I’m not as well-versed with him, but I’ll certainly try. :)
Benny strikes me as one of those incredibly rare people who’s casual and supremely competent at the same time. He’s one of those truly humble personalities and shows a genuine, almost child-like enthusiasm for his job. That’s just the way he is. This makes it easy to underestimate or dismiss him out of hand as just another adrenaline junkie looking for the next rush on the top of a rocket.
In my mind, Benny showcases a zany brilliance. Becoming an astronaut these days means not only being scientifically literate in several different fields, it means being fearless and calm in the face of extreme risk, being able to socialize and gel with others for months at a time, and putting the welfare of your comrades before your ego. Benny strikes me as someone who has that in spades. Plus, he just has this really pure love for what he’s doing.
One of the most typical routes an astronaut takes is becoming an engineer, then segueway into becoming a fighter pilot, a test pilot, then applying to the (extremely competitive) space program. Benny’s jumped through those hoops. He knows the science, the dedication, and the guts it takes to go through all of this on the off-chance that he might one day be going into space. So when he does get into a spaceship, it’s the culmination of literally years worth of handwork, hopes, and dreams. And going off-world would give him a unique perspective, too. He appreciates life because he’s seen how we’re all just riding a single fragile marble in the middle of a dark void. That gives Benny this vibe of just—someone who’s fundamentally good. He accepts the whole fascinating mess of humanity because he’s been separated from them. The fascinating mess is all we’ve got.
The Apollo astronauts used to talk about feelings like this. It’s called the Overview effect, which has a really interesting documentary on Youtube. When they went to the moon, for example, they could cover the earth with a thumb. They were the farthest away from every person that has ever lived or died—than anyone else in history. It makes you appreciate what’s here back on earth, even if there’s a holy mess of fighting. It’s like a form of communitas. Benny just looks down at the world from the window of a spaceship, which gives him this unexpected humanitarian dimension. He’d be a really fascinating person to talk to.
If you want to see a neat video about astronauts, personalities, space—check out Chris Hadfield’s interview. You might also want to check out the documentary on the Overview effect—it explores this new self-awareness we got by viewing the earth from space.
GC: Take a wild guess, buddy.