Thursday, 10 January 2008

Learning from the Astronauts

I listened to a BBC4 radio show called Frontiers. The journalist Andrew Luck-Baker went to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre where astronauts are preparing for the fourth servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope scheduled for August 7, 2008.

Andrew talks to two crew members, Scott Altman who commands the space shuttle and the astronaut John Grunsfeld. Andrew also talks to Jeff Hoffmann a former astronaut who is now part of the support team at the Centre.

One of the astronauts explains the training they have:

“When we train to service Hubble, we do an extensive amount of analysis and choreography to try to make sure everybody knows where the have to be at any given minute, all the way down to sometimes which arm we are going to use and which minute to pass things back and forth so that with all these tethers which are holding everything we don’t get a big snarl that will delay things by five or ten minutes.

You might ask: ‘do we execute this space walk that way?’ and usually not, because there are always surprises. But we find that if we are really prepared to execute the plan the way that we script it and practice and practice and practice and train here in the clean room at Goddard, that when these surprises do come-up, we are able to quickly overcome them
and keep moving. The really unique thing about having people in space is that we are able to adapt in real time, to get over and continue to work.”

What Astronauts can teach to artists?

  • Training, Training, Training. Training is the time when you analyze, when you try new things and learn by making mistakes, correcting and adjusting your technique and your vision. If you are a painter: paint. You will learn a lot. Training also means learning from others, attending workshops, going to museums to study the masters, read art books.

  • Think of what you do in term of choreography. Art is a physical activity as much as a mental one. When you paint, your hand, your arm and your shoulder are learning. Gestures become second nature. You want to reach a state of flow, where you are so much into what you are doing that you don’t need to think about how you should be doing it. I fully agree with Picasso when he said: “It’s the hand that does everything, often without the intervention of the mind.”

  • If you rehearse, you become apt to cope with surprises when they come. You may be caught by surprise when someone asks you a question about your art or yourself. If you have rehearsed your pitch, you can come back to known territories after the surprised has passed.

  • The most important lesson we can learn from astronauts is that there is no dream that can’t be fulfilled with the will to succeed, patience, passion and dedication… even going into space or landing on the moon.

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