By: Matt Klinman
First, astronaut Scott Kelly spent a full year in space to test the limits of the human body when exposed to the final frontier. But, today, NASA has announced its next ambitious project: Having an astronaut stare directly into the Sun for 365 days. That ‘s right, THAT Sun. The lucky human guinea pig will be Capt. Lawrence Wilmin and we scored an exclusive interview with him. Check out his thoughts on what shapes he wants to see within the big bright light, how much he plans on blinking and his fears of dying while staring at the Sun.
FOD: How many times have you stared at the Sun before?
Capt. Wilmin: I have logged three official intervals of staring at the Sun but nothing nearly this long. The longest I ‘ve stared at the Sun before is five minutes and it wasn ‘t particularly fun. It hurts a lot and after a few minutes the rays begin piercing the mind and one ‘s consciousness fades. But it ‘s important to NASA ‘s goals that I stare at the Sun for a year so I will.
FOD: How many times do you plan on blinking?
Capt. Wilmin: As little as I can I guess *laughs*. It ‘s not staring if you are blinking so NASA has actually created these protectors for me to keep dust out of my eyes. They look a little like horse blinders but they cover the top and bottom of my head too. They are made out of space-grade wood planks, the kind they use on the space station door frames and molding. If everything goes well the only blinking I will be doing is one time on my birthday and once on Christmas.
FOD: That ‘s nice.
Capt. Wilmin: Yeah, NASA is good about making sure we have a little bit of the creature comforts we get here on Earth not staring at the Sun.
FOD: Will you be closing your eyes to sleep? Sorry if that is a dumb question, I ‘m no astronaut.
Capt. Wilmin: *laughs* No, no. There are no stupid questions. We sleep just like people who aren ‘t staring at the Sun, of course, but days are actually a little different when you are staring at the Sun. After 72 hours the human brain starts to believe all human experience is a form of light and there is nothing to existence but the piercing heat of the Sun. Certain biological processes like sleep start deteriorating as the body enters a state in between rest and hyper-awareness. We call it “stepping beyond the mind ‘ and it ‘s a little bit like when bears hibernate but if the bear ‘s brain was in a state of unbridled insanity while they slept through the winter. Your mind races faster than thoughts can be processed and all self identity is shattered. Time becomes a physical object to you, one that crushes you like a boulder while at the same time inducing painful, unrelenting orgasms. Once you ‘ve stared at the Sun for longer than a week you have no self.
FOD: Like if I asked you your name, you might not remember it?
Capt. Wilmin: More like if you asked me my name I would bellow a deafening inhuman shriek and I would gush from my orifices as a form of attack.
FOD: You ‘d better wear a name tag then, huh?
Capt. Wilmin: *laughs* Yeah.
FOD: What part of spending a year staring at the Sun are you most excited about?
Capt. Wilmin: I guess I am excited about all the things I will get to see and experience while staring into the Sun. My retinas will burn away within the first few hours and then after that it ‘s all shapes, lines, and hallucinations. I ‘ve heard there is nothing quite like hallucinating giant pulsating moth-eating infinite circles while staring into the Sun in the springtime. It really puts your life into perspective.
FOD: What does NASA hope to learn from having you stare at the Sun for a year?
Capt. Wilmin: It gives us an idea of how the human body reacts to scenarios like staring at the Sun for a year on Mars or staring at the Sun for a year while in space hopelessly drifting toward the Sun. For example, and I hope this doesn ‘t happen of course, but if staring at the Sun kills me here on Earth we can reasonably expect someone would die if they stared at the Sun from Mars. We would still have to run that experiment, but at least we have a hypothesis.
FOD: Staring into the Sun for a year sounds like every child ‘s dream, what advice to you have to kids who might want to follow in your footsteps?
Capt. Wilmin: Do well in school, don ‘t be afraid to tinker with technology, and just follow your dreams and stare at the Sun whenever you get a free moment or two. I think the Earth would be a much more peaceful place if everyone could experience the humbling experience of staring into the Sun for a year.