of the people who doubted him that he had done it. That he was living his dream.
Alexander walked back to the front of the ship, making sure that he was still going the right way, that the autopilot was still working and it was taking him to the coordinates his superiors at NASA had sent him.
Alexander remembered what they had told him, they had said that this would be his chance to prove that he was ready to start going to space, they had said that he had to do this alone, that this was a test.
He remembered how the only person that believed in him had brought it up in the first place, and the others had actually listened to him.
Alexander thanked him mentally. He promised himself that he would prove himself to his superiors and they would let him go on more missions in space when he got back.
Alexander still couldn’t believe that he was finally fulfilling his dream.
*I got all the information about the overview effect and what the astronauts said from here: https://www.businessinsider.com/overview-effect-nasa-apollo8-perspective-awareness-space-2015-8