A tale of Ed White...
I don't know if this story is true, but it ought to be...

From The Lampshade by Mark Jacobson

"Weird tattoo you got there," I mentioned to Skip, referencing the image on his right bicep depicting an astronaut, wearing a NASA suit, floating free beside a Gemini space capsule. "Who's that?"
"Who?" Skip replied, ever peeved at the ignorant, poking an index finger at his upper arm. "That's Ed White, my hero."
"Ed White, the astronaut, is your hero?"
"First American to ever walk in space. Ed fucking White."
It was at this point that Skip's version of the Ed White spacewalk diverged from the official NASA account. As per many published stories at the time, Skip believed that when White made his historic jaunt on June 3, 1965, the astronaut was subject to a condition know to scuba divers as being "narked," or so one theory goes. This occurs when the change in external pressure makes nitrogen more soluble in the body tissues, causing the diver, or in this case the spacewalker, to experience sensations not unlike ingesting several drinks or breathing nitrous oxide. In other words, while floating amid the boundless expanse of the universe, Ed White was stoned out of his mind.
He was enjoying himself so much that he refused to return to the space capsule. When fellow astronaut James McDivitt signaled that the walk should conclude, White replied,"No way." "McDivitt had to drag White back in," Skip recounted. When White was finally pulled back into the ship, he said,"This is the saddest moment of my life, coming back in here."

1 comment:

Sam said...

No way would Ed White have replied, "No way." He was a West Pointer and an impeccable test pilot. Nor is it likely the flight surgeon was worried about nitrogen narcosis that day: Gemini life support was a single-gas O2 system. Jim and Ed's bloodstreams were purged when they suited up that morning.

Ground controllers were much more concerned with their exceedingly narrow window of opportunity, faulty voice-comms, a balky door spring, and an unknown number of unknowns, since this was only the second EVA in history, and the Soviets weren't exactly sharing their lessons learned. Remember, the American space effort was (and is) very public. Kill one astronaut and the taxpayers want their money back. Fickle bastards.

No, if there's anything like a “space euphoria” it must be as we earthbound wretches imagine it. High. Fast. Free. And when the the most beautiful planet in the known universe—50 times brighter than a full moon, but with clarity of detail down to the scale of boat wakes and railroad tracks—fills your faceplate, it must be literally awesome.

That's why we send disciplined, focused, centered people like Edward Higgins White.

Peace be upon him.