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The Cosmic Pull

10. Going Full Iron Man

Sticker sheet. Paper and plastic. 

A gift from Trent Adams during the Analog Astronaut Conference, May 4-7, 2023.

I’ve been fortunate enough to call a handful of astronauts friends, and learn from them what it means to explore. One of the most amazing things I ever heard was from Sunita Williams, a NASA astronaut, and Sunny said, ‘we explore because we’re not amoebas’. When you go beyond the amoeba stage, you must explore, it’s like a prime directive. You explore, not necessarily for an end goal in mind, but because of the need to explore, the desire to explore.

I've got a son very interested in space exploration. We go to conferences together. And at my house, which I lovingly call Unicorn Manor, we have a rule: You always must be reading. One book he read was The Martian by Andy Weir. Iron Man, the Marvel character, famously flies through the air with jet propulsion. When Mark Watney, the character in The Martian, needs to get from his launch vehicle to the orbiting saviour vehicle, he realises he's got a bridge to gap, so he punctures a hole in his suit to propel him forward, and he says: I'm going full Iron Man.

It was such a great concept, that you have to bridge this gap from where you are to where you need to go. You may not be safe, but it's your chance, right? How do you take that opportunity? It’s saying, let’s flip from what's safe to the Exploration Mode, to the Go to the Moon Model.

Griffin resonated with that. He said, dad, I need a shirt that says this. We couldn’t find one anywhere. If no one else is doing it, we’re gonna do it. At the time he was about 14 or 15. I sat down with him and we sketched some ideas. Once we had an idea, we went onto Fiverr, an online gig economy service, posted the image, and selected three artists. We published these just for ourselves, but we’ve really enjoyed sharing them with folks. This is our love of exploration, the idea of overcoming obstacles.

He then subsequently went on, took the learning that we sat down and figured out together, and moved it forward. He understood it. That was beyond me. All I wanted was a shirt. What’s fascinating about having kids is that as much as I would like to think I’m moulding them in my image or otherwise imparting upon them my wisdom to go through life, that's not true. They're doing what they're doing, and I’m operating at the edges, out here, just making sure that they don't go too far off course.

- Trent Adams

Forging Connections