One small step for man…
August 28, 2010 4 Comments
So, after a long internal battle with myself about whether or not I actually wanted to do this, I decided to at least give it a try. Who knows, maybe by the time I actually get around to applying for the corps, having a solid background (and hopefully following) in social media might be desirable; I mean, most astronauts are now required to have Twitter accounts.
In any case, this first post will be about my background:
I went to U.S. Space Camp when I was 10 years old (summer ’98, right after 4th grade) and absolutely loved it. In fact, out of the over 900 kids at my session, I won one of two “Right Stuff” awards. Now, to really understand me at Space Camp, I need to paint you a picture of me at 10. Picture a kid just starting to become chubby, about 4′-nothing with a rat tail, huge glasses and a pretty bad lisp on anything that includes an “s”. That’s me. Oh and I’m extremely outgoing and don’t shut up. So yeah, I loved Space Camp. In fact, I had wanted to go to Space Camp for years before I actually could, my grandparents had to wait like 3 years between me asking them to send me and me actually being old enough to go. Sidenote: I know my grandparents will never read this blog, but I really, really from the bottom of my heart need to thank them for sending me to Space Camp. It would be an understatement to say that it changed my life.
After I got home from Space Camp, I was determined to be an astronaut. There was no doubt in my mind. Done deal. That Christmas I got a telescope and I used to set it up outside and take super detailed notes about where I was looking and what I saw. The first time I ever saw Saturn through that telescope absolutely blew my mind. Granted it was only a 2″ refractor that probably cost only around $100 and since then I’ve looked at Saturn through telescopes at magnifications hundreds of times higher than that, but there’s nothing like the first time you see Saturn with your own eyes through a telescope. If you haven’t had the experience, do it. Forgive the pun, but it’s out of this world.
As middle school and high school dragged on though I became discouraged about becoming an astronaut. I was overweight plus I had asthma and horrible eyesight; astronauts were exquisite physical specimens, aka not me. And at that time, I thought that you needed to be in the military to become an astronaut (it helps, but it’s not a necessity) and with the post-9/11 turmoil, the military didn’t seem like exactly the best place to be. So I resigned myself to becoming an Astrophysicist; at the time I had no real idea what the exact specification of this field meant, but I knew it had to do with space and it sounded impressive. I was resolved that if I couldn’t go into space, I’d know everything about it and help send people there. And that’s where my mindset was through high school.
I was determined to go to Princeton; that didn’t happen. I went to Boston University and absolutely loved it. Got my BA in Astronomy & Physics with distinction plus got an internship and subsequent job working at the Charles Hayden Planetarium and Gilliand Observatory at the Museum of Science, Boston. While at BU, I had the extreme pleasure to meet three Apollo astronauts: Alan Bean, Jack Schmitt, and Rusty Schweickart. Talking to these men and hearing them recount their experiences reignited my desire to be an astronaut.
I’m already much closer to becoming an astronaut than most people ever get, I have a degree in Astronomy. And now that I’m out of college and in a PhD program for Physics, I find myself asking “why not?”. Why shouldn’t I at least try? If If I don’t try and just get a PhD and become a researcher I’m sure I won’t be miserable, but do I want to have that nagging regret that I never gave it a shot? I know up front that the chances are minimal; besides the fact that the selection process is highly exclusive, I’ll have to worry about the shaky future of the U.S. manned-space program. I know that I’ll need to get in better physical shape (typing this I’m actually kind of winded…) and I’ve already started research into getting my pilot’s license (not a requirement, but something that will definitely help my candidacy).
So for now I’m preparing myself, with my love for the night sky and eternal wonder at the possibility of space fueling my dreams. I hope that you’ll enjoy my story as it unfolds.