NASA has space for you! That is the tagline for NASA’s astronaut recruitment page at nasa.gov. No kidding.
The entire page is just a gem of finely crafted phrasing. From the best I can tell, its gist is that you too can be an astronaut. However, applicants be warned: “The open positions require extensive travel on Earth and in space. Possible destinations may include, but are not limited to, Texas, Florida, California, Russia, Kazakhstan, the International Space Station and the moon.”
Wait, so what you’re saying is, if I become an astronaut, I might have to go into space? That’s ridiculous!
Well, no matter. The deadline to apply was July 1. Although, it would have been great to have a shot at going to the moon. Not that I’d ever voluntary strap myself to a rocket holding enough fuel to blow up Connecticut. I’m too afraid of heights.
But anyone who knows me knows I’ve had a long-time fascination with our nation’s space program, particularly the Apollo moon landings. And I’m more than stoked that NASA has already begun plans to return to the moon…and it’s in preparation for missions to Mars! Right now the project is being called the “Constellation Program.”
And today, NASA announced its final shuttle mission, slated for May 31, 2010. And while I find this moment somewhat bittersweet, I also know that it means the space program is moving forward.
You could argue that we don’t need to fund such expensive exploration with our economy the way it is, and in some cases, maybe you’re right. But did you ever think about how much of our daily lives is affected by our advances in space? All our communications systems here on Earth use satellite technology. And we use oodles of materials, devices and inventions in our homes that were developed for space travel. Then there’s that whole space pen thing. Come on; it writes upside down and under water! Astronaut Ice Cream? Who doesn’t want freeze-dried dessert with a side of Tang?
All joking aside, I can’t wait to see what the future holds. We already got past 1984 without taking on “Big Brother” (more or less), and 2001 came and went without much fanfare (and without HAL). But if we’re going to get Star Fleet up and running in the next 200 to 300 years, we’ve got to get a move on. (I think I’ve seen one too many episodes of “Star Trek.”)
Besides, we’ve been to the moon before. Most of the Apollo equipment was simultaneously a technological marvel and a piece-meal K’nex-like apparatus. And it happened when most of the country was still watching black-and-white TV. I am in awe of the power of the human mind, almost 40 years after the famous Apollo 11 landing.
There’s a great scene in the movie “Apollo 13” where Jim Lovell (portrayed beautifully by Tom Hanks) says to his wife, Marilyn, (the Oscar-nominated Kathleen Quinlan), and it epitomizes the awe and simplicity of space travel: “From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. It’s not a miracle; we just decided to go.”
And, who knows? Maybe soon we’ll live in a world where man has walked on Mars.