September 25, 2018

April 2013: Life in the Astro-Blogosphere: Astronaut or Rockstar?

1st band in space? (Credit: NASA/STS-110).

What did you want to be when you grew up? Of course, this tired old saw of a question assumes that you’re already a mortgage-paying, car-pooling adult who has had those childhood dreams tempered by reality. Hey, we all know that one guy or gal in our home town that got exactly what they wished for. For example, I knew a friend in high school that spent every waking hour drawing, designing and talking about car stereo boxes… and guess what? That’s what he does to this day. (Hopefully, the whole Ipod thing didn’t ruin his grandiose business schemes).

But I suspect that this question is especially poignant when it comes to fans of outer space. We’ve all had that “we’re not going to become an astronaut” realization moment. For many of us that grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, space was a foregone conclusion. We were all supposed to commute via jetpack and vacation on the moons of Mars by 2013. The end of the space shuttle program brought this disparity back home to many. There’s only so many slots left to get up to the International Space Station for the next decade, and the dream of Mars always seems to be a moving goal post that is just “20 years away.”

We applied, like so many other dreamers, for the Astronaut Candidate Program in 2012. Heck, we knew it was a shot longer than Curiosity finding Bradbury’s bugged-eyed Martians staring back at its camera mast tomorrow morning. Still, it was our symbolic bid at a childhood dream. Hey, they want teachers, right? Plus, being in our mid-40’s means that we’ll most likely succumb to old age before radiation exposure as the result of a long-duration space flight. And it just plain old looks cool on our office bulletin board to see our name on a card along with the words “Astronaut Selection Office” & “Astronaut Candidate Program.”

Sure, I had a fall back plan in high school, and that was to become a rock star.

Not a David Lee Roth or Mick Jagger sort of front man; I was (and still am) a terrible singer. Instead, I picked up a guitar and spent my days learning Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple riffs. Ah, to be rural and in America in the 80’s before the days of the internet! Back then, a starving player might occasionally learn what an E-power chord actually was on a good day, or how to voice harmonics. Unlike an astronaut, aspiring guitar hero might achieve a youthful notoriety on their first album. Some astronauts train for twenty years to fly their first (and sometimes only) mission into space.

Had I been able to foresee the near future, maybe I would’ve hitch-hiked to Seattle just in time to catch the Grunge rock wave at its crest, or perhaps I would’ve learned Russian while on that PhD fast-track to follow the space program eastward. My own eventual path led me to explore the world; I know many friends that immersed themselves in academia and have never traveled outside of the country. I love the wild and feral life of a free-lance writer and the “you must be crazy” looks I get from folks when I tell them I write for a living. Heck, it sounds crazy to me sometimes, that someone would want to pay me actual money for what I have to say…

Perhaps I’ll yet see the vistas of Europa or Mars before I shuffle off of this mortal coil, and I’ll strum an E-chord solo on my double-coiled humbucker while I do it!

 

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