Archive for the ‘Everest’ Category

“The most challenging thing I have ever done…"

May 21, 2009


Scott Parazynski says it is the hardest thing he has ever done. This comes from a guy who has strapped himself five times to a rocket with the explosive force of a small nuclear bomb – and who has ventured into the void as a spacewalker seven times. In his last spacewalk, he was lashed to the end of an extended robot arm on the space station – and performed an improvised fix to some bunched arrays – which were still alive with electrical current. But summiting Everest still tops all of it.

Listen to my last Skype chat with him and his Sherpa Danuru from Everest Base Camp. It sure was a fun ride for me – even though I seldom left my laundry room. Hope you enjoyed it as well.

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As you know by now, Scott was carrying some small moon rocks with him gathered by Neil Armstrong in July 1969. Here are some great shots of him at the top including one holding the rocks in a container with a sliver of a moon in the distance.




Videos of astronaut Scott Parazynski at the top of the world

May 20, 2009

Here are four videos of Scott Parazynski, astronaut and now champion of Mt. Everest, at the top of the world.

On these four short clips, watch Scott reach the summit, begin his descent, and take in a sunrise.

(All videos are courtesy the Discovery Channel.)

Earlier coverage of the great news that Scott reached the summit is available in the previous post.

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Astronaut 'Hurting,' Resting after 'Topping Off' at Everest

May 19, 2009


UPDATE: Videos of Scott’s arrival and descent now available here.

Astronaut Scott Parazynski is now back at Camp 4 – “hurting” and resting – after successfully making it to the summit of Mount Everest at 4 am local time on Wednesday (6:15 pm EDT Tuesday ) – one year after a back injury forced him to turn around as he neared the top of the world’s tallest peak. Carrying moon rocks, a hi-tech satellite tracking device and the dreams of a lifetime, he is the first astronaut to summit Everest.

Scott and his Sherpa Danuru remained on the summit for about thirty minutes and then began the more perilous journey down the mountain. Scott told me in his last Skype chat before making the final push that he was worried about an “Into Thin Air” style conga line at the top of the world, and so apparently got up early to beat “rush hour” on Everest.

Although I have not had a chance to confirm this, his plan was to speak to the crew of the International Space Station as he stood on Everest.everest_route_map

Scott is carrying some tiny moon rock fragments gathered by Neil Armstrong on Jul 20, 1969 in the Sea of Tranquility. You can see my post – with some video and images of the rocks here. They are on loan from NASA.

He is carrying a SPOT satellite messenger device which allows users to leave a trail of electronic breadcrumbs on the web. You can see Scott’s trail to the top of the world at

As Scott pointed out in his last Skype chat with me, the trip down the mountain is considered the most perilous. First, climbers are pretty well spent by the time they make it to the summit (Scott had been climbing non-stop for 10 hours to get there) and second, tripping on crampons going down the steep, icy precipice has potentially fatal consequences.

Scott is being assisted by Keith Cowing who hosts the website – where you can find a blog that details their advenutres. I just got off the Skype with Keith Cowing at Everest Base Camp. He got a little misty when I asked him to put the whole adventure into perspective:

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The five-time shuttle shuttle flier has conducted seven spacewalks (including a perilous trip into the void in 2007 to repair a snarled solar array on the International Space Station) and he flew in 1998 with Senator John Glenn. So what does a guy like that (oh, he is also an M.D.) do after the space thing is over? One word: Everest.

Last year, only a few thousand feet from the summit, he awakened to stabbing pains in his back. He had a ruptured disc and was forced to hobble down the mountain. His only saving grace: on Everest, there is an endless supply of ice to deaden the pain. Since then he has had surgery and stuck to a strict exercise regimen. The back was not a problem this time around.

