Dear NASA, I Want To Be An AstronautPosted: November 23, 2015
I noticed that you announced on Facebook that I could apply to be an astronaut. Thank you for letting me know.
You might reconsider putting that sort of thing on Facebook when you see the quality of the other applicants. Of course, that message did reach your obvious target audience. I suppose that you have to deal with some lower quality Facebook astronaut wannabes to get to a prime candidate like me.
It’s probably best that you get away from that stereotypical young test pilot with a crew cut sort that you’ve been hiring since the sixties. You just don’t know what you’re going to get from them.
No, wait. Actually, I think you do know what you’re going to get from them and it’s boring. I’m certain there are things that are attractive about knowing you’re going to get a measured and reasonable response from a person under pressure. But when the chips are down and the navigation computer is too, is a little bit of freaking out in a space capsule such a bad thing?
Of course it isn’t. Calmness is overrated in these situations. You want your guys on the ground to know that if that computer isn’t up and running right now there’s going to be hell to pay when the astronauts get back. A little bit of a stress reaction might be just what you need. That’s why you need someone like me up there…older, experienced, but still able to deliver a motivating “I’m stressed, so you damned sure better be stressed” statement as needed.
That isn’t to say that I’m prone to tossing fits. In fact, my calming nature is another big reason you want me as an astronaut. I talk myself out of situations. I’ve mastered helping other people to cool out. If you’ve got four folks in a confined area for an extended period you’re going to want one of them to be me; I’m the one that’s going to keep them calm and focused. Sure, you could launch a mission without me, but you are taking a chance on your astronauts getting on each other’s nerves and turning the ship around after deciding the mission isn’t worth putting up with each other.
Yes, I’m the guy who knows when to calm things down and when to apply pressure. You’re probably going to want me in charge of the mission and I’m prepared for that. Before I retired, I gained twenty two years of experience as a supervisor of groups up to twenty people. Managing four or five people who are locked in a capsule with me will be a piece of cake for me.
The phrase “piece of cake” brings up another of my qualifications. I don’t eat much cake, or anything else for that matter. I’m not overweight and could be in great shape in short order. But let’s face it, when you hire me as an astronaut, the job is going to entail a lot of sitting. I’m well aware that the people who go on your missions do more than sit, but they do mostly sit. I can sit and prepare to do something else as well as the next guy.
For what it is worth, I can probably fit in to whatever off the rack spacesuit you’ve got.
What the space program needs that I can provide is wit. Everyone respects the precision with which your missions are carried out. And we can all recall the words of astronauts who went before me, like “…one small step for man” and “Houston, we have a problem”. But as memorable as those words are, they are decidedly not funny.
I’m sure that, privately, the Gemini crews were a barrel of laughs and the Apollo trios were up on all the newest jokes. But what you need is my kind of funny. The “I can’t remember your name so I’m assigning you a nickname” kind of funny. When I hang a nickname on someone, it sticks. If you go to where I used to work and ask for Optimus Prime, everyone there will take you to the same person…and I’ve been gone for two years.
And I can provide humor while we are “in the moment”. Let me give you an example. At my old job, I was talking to a kid who was threatening to commit suicide by jumping off a parking deck. I got him calmed and he was sitting on the ledge; we were having a conversation and he was smoking. He got too relaxed, burned his leg with his cigarette and almost fell to his death. He gathered himself, turned to me with a shocked look on his face and I said “see, smoking is bad for you.”
You’re not going to get that from your fancy test pilot sort. You just are not.
So, what’s it going to hurt to bring me down for some training? You can see if you’ve got a helmet that fits me, we’ll talk salary and benefits. I’ve got this blog that people read (some of them are not even my relatives) so I’ve got a social media upside. Have your people call my people.