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Redefining Risk!

How an astronaut manages fear and risk?

By Aditi Maheshwari


Astronauts are one of the best examples when it comes to learning how to reprogram yourself to change your primal fear and navigate your way to progress and success.

Principles to combat fear and risk: 

•          Execute unshakable courage and challenge your fundamental human behaviour: your caveman reaction.

•          Don’t just practice things going right, practice things going wrong; so that you can eliminate the surprise element of dysfunction and are well equipped to handle all possible outcomes.

•          Just as we train our physical bodies to perform exercises, weight lifts, etc.; similarly, we need to train our minds and hearts to handle isolation and confinement that comes naturally when you take up the role of leadership or whenever you stand up for change.

•          Planning and self-sufficiency are essential elements for successful execution of mission.

•          Good health and fit body play a vital role in achieving any sort of success. Learn the secret that lies in your attitude towards health and fitness.

•          To handle hostile environment, you need to have clarity of purpose and strong willpower and a backbone of self-assuredness. 

•          Practice Acceptance. You can’t change the circumstances but your power lies in controlling your response towards it. This will help you in all aspects of life.

•          Self-Awareness is the key to unleashing your potential. Stress is usually a result of anxiousness and fear. Use your stress as a cue to prepare and to improve your readiness, wherever it is hurting you. 


•          Fear of all kinds is a psychological infection and thus need   specific treatments for cure. Moreover, action cures fear, whereas, indecision, postponement, or any sort of restrictive mindset simply fertilizes fear.

•          Be bold enough to jump into uncertainties by keeping in mind that things will unfold as they are supposed to unfold. Your part is to have faith in the process of unfoldment while equipping yourself with the needed physical and non-physical things that you have control over. 

Let’s take the example of Kalpana Chawla the first Indian-born woman in space. Chawla$s first opportunity to fly in space came in November 1997, aboard the space shuttle Columbia on flight STS-87. The shuttle made 252 orbits of the Earth in just over two weeks. The shuttle carried a number of experiments and observing tools on its trip, including a Spartan satellite, which Chawla deployed from the shuttle. The satellite, which studied the outer layer of the sun, malfunctioned due to software errors, and two other astronauts from the shuttle had to perform a spacewalk to recapture it. In 2000, Chawla was selected for her second voyage into space, serving again as a mission specialist on STS-107. The mission was delayed several times, and finally launched in 2003. Over the course of the 16-day flight, the crew completed more than 80 experiments.

On the morning of Feb. 1, 2003, the space shuttle returned to Earth, intending to land at Kennedy Space Center. At launch, a briefcase-sized piece of insulation had broken off and damaged the thermal protection system on the shuttle$s wing, the shield that protects it from heat during re-entry. As the shuttle passed through the atmosphere, hot gas streaming into the wing caused it to break up. The unstable craft rolled and bucked, pitching the astronauts about. Less than a minute passed before the ship depressurized, killing the crew. The shuttle broke up over Texas and Louisiana before plunging into the ground. The accident was the second major disaster for the space shuttle program, following the 1986 explosion of the shuttle Challenger.

Just imagine yourself to go through an experience like this. Will it be easy or will it take you to stretch much beyond your comfort zones? Kalpana Chawla was one of us but what made her special was her belief in herself and the courage to discipline herself for greatness. Such greatness can only be achieved by self-discipline at all levels- physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The journey is not for the weak-hearted.

The tragic loss of the space shuttle Columbia killed seven astronauts. In addition to Chawla, the crew included: Commander Rick D. Husband, Pilot William C. McCool, Payload Commander Michael P. Anderson, Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, Mission Specialists David M. Brown and Laurel B. Clark. Over the course of her two missions, Chawla logged 30 days, 14 hours, and 54 minutes in space. After her first launch, she said, "When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel that you are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system."

Kalpana Chawla and other such people not only had the vision but also built the strength to endure the process of such remarkable journey. Astronaut’s showcase how an ordinary life can be made extraordinary through dedication, self-discipline and proper training. There is so much to learn from astronauts.

Sirisha Bandla hailing from Andhra$s Guntur district who was brought up in Houston will become the second India-born woman to fly into space after Kalpana Chawla. Bandla will be taking care of the researcher$s experience on the Unity22 mission. She will be one of the six space travellers aboard $VSS Unity$ of Virgin Galactic, scheduled to take off to space from New Mexico alongside with UK billionaire and the founder of Virgin Galactic Richard Branson on 11 July 2021.

The stories of inspiration will continue but we as layman can extract the diamond of wisdom from such stories and inculcate the same foundations and principles to our routine lives and in turn extract the best life has to offer to each one of us. Not all of us can be astronauts but at least we can try to achieve greatness in our unique journey of life by being mindful of our choices and practices.