Scott and I had lunch in New York around the holidays. He was wondering if there was a way that he could get back for a second stab at the summit. I was newly out of a job and agreed to help him find sponsorship  – under the assumption that I would join him at Everest Base Camp to help him get the story out. Everything worked except I turned out to be a pretty busy unemployed guy  – and my obligation to the PBS documentary Blueprint America: The Road to the Future extended into my Everest window. And so I spent the trip talking to Scott in my laundry room. Alas, they also serve who wait and wash…

Here is a photo album from Scott’s two-month trek toward this moment:

Astronaut on His Way to the Top of Everest

May 19, 2009

img_3964Astronaut Scott Parazynski woke up and shoved off from the last stop before the Summit of Everest – the High Camp – at about 10:45am ET – 8:30pm on Everest. He and his IMG teammates will climb through the night toward the summit, and assuming all goes well, will be there for a dawn that can only be topped…from space I suppose. If he makes it, Scott will be the first and only human to see a sunrise from orbit and from the highest point on Earth.

I spoke with Keith Cowing, who is helping Scott get his story out, back at Everest base Camp at about 10:30am ET. He says there is a medical emergency on the mountain now, which might – or might not – delay Scott  (who is a physician in addition to being an astronaut).

As it stands right now, Scott should be on the summit at about 7pm ET tonight- or everest_route_map4:45am/May 20 on Everest. Stay with me here…and follow the adventure as well on the following twitter feeds: @milesobrien @keithcowing @SPOTScott.

Scott’s blog is at

And perhaps the coolest thing: Scott is carrying a SPOT Satellite Messenger Device – which will provide real-time tracking data on his location. Follow him there at

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BB Video – Miles O'Brien Reports: An Astronaut Climbs Everest – Boing Boing

May 18, 2009

In this episode of Boing Boing Video, guest contributor Miles O’Brien, the veteran space and science reporter formerly with CNN, speaks with astronaut Scott Parazynski as he attempts to summit Mt. Everest.

Parazynski and his team are scheduled to actually attempt the summit within the next day or two, as I understand their current plans.

via BB Video – Miles O’Brien Reports: An Astronaut Climbs Everest – Boing Boing.

Astronaut Searches for Life … on Mount Everest

May 18, 2009

Searching for signs of life on Mount Everest could provide a window into the extreme environments that organisms might inhabit elsewhere in the universe.

So, former astronaut Scott Parazynski will set up instruments to hunt down elusive evidence of life at the top of the world when he attempts to summit Everest Wednesday.

via — Astronaut Searches for Life … on Mount Everest.

Astronaut at Camp 3 – Carrying Moon Rocks

May 18, 2009

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Astronaut Scott Parazynski – buffeted now by high winds at Base Camp 3 – making a historic summit bid at Mount Everest – is carrying some small pieces of moon rock as he climbs to the top of the highest spot on Earth.

This sample was loaned to Parazynski by NASA which seldom gives out pieces of the lunareverest_route_map regolith gathered by the twelve Apollo astronauts who flew to the moon between 1969 and 1972.

The lunar sample carried by Parazynski was collected by Apollo 11 Astronaut Neil Armstrong in July 1969. Numbered as sample 10085,134 this was one of the surface and subsurface samples picked up about 15-20 feet (4-6 meters) north of the Lunar Module “Eagle” which landed in the Sea of Tranquility.

If all goes according to plan (and it often does not on Everest), the rock fragments will reach the top of the world little more than two months before the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

This sample weighs 0.052 grams and is encapsulated in a clear acrylic “button” approximately 0.75 inches (1.9 cm) in diameter. The parent sample from which this smaller portion was taken weighed 569 grams (1.2 lbs).

A temporary outer enclosure was created at Everest Base Camp to further protect the sample, to allow it to be handled by people wearing thick mountaineering gloves, and to allow it to be more visible in photographs taken at the summit.

Image: close-up look at sample 10085,134 inside its protective housing

These tiny rocks are left over from pieces embedded into so called “Small World” plaques that the US bestowed as gifts to other nations and to all fifty states in the seventies.

After his historic trip to the moon, Armstrong became close friends with the first man to summit Everest (in 1953) Sir Edmund Hillary. The two historic figures later traveled the world together – including a trip to the North Pole.

