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Press Releases 21 December 2020

Oxfordshire Military Veteran Jack Cummings Meets NASA Astronaut Steve Swanson in Inspirational Resilience Sessions Podcast

In this affecting episode Steve, 60, the former NASA astronaut who completed two space missions with five space walks and logged 195 days in space, was speaking with former Royal Engineer and Blesma member Jack Cummings, who lost both his legs to an IED while on patrol in Afghanistan at just 22 years old on his 2nd tour of duty.

The pair shared their ways of dealing with tough moments in their life and how they faced turning points as they grappled with challenges.

Inspirational astronaut Steve Swanson has told how his first glimpse of the earth from space was an anti-climax.

The former commander of the International Space Station expected to experience reverential impact from the sighting, akin to ‘a halo with light coming down with music’ but after a glance he went straight back to work.

“We were over the oceans and I could see blue water with clouds which is kind of cool,” revealed in the Resilience Sessions podcast - which brings together members of Blesma, the limbless veterans, and public figures to talk about meeting challenges and overcoming adversity.

Swanson was in the middle of a 12-year training journey to become an astronaut when seven of his colleagues died when the shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it re-entered the atmosphere in 2003.

“It was difficult; we knew them really well. It hurts a lot,” he adds. “You are trying to work out what has gone on and how to get back to flying again at the same time as you are mourning. There is self-reflection too – did I want to get back on one of these things?”

Jack’s own determination to not let the devastating injury beat him sustained him through a long rehabilitation process but later Jack lost focus when he returned home and to a life outside the forces.

But, helped by his wife, Jack managed to shake off depression, regained his zest for life, plunged into sport, winning a Bronze medal in swimming at the Invictus Games in 2017 and completing the London Marathon wheelchair race the following year.

Steve, who only decided to become an astronaut after completing a Masters’ degree aged 25, adds: “It wasn’t always a straight path. I made mistakes and did things that weren’t smart. But those things helped make me who I am. I think you should try different paths, and never pass up an opportunity for something new.

The Resilience Sessions, devised by The Drive Project and Blesma, grew from the Making Generation R, a campaign which trains members of Blesma to tell their incredible stories of overcoming adversity, having now reached over 100,000 front line workers, first responders and young people.

The Resilience Sessions podcast is featured on The Samaritans wellbeing app for Veterans and is being used as a wellbeing resource for NHS staff.

The series, with a new episode every Tuesday features NASA astronaut and Commander of the ISS Steve Swanson, singer and comedienne Judith Owen, Chief Fire Officer and psychologist Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, and former SAS officer Billy Billingham MBE, who stars in the hit TV adventure series Who Dares Wins.

Listen to the podcast here:

Watch the podcast here: The Resilience Sessions YouTube Channel