So You Want to Be an Astronaut

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So You Want to Be an Astronaut Part I: The Application There’s an application just to get an application. I had to fill out what NASA calls an application interest form, which is an information card much like the kind of card you fill out and send in for a magazine subscription. I got the card at the Johnson Space Center in Houston last summer. The space center is a sixteen-hundred-acre compound filled with lush grass and cream-colored buildings of different shapes and sizes. Satellite dishes bloom like flowers throughout the compound, and the only buildings open to the public are a museum, the rocket park, and mission control. After climbing through a mock-up of the space shuttle, pretending to be Sally Ride, I passed by an information kiosk and the application interest form caught my eye. I grabbed one and stuck it into my Space Center museum guide, forgetting about it until months later when I filled it out and mailed it in. Just a few weeks ago my application arrived. It’s a twenty-five page affair with a glittering blue and silver cover that has a picture of the space shuttle on it. I removed the cover and tacked it up on my bulletin board next to a postcard of Charles Lindbergh standing in front of The Spirit of St. Louis. Twenty-five pages. Becoming an astronaut is more difficult than applying to Harvard Medical School. More difficult than doing your taxes. Probably even more difficult than running for the senate. Now, I can’t be an astronaut because I have absolutely no interest in math, science, engineering, medicine, or astrophysics. I dabble in astronomy, but they don’t send you up in the space shuttle because you think it would be neat. However, it’s important to always have an impossible dream. It keeps you humble. This is my impossible dream. So, I read through the application. Why do you want to be an astronaut? I love the audaciousness of the space program. Here we are, little animals trying to jump off our planet. How have your past accomplishments or experiences prepared you to be an astronaut? When I visited the Johnson Space Center in Houston I tried on a space helmet. It fit. The boots were another story but I can wear many layers of socks.

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