SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
What are you afraid of? The TED Radio Hour is asking that question this week. Guy Raz spoke to retired astronaut Chris Hadfield, who commanded the International Space Station, about the scariest day of his life.
GUY RAZ, BYLINE: Can you describe the day of a launch? Like, what happens on that day?
CHRIS HADFIELD: It's like a - that feeling in a roller coaster, I think, where you get into that little chunka, chunka, chunka chain thing that drags you up the hill to make the ride begin.
HADFIELD: And the closer you get to the top, you see more and more of the world. And there's sort of this - OK, nothing bad is happening right now, but this process is leading to something. And our process is, like, 20 years that leads to - it's 20 years of chunka, chunka, chunka up the hill. And that last day is where suddenly you're - you come over that crest, and you're away.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUNCH SEQUENCE)
FLIGHT COORDINATOR: This is the FC performing a launch status check at this time. All systems verify red, or it don't count. And go for launch, OTC. All...
HADFIELD: So you wake up in quarantine somewhere where they've been protecting you from catching a head cold. I don't know. There's sort of a wedding feel to it of all of these practiced and unusual places where there's a whole bunch of expectant people. And you're wearing clothes you don't normally wear. And it builds. It builds in complexity. And it definitely builds in danger until, finally, after all of the preliminaries, you are wearing the right outfit, and you're sitting in the right seat.
There's an enormous amount of fuel gurgling and jostling in the tanks down underneath you in between you and the Earth. And somewhere there's a spark and, bam, some unseen giant just stuck his foot in the small of your back and is now hurling you...
(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE)
HADFIELD: ...With a lot of vibration and very little pity.
(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE)
HADFIELD: And you're along for that ride.
(SOUNDBITE OF BLASTOFF)
RAZ: So what's the scariest thing you've done, Chris?
HADFIELD: (Laughter) The scariest thing I've done is ride a rocket ship to space.
SIMON: Astronaut Chris Hadfield speaking to Guy Raz. You can hear more stories and ideas about fear this weekend on the TED Radio Hour. Don't be afraid to tune in. This is NPR news. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.