Astronaut Ricky Arnold – A Conservation Conference Recap

Earth is our home and we’re all in this together.

One of the highlights of this year’s WHC Conservation Conference was hearing from keynote speaker, Astronaut Ricky Arnold.

Arnold spoke about the differences between life in space and life on Earth, and why it’s important to take care of the planet we call home. His talk featured a fascinating video compilation of footage and photos taken from inside the International Space Station, and the view of Earth from 400 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. Arnold expressed how marveling at the intricacies of the universe can inspire us to take care of what’s in our backyard.

Selected by NASA in 2004, Arnold has accumulated 209 days in space, ventured on three space missions, including five spacewalks totaling 32 hours outside a spacecraft, in addition to completing aquanaut and submersible pilot training.

His experiences include serving as a mission specialist in Aquarius – the world’s only undersea laboratory in 2007 and serving as a Deep Worker submersible pilot during the Pavilion Lake Research Project in 2009. Also that year, he spent 12 days in space and went on two space walks during the STS-119 Discovery mission.

In 2016, Arnold led a multinational crew in a European Space Agency six-day mission, mapping and exploring a large cave network in Sardinia.

Arnold said the highlight of his career was in 2018 when he was space for 197 days. During NASA Expeditions 55 and 56, he served as Flight Engineer and went on three space walks. During those six and-a-half months, Arnold was joined by German, Russian, Japanese and American astronauts on a mission to perform maintenance and upgrades to the International Space Station, in addition to conducting around 300 science experiments a day.

The International Space Station circles the world every 90 minutes, traveling faster than the speed of sound. Arnold said he watched 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets each day on board. He showed pictures from space of the Amazon River, the Galapagos Islands, the pyramids of Giza, a massive stand storm in the Sahara Desert, tornadoes forming over Oklahoma, and the flight path of birds from Cape Town, South Africa to Madagascar.

“I always remember the smell of Earth when I return home,” said Arnold.

Returning from Expedition 56 in October 2018, Arnold and the rest of the crew landed in Kazakhstan. “I wasn’t thinking I was in Kazakhstan, I was thinking I was home,” he said.  “I was back on Earth and that’s quite an amazing feeling.”

Arnold explained that we’re all connected in ways we don’t understand, and we all share the same planet.

“Being an astronaut is a stewardship,” he said. “Earth is our home and we’re all in this together. We’re responsible. This is all we have.”

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