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Defying Limits: Lessons from the Edge of the Universe by [Dave Williams]
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Defying Limits: Lessons from the Edge of the Universe Kindle Edition

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Length: 241 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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“In Defying Limits, Dave describes how his passion for aviation and medicine set him on the path to becoming a Canadian astronaut. . . . Dave’s humility, team work, leadership and operational skill prove that he has the right stuff. I’d fly with him again anytime.” -- Scott Kelly, author of Endurance

“Every astronaut is deeply affected by the experience of viewing Earth from space, but how do you share that feeling with others who will never be there? Canadian astronaut Dave Williams uses his most brilliant moments in space - floating alone, anchored only by a tether - to remind himself, and us, to cherish every moment here on Earth. Very few of us can be astronauts, but we can all do that.”  -- Jay Ingram, bestselling author of The Science of Why series

“An inspirational tale of a remarkable Canadian doctor, astronaut, space walker, aquanaut, CEO and loving father who turned failure into astounding accomplishments in space and on the ground. A fabulous example of how to live life to the fullest.”  -- Bob McDonald, CBC’s chief science correspondent and host of Quirks & Quarks

Dave Williams is a Canadian hero. As a distinguished Canadian astronaut, he was part of an elite core of individuals who had both the courage and the privilege to turn their dreams into reality. Through Dave’s story, we can all be inspired to set goals, overcome obstacles, and, with hard work and determination, know that we can make a difference.” -- Rick Hansen

Riveting, inspiring words from a man who has the right, bright stuff. It’s all here, from his pitch-perfect pursuit of becoming a physician and astronaut to the perilous, peerless moments during three space walks when wonder captures his heart like love. This is a bracingly informative portrait about exploration, discovery and what makes life worth living.” -- Dr. Joe MacInnis, author of Deep Leadership

"Williams’ book is a remarkable portrait of one of the most down-to-Earth people to ever go into orbit, and it will resonate with astronauts and the other 99.999999 per cent of the population alike.", Canadian Geographic

“Williams’s story shows off his infectious joie de vivre. . .” -- Mike Doherty, Maclean’s

“The book may be inspiring, but its most fascinating moments are mundane. Williams is at his best when describing astronaut training, from the high-altitude chamber meant to help would-be astronauts recognize . . . oxygen deficiency, to . . . an aircraft fondly known as the ‘vomit comet.’ Space may be where astronauts ‘defy limits,’ but Williams’s memoir reveals an astronaut’s most important work takes place with feet firmly on the ground.”, Washington Post --This text refers to the hardcover edition.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Defying Limits


A Lifetime in a Moment

Time is infinite. Our lives are not. We all know this and the older we get, the more we feel it. As a child, time was something I never really thought about. Days seemed to last forever, filled with continuous activity and new experiences. As I got older, time didn’t change, but I did. Days, months, years, whirled by in a flurry of activity. It’s so easy to become complacent. But moments can last forever, if we remember to pay attention to them.

Ted Rosenthal, the late poet and author, put it best when confronted in his thirties with his imminent death: “You can live a lifetime in a moment.” A lifetime in a moment. That means an hour, a day, a conversation, or an encounter can be as rich and fulfilling as an entire lifetime, but only if we’re mindful and self-aware enough to truly embrace the gift of every second we spend on this earth.

I first heard Ted’s message years ago when I was in medical school. At the time, I thought I fully understood it. Since then, I’ve always tried to live my life to the fullest. But it wasn’t until much later, when I was outside the space shuttle Endeavour during my second space walk, that I lived Ted’s words. In that moment I understood what Ted meant. It was a moment that will stay with me forever.

It was August 8, 2007. I embarked upon STS-118 as a mission specialist aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. This was my second voyage into space, but that didn’t make it any easier. This was after the tragic loss of seven crew members on the Columbia in 2003, when the shuttle disintegrated during reentry. Those men and women were incredible astronauts. They were also my friends.

The night before my departure, I said good-bye to my wife, Cathy, and my two amazing kids.

“So I’ll see you in two weeks?” Cathy said to me as she kissed me.

“Looking forward to it,” I replied. We both understood the risks of this trip.

Finally, the moment of the launch arrived. I was ready. With launch preparations completed, I was strapped into the shuttle with my crewmates, and the final countdown was rapidly nearing completion. “Three, two, one, zero. We have ignition, and liftoff.”

The crackling boom of the solid rocket boosters was followed by a blinding flash. The raw power threw me back and forth against my restraining harness, and my body was thrust back as we rocketed into the sky. I’d felt it all once before, but that didn’t matter. Every time was new. The bouncing and shaking eventually subsided, and a few minutes later I saw the checklists floating around me. I turned to my fellow mission specialists, Barb Morgan and Al Drew, and flashed a thumbs-up.

The trip to reach space lasted only a few minutes, but we still had a two-day journey ahead of us to get to the International Space Station (ISS). During that time, we inspected the orbiter tiles and prepared for our rendezvous, but the real work began after we docked.

On August 13, six days into our trip, it was time to complete one of the primary goals of the mission: a space walk to replace a faulty gyroscope on the space station. Although I didn’t know it then, by the end of the trip I would log more than seventeen hours of spacewalking, achieving a new Canadian record. But I didn’t care about records. What I cared about was making sure we got the job done and were able to return to the station without issue.

On this walk I was accompanied by one of my crewmates, Rick Mastracchio. It’s no small task to leave the relative safety of the space station, remove damaged equipment, and install a brand-new 1,200-pound gyroscope in the vacuum of space. To make it over to the shuttle—which was docked to the U.S. lab at the center of the station—I rode on the end of the Canadarm2. Charlie Hobaugh, who went by his call sign “Scorch,” was our pilot. He had the job of controlling the robotic arm. With precision rivaling that of a neurosurgeon, he moved me from one part of the space station to another, down to the payload bay of the space shuttle, and back to the station.

Rick and I made it out of the station airlock successfully and removed the failed gyroscope together. Teamwork is always critical for success. The next step was to install the new gyroscope, a task that required a complex choreography between the robotic arm and the two of us.

Mission specialist Tracy Caldwell was watching our progress from the station’s flight deck window and calling out the checklist procedures.

“Tethers configured properly?”

“Roger,” I responded. “I’m attached to the gyroscope. I’ve removed my local tether.”

“Copy,” Tracy replied.

I started slowly moving in space, anchored only by the foot restraint on the end of the Canadarm2, carefully holding on to the 1,200-pound gyroscope. If my grip slipped or I lost control, the mass of the gyroscope could pull me out of my foot restraint. That would mean two freely floating objects in space—me and the gyroscope. Either of us could collide with the station or shuttle. That was not a scenario anyone wanted.

Anchored to the end of the Canadarm2 with a new gyroscope. It was a memorable ride during the six hour, twenty-eight-minute space walk. Photo courtesy of NASA

“Ready for motion,” I said to Scorch, meaning I was ready for him to guide me and the gyroscope back to the station. Though I said I was ready for motion, actually I felt growing concerns about holding this enormous piece of equipment with two hands, secured only by my feet, which were attached to the end of a robotic arm on a space station traveling at 17,500 miles per hour. But that’s what astronauts spend years training for.

Scorch must have sensed my unease. “Dave, just remember: this is not a jettison task.” His wry sense of humor was well-known among us. Despite the stress of not wanting to make a mistake, I was grinning from ear to ear underneath my reflective space helmet.

The Canadarm2 began to move, pulling me away from the shuttle’s payload bay and back toward the station. At that moment I was fully focused on gripping with my hands and feet. Everything was going according to plan.

Halfway through my ride, Scorch had a question for me. “How’s the view out there?” he asked. Leave it to Scorch to ask a question like that. The giant spherical gyroscope was right in front of me, occupying my entire field of vision.

“I’ve got a face full of gyroscope right now, Scorch. I can’t see anything else.”

But the truth is, earlier on the journey to the payload bay, I did get my chance to take in the view. And it was spectacular—life altering, in fact. I will never forget the amazing epiphany of looking down and seeing our 4.5 billion-year-old planet, a beautiful blue oasis, cast against the endless black expanse of outer space.

There it was: my home; home to us all. The entire history of humanity had taken place on the planet beneath me. Minus my crewmates, everyone I cared about was down there. Everything that had ever happened to me had taken place there. From my distant vantage point, there were no boundaries evident, no divisions between countries, only majestic continents surrounded by deep-blue oceans.

It was then that I finally understood what it means to live a lifetime in a moment, to appreciate every second you’ve lived and every second you still have to live. I was filled with gratitude for everything—for my life, for my friends and family, for the chance to see what only a few others had seen before. In that instant it reinforced for me Ted’s message: there is no better way to defy the limits of time than by living in the moment. It’s a lesson for all of us to live our lives to the fullest while we can, to embrace the richness of our experiences, to stop wondering what our legacy will be and instead live it right now. --This text refers to the hardcover edition.

Product details

  • File Size : 126778 KB
  • Print Length : 241 pages
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Publisher : Simon & Schuster (Oct. 30 2018)
  • ASIN : B07CLFT1L3
  • Text-to-Speech : Not enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN : 1501160958
  • Language: : English
  • Screen Reader : Supported
  • X-Ray : Enabled
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.8 out of 5 stars 28 ratings
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