Parazynski was able to secure the moon rock loan via a Space Act Agreement in place between NASA and the Challenger Center for Space Science Education. Parazynski’s team includes Keith Cowing (located at Everest Base Camp), and Miles O’Brien (located in New York City). All three are members of the Board of Directors of the Challenger Center – established by family members of the crew of STS-51L shortly after the the shuttle accident in 1986.

There are currently more than fifty Challenger Centers all over the world – providing an immersive, stimulating learning environment for middle school students who role play simulated space missions.

During his Everest expedition, Parazynski answered dozens of questions posed by students at Challenger Centers all across the US via a satellite video link.

Parazynski is sponsored by the SPOT Satellite Messenger Company – a unit of Globalstar. The SPOT device enables Internet users to track his steps in real time at

This is Parazynski’s second consecutive season on Everest. Last year, he was in striking distance of he summit when a back injury forced him to turn back and hobble down the mountain. Thanks to some surgery and a rigorous exercise regimen, he is in great physical shape to achieve his lifelong goal this year.

Parazynski flew five times on the space shuttle (including one mission as a crew mate of Senator John Glenn) and performed seven spacewalks (including a daring improvised trip into the void in 2007 to unsnarl a snagged solar array at the International Space Station). He retired from the astronaut corps in March and is now employed by Wyle Labs in Houston.

The moon rocks will be returned to NASA once Parazynski comes home.

Parazynski hopes to summit in the early hours of May 20 on Everest – evening May 19 in the US.

Image: Scott holding up moon rock sample 10085,134 inside its protective housing so as to eclipse the rising moon. The west shoulder of Mt. Everest is on the left.

Astronaut Summit Push #2 begins Saturday

May 15, 2009

Astronaut Scott Parazynski is now back at Everest Base Camp after a few days in lower, thicker air. After some bad weather – and bad luck on the mountain – in general, things are looking up. But on Everest, that can change in an instant. Right now, if all goes well, Scott will be on top of the world early on May 20th (which is evening May 19 in the US). But he is worried there will be an “Into Thin Air” traffic jam at the top. If that happens, he will wait another day. “It is not a race…it is a marathon,” said Scott. You can read his blog at and track his every move in real time at

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Astronaut at Everest Base Camp – Looking Up!

May 14, 2009


Just heard from Astronaut Scott Parazynski. After a few days in thicker air – sleeping on a bed in a a hotel, he is back at Everest base Camp. I will have a Skype chat with him tonight at 11pm EDT. Below is a portion of the blog entry I just posted for him at You can follow Scott’s tracks at

The weather appears to be cooperating, as we had a beautiful, cloud-free morning — and a typical EBC afternoon with clouds and light snow. Some teams have elected to head back up to Camp II early tomorrow, but our plan is to take tomorrow off, and head back up on May 16th. We’ll then take a rest day at Camp II, and target a summit on or about May 20th (when weather is also expected to be calm and hopefully clear).

Heavy Snow…Uncertain Future on Everest | On Orbit

May 12, 2009

Heavy Snow…Uncertain Future on Everest | On Orbit.

Astronaut Scott Parazynski and his Media Sherpa Keith Cowing remain in Pheriche, Nepal – where the air is (relatively) thicker, the toilet facilities are (relatively) more comfortable – and the internet access is blocked by mountains. The weather and the news from the mountain is not good. So far, no one has reached the summit – and the monsoon season is but a few weeks away.

A thick wet snow is falling here in Pheriche on Day 52 of the expedition, and uncertainty exists as to when we can easily return to EBC, when the weather might lift to allow teams to recommence their summit bids, and when we might get our chance… Snow up high means fixed lines will likely be covered, as will have our bootprints from multiple prior forays up the route. All 20+ climbing teams will be poised to go at the first hint of promising weather, which might result in crowding and bottlenecks. Meanwhile, the end of May and the approach of the monsoon season is less than 3 weeks away.

You can follow Scott’s tracks vie the SPOT Satellite Messenger at