Itâ€™s something almost all climbers and certainly many adventurous souls have dreamed of: What would it be like to stand on Everestâ€™s summit? Scott Parazynski, M.D., has done it, and heâ€™s the only astronaut to have also accomplished the climb. In this clip, Parazynski describes what itâ€™s like to watch a sunrise on top of the mythical mountain.
It’s something almost all climbers and certainly many adventurous souls have dreamed of: What would it be like to stand on Everest’s summit? Scott Parazynski, M.D., has done it, and he’s the only astronaut to have also accomplished the climb. In this clip, Parazynski describes what it’s like to watch a sunrise on top of the mythical mountain.
Interview Transcript (Modified for Readability)
“Mount Everest is just this sort of mythical place, at least for lifelong climbers like me. It’s something that I read about for many, many years and dreamed about what that tiny summit would look like. It wasn’t anything at all like what I conjured up. Looking at tiny little photographs in books or seeing a few documentaries, but it’s actually the most airy place that I can possibly imagine. It’s about the size of a typical dining room table with very steep sides on all faces, covered in these beautiful Tibetan prayer flags. There’s actually on a little post a golden Buddah inside of a little glass shrine. It was really quite beautiful up there. I was able to see a full sunrise from the top of Mount Everest. I arrived at 4 a.m. on May 20, 2009 and the sun started to come up at about 4:05. I timed it just perfectly and saw the full sunrise and the curvature of the earth from up there. I remember seeing the shadow of Mount Everest over Tibet as I descended. It was a really spectacular scene.”
“Walking in space is really a misnomer. We’re actually crawling in space. We’re using a hand rail and pulling ourselves along or in basically a cherry picker — we’re on the end of a robotic arm, being moved around by someone inside. It’s really an extraordinary experience because you’re inside your own personal spaceship. You’re actually floating inside your spacesuit. It’s not like we’re wearing this thing and you feel the weight of it. You’re actually floating inside, bouncing around a little bit inside of the space suit. Everything that you need to sustain life is built around you. You have oxygen tanks in your backpack, CO2 removal, thermal control from the temperature extremes outside. You have lights on your helmet, TV cameras, tools that you need to conduct your tasks outside, are mounted in a tool kit right in front of yourself. Really, just an extraordinary amount of technology built around the astronaut to do this.
Then, you realize that every moment out there is precious. You have a very tight timeline of activities that need to get done. But every once in a while, you look up from your tunnel vision of the job that you have, and you realize, there are the Himalayas, or the Great Barrier Reef. It’s an extraordinary office to be in.”