“Houston, we have a problem.” That’s CIW 2014 speaker Captain James Lovell, in one of his most iconic moments. The U.S. Navy captain and NASA astronaut logged over 7,000 flight hours in total, traveled to the moon (and back) twice and learned a few things about how to put life into perspective along the way. Here, we’ve compiled some of our favorite insights from the American icon.
1. Don’t let yourself get too comfortable.
“We found out that men could live very comfortably in zero gravity. As a matter of fact, there were certain things that we did discover though—the fact that zero gravity quickly deteriorated the muscles in the legs…. I had to force myself to walk the carrier deck.”
2. Go outside your spacecraft. That’s where you’ll learn the most.
“[The crew on] Gemini 9, 10 and 11 would open the hatch and go outside to do some work. They found out that just by working back and forth that their heart rates went up.”
3. Shoot for the moon—literally, if you can.
“Apollo 8 was probably the high point of my flight career. It was the first flight to go to the moon, of course, [and] I was the navigator.”
4. Remember: The truth is never black and white.
“[The moon] was really a magnificent sight, but it wasn’t the best sight that we saw. The moon is all shades of grey, regardless of what you see.”
5. View yourself with humility, and recognize the wonder the surrounds us all.
“I could put my thumb up to the Earth and hide it completely. Everything that I’ve ever known…
“You get to feel how unimportant we are all now…because the Earth itself is orbiting a rather normal star, and that star is tucked away in the outer edge of a galaxy called The Milky Way, and that’s only one of millions of galaxies in the universe. And then I thought to myself, how fortunate we all are.”
6. Houston, we have a problem. Ask for help, accept setbacks and then move on.
“The best laid plans are filled with different problems….What really caused Apollo 13 to have an explosion? It happened six years before we took off.”