One day I am going to be an astronaut and/or travel to outer space. One day. And of course, I will make a blog post (or several hundred posts) about it! Here’s an account of some of my progress so far …
I haven’t always been into space travel- it’s been more of a recent ‘dream’. Sure, [almost] everyone thinks those pictures of the stars, planets, moons, the milky way, and so on are cool, but not everyone dreams of going to space. Apart from getting to see amazing views and just being immersed in the awe and beauty of it all, I think that feeling of weightlessness and ‘swimming’ in the spacecraft would be great to experience- as long as it doesn’t make me queasy! 😛
The first vivid experience related to space travel I can recall was when we had a female former astronaut come to speak at my undergrad. As a student, I was an active member of the Society of Women Engineers and we put on a fundraising banquet/career fair each year and invited guest speakers. In 2009, it was Margaret Rhea Seddon– a female astronaut!! That, of course, made it way cooler. She was selected as part of the first group of astronauts to include women and she flew on three Space Shuttle flights. She is also a medical doctor.
Her talk was very interesting and made me start to think that I, too, could travel to space one day.I went to NASA’s website hoping to find information for internships or anything that would help me get one step closer- but I found nothing I qualified for :(.
Then I watched Gravity. Sandra Bullock was amazing in it. Some people think the movie is dry/boring but I LOVED it. Female astronaut kicking butt in outer space- heck yeah! Again- the views … I’d give almost anything to experience that in person.
Then I saw Interstellar as well. Another amazing movie. I’m not gonna lie though, a lot of the physics concepts went over my head. High school physics was sooooo long ago! haha. I know- excuses, excuses. But that movie totally blew my mind and I kept thinking – how cool would it be to experience all this in person??
One day, I went to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, which was a blast, by the way. Great museum! Definitely needs more than one visit because it is so huge and interesting (nerd alert). But anyway, they had the outer space exhibit and it was wonderful. I got to see the kind of ‘food’ astronauts ate in space and how they packaged it- didn’t look too appetizing, to be honest. I got to look at replicas of space shuttles and rockets. I was so mesmerized by it all that I opened my [big] mouth and said aloud that I wanted to travel into space. And I got laughed at! Can you believe that? The mocking could very easily have been the end of the whole ‘dream’ for me. But no! The dream lives on!
Which brings me to my next vivid encounter with space travel. At work, we were having a diversity talk. The email said the speaker was Franklin Chang Diaz. At the time, the name meant nothing to me. The bio however, intrigued me- because of his name. I had never seen (or even heard of) someone of mixed Hispanic and Asian descent and since the talk was a diversity talk, I decided I had better go hear how this beautiful blend of cultures came about. The bio probably mentioned something about space travel and astronauts; if it did, that was not what caught my attention. Tsk tsk, I know.
So anyway, I go to the talk, he talked about his background and his ancestry so I got my [pressing] question answered. But then he also talked about how he became an astronaut. About the circumstances under which he came to the US, how challenging it was settling into the new way of life, academic obstacles he faced, and so on. But he was smart, very smart, and persevering. He had a dream. Even though he faced many obstacles (such as only US citizens can be NASA astronauts or there being a mix up with his college scholarship), he overcame those, became a NASA astronaut, and completed several space missions.
Here are a few facts about this awesome dude (who I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of before then):
- Born April 5, 1950
- Costa Rican-American
- Mechanical engineer, physicist and former NASA astronaut
- Chinese (paternal grandfather) and Costa Rican Spanish (maternal side) descent
- Veteran of seven Space Shuttle missions, making him the record holder as of 2014 for the most spaceflights (a record he shares with Jerry L. Ross).
- Third Latin American to go into space
- Member of the NASA Astronaut Hall of Fame.
During the talk, he stressed the importance of not killing people’s dreams. Even though so many people tried (maybe unintentionally) to kill his dreams, he still made it.
Don’t kill people’s dreams. Instead, help them dream. Be a cheer-leader. Help people succeed. Give people opportunities. Mentor people. Coach people. Nominate people. Encourage people.
After that talk, it was clear to me that the only way (or pretty much the only way) for me to become an astronaut would be to go back to grad school for a PhD in something like Aeronautical Engineering or Quantum Physics or something that sounds equally intimidating (I have already been to grad school once for my Master’s in Electrical Engineering, not sure I want to go back just yet. lol). But seriously, if someone guaranteed me that if I went and got my PhD (and it got paid for of course) I would have a [return] ticket to space, I would do it. I mean, I like school, I like math, I like science, it’s a few more years of school, why not?? And then I can add the places I go in space to my list :).
Then, I saw the best movie of all, The Martian. Oh Emm Gee! And I saw it in 4D too. In Mexico (English with Spanish subtitles). First of all, Matt Damon is Bae. Second of all, best movie ever. lol. I actually cried- that’s how I know a movie is goooooood. I cried in Gravity and Interstellar too. Maybe I just cry a lot. Haha.
. . .
So in closing- maybe I’m crazy to think I will ever be an astronaut, or that I will ever travel to space. But oh … what if I do? What if I get the opportunity to do so? That wouldn’t be so crazy, right? I mean, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. I hear [semi-affordable] commercial flights to outer space are in the works soon. And even if it never happens for me, at least I had the dream. Some people are not so lucky … to have such amazing dreams :).
Thanks guys, for sticking with the long post, without pictures I might add, and for dreaming with me. May your dreams come true!
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