So, I was flipping through the online newspapers today and ran across this video. Yes, that is an recruitment video for the NASA astronaut class of 2013, despite the fact that it has roughly the same production values as one made by a YouTube fanboy. It entices with the promise that, “we’re going to send humans farther into space than ever before. And, eventually, to Mars.”
*raises hand* I have a question: In what precisely?
The United States currently has no manned spaceflight program. There is no clear plan for what will come after the Shuttle. Given that it’s late 2011, and we have no idea where said astronauts might be going (although we can examine the statement I quoted above and hypothesize that NASA is targeting somewhere further than humans have gone before, i.e. the Moon, and “eventually” to Mars, that the target might be somewhere between Luna and the Red Planet which appears to be a whole lot of empty space and sounds very exciting) or what they might be riding in, 2013 seems pretty ambitious.
Should you be tempted to apply, here‘s the place. The extremely un-sexy Key Requirements are:
- Position subject to pre-employment background investigation (No terrorists, check.)
- This is drug-testing designated position (I should hope so.)
- Frequent travel may be required (MAY? If all goes well, you’re going to Mars, which is a several-year trip.)
- Selectee must pass a pre-employment medical examination (No croaking in space due to natural causes. If anybody’s gonna die, we’re going to kill you.)
First of all, you get a fantabulous starting salary of $64,000/year to strap yourself into a seat attached to a gigantic thermos full of rocket fuel designed and maintained by people who, at one point, thought a Powerpoint slide deck was an adequate technical briefing and actually went so far as to put a signature line on the first one to serve as an official pre-flight document. These same people, we might call some of them “physicists”, couldn’t seem to figure out that a suitcase-sized piece of foam moving at roughly 500 mph does significant damage upon impacting a fragile surface like a carbon composite. If you don’t believe me, go read the Columbia Accident Investigation Board report.
But, hey, you get the job security of being a GS-11 Federal employee with all the benefits of that, including, “ample, nearby on-site parking that is free or subsidized.” You cannot make this stuff up.
Here’s a better list of Key Astronaut Requirements:
- Learns foreign languages, like Russian, easily.
- Wants to be 400,000,000 km away from spouse for years at a time.
- Likes living in an Airstream trailer bathing in own recycled urine.
- Doesