Speaking with former NASA astronaut Dr Ed Lu
Dr Ed Lu, American physicist, former NASA astronaut and Google Earth pioneer speaks to Elen Lewis about advice for young explorers and what going to space taught him about managing risks and pushing that button to go…
How does a trip to space change your perspective on life?
I think it gave me an appreciation of what human beings can do if they work together.
What do you miss most about being an astronaut?
Being an astronaut is the greatest job you will ever have. That being said, it was time to do other things. I got to fly three times into space and I was very lucky. But at some point it’s time to leave the flying to the younger astronauts and see what else I can do to contribute to the world.
How does time at NASA equip you to thrive in the world of Silicon Valley start-ups?
One of things you learn at NASA is discipline. The discipline of crossing all your ‘t’s and dotting your ‘i’s, the discipline of using data to show what you believe to be true, and also the discipline to say when you don’t know the answer to something.
What did going to space teach you about managing risks?
The philosophy that I have is that it’s not about reducing risks to zero, because then, you never try anything difficult. It’s about understanding risk, and minimising what you can, until you can make the decision that the rewards outweigh the risks. Then it’s time to go and you have to push the button to go.
What does bold leadership look like?
It takes many different forms. But essentially it is the ability to make that decision to try something that has risks, because the rewards are great…
What advice would you offer boys and girls out there who want to become great explorers?
The same thing we try and tell our kids – there’s a big universe out there to explore and you should go and do so. You don’t know where the path is going to take you, but have fun along the way…
What would you tell your 17-year-old self?
When I was 17 I’m not sure I was going to listen to this advice. My 17 year old self wouldn’t have heard it…
What book is on your bedside table?
I am just finishing the biography of the Wrights Brother by Peter L Jakob and Tom Crouch. It gives you a real appreciation for who they were – these amazing people. They grew up in a small town, as bike mechanics and entrepreneur with a passion for learning. It was amazing what they achieved at the time through reading books and wanting to learn about world around them.
Tell us a secret.
I’ll save that for the talk…