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Former astronaut speaks at The Master’s University 

NASA astronaut and retired U.S. Army Colonel Jeffrey Williams speaks to attendees at the Master's University on Friday, 041423. Dan Watson/The Signal
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When NASA astronaut and former U.S. Army Col. Jefferey Williams looked out of a small window as he reentered the Earth’s atmosphere, he saw nothing but a 3,000-degree Fahrenheit inferno eroding the spacecraft’s thermal heat shield — by design, of course. 

Turning his head just to see it took some work, as four G’s of gravitational force pushed against him and his crewmates.  

“All of a sudden you hear wind outside and that’s when you know you’re subsonic and then seconds later, the parachute,” said Williams. “Opening sequence begins — which is a huge explosion of pyrotechnics.” 

NASA astronaut and retired U.S. Army Colonel Jeffrey Williams speaks to attendees at the Master’s University on Friday, 041423. Dan Watson/The Signal

The capsule then spun at 13 degrees per second, jostling the crew back and forth as they sat in the fetal position. Another explosion occurred, followed by the “opening shock” of the main chute deployment. A gentle drift toward the water lasted about 10 minutes before gamma ray sensors detected the water’s surface, which is designed to trigger “smooth landing thrusters.” 

“They call them soft landing thrusters, but there’s nothing soft about the explosion of those rocket motors. Feels simultaneous to the impact on the ground — it’s as if you go through a car wreck,” said Williams.  

Normally the capsule floats on its side as it bobs in the sea — meaning the crew hangs from the harness of their seats. 

NASA astronaut and retired U.S. Army Colonel Jeffrey Williams speaks to attendees at the Master’s University on Friday, 041423. Dan Watson/The Signal

“Feeling this relentless force of gravity, where now I gotta work hard to pick up my hand to reach that button. Because you’ve been up there for six months, weightless, which is hard to imagine if you haven’t experienced it.” 

While this all may seem intense for most, this used to be just another day on the job for Williams — who shared this story to students of The Master’s University on Friday.  

The private, Christian university in Placerita Canyon asked Williams to speak because of his devout faith, something he mainly wished to talk about during his speech and listed several examples of how he upheld it while spending months at a time on the International Space Station.  

Tai-Danae Bradley, right, Visiting Research Professor of Mathematics at The Master’s University introduces NASA astronaut and retired U.S. Army Colonel Jeffrey Williams before he speaks to attendees at the Master’s University on Friday, 041423. Dan Watson/The Signal

Williams would listen to sermons while he worked out, strapped the pages of his Bible down with elastic straps so he could read the pages without them floating and held Sunday prayer with anyone who liked to join him.   

He described his entire journey, from the West Point Military Academy to walking in space, as a calling. 

“From my perspective it is an outworking of the calling that the Lord has given me in life in general,” said Williams. “You’re here in part anyway today because you have this astronaut coming to visit. So it’s in that context but it applies to each and every one of us.” 

When asked if pursuing science and math ever challenged his faith in any way, as it has for some, he said his beliefs were always steadfast.  

“I’ve never had an experience that challenged my faith. It only increased my resolve to understand my faith, to grow in understanding of a biblical worldview to address those questions and all other questions that come to us in life,” said Williams, who elaborated on this point by saying all of science and human understanding of it comes from God.   

“There is no conflict between true scientific endeavor and the Scripture. They’re congruent. The conflict comes in your presuppositions going in, your insights,” said Williams. “That’s those strongholds that Paul talks about, that we are called to destroy, destroy those strongholds, those systems of thought, those philosophies that are contrary to the word of God.” 

Students were able to ask Willams a variety of questions — most of them being faith-based. A clear constant was present throughout his entire talk, that his faith never wavered even when he had a front-row seat to the cosmos.  

“In all aspects of the experience, contemplating the words of the Lord, the wonder of the Lord’s providence, just to be there after 534 days, the wonder never diminished,” said Williams.  

When NASA astronaut and former U.S. Army Col. Jefferey Williams looked out of a small window as he reentered the Earth’s atmosphere, he saw nothing but a 3,000-degree Fahrenheit inferno eroding the spacecraft’s thermal heat shield — by design, of course. 

Turning his head just to see it took some work, as four G’s of gravitational force pushed against him and his crewmates.  

“All of a sudden you hear wind outside and that’s when you know you’re subsonic and then seconds later, the parachute,” said Williams. “Opening sequence begins — which is a huge explosion of pyrotechnics.” 

The capsule then spun at 13 degrees per second, jostling the crew back and forth as they sat in the fetal position. Another explosion occurred, followed by the “opening shock” of the main chute deployment. A gentle drift toward the water lasted about 10 minutes before gamma ray sensors detected the water’s surface, which is designed to trigger “smooth landing thrusters.” 

“They call them soft landing thrusters, but there’s nothing soft about the explosion of those rocket motors. Feels simultaneous to the impact on the ground — it’s as if you go through a car wreck,” said Williams.  

Normally the capsule floats on its side as it bobs in the sea — meaning the crew hangs from the harness of their seats. 

“Feeling this relentless force of gravity, where now I gotta work hard to pick up my hand to reach that button. Because you’ve been up there for six months, weightless, which is hard to imagine if you haven’t experienced it.” 

While this all may seem intense for most, this used to be just another day on the job for Williams — who shared this story to students of The Master’s University on Friday.  

The private, Christian university in Placerita Canyon asked Williams to speak because of his devout faith, something he mainly wished to talk about during his speech and listed several examples of how he upheld it while spending months at a time on the International Space Station.  

Williams would listen to sermons while he worked out, strapped the pages of his Bible down with elastic straps so he could read the pages without them floating and held Sunday prayer with anyone who liked to join him.   

He described his entire journey, from the West Point Military Academy to walking in space, as a calling. 

“From my perspective it is an outworking of the calling that the Lord has given me in life in general,” said Williams. “You’re here in part anyway today because you have this astronaut coming to visit. So it’s in that context but it applies to each and every one of us.” 

When asked if pursuing science and math ever challenged his faith in any way, as it has for some, he said his beliefs were always steadfast.  

“I’ve never had an experience that challenged my faith. It only increased my resolve to understand my faith, to grow in understanding of a biblical worldview to address those questions and all other questions that come to us in life,” said Williams, who elaborated on this point by saying all of science and human understanding of it comes from God.   

“There is no conflict between true scientific endeavor and the Scripture. They’re congruent. The conflict comes in your presuppositions going in, your insights,” said Williams. “That’s those strongholds that Paul talks about, that we are called to destroy, destroy those strongholds, those systems of thought, those philosophies that are contrary to the word of God.” 

Students were able to ask Willams a variety of questions — most of them being faith-based. A clear constant was present throughout his entire talk, that his faith never wavered even when he had a front-row seat to the cosmos.  

“In all aspects of the experience, contemplating the words of the Lord, the wonder of the Lord’s providence, just to be there after 534 days, the wonder never diminished,” said Williams.  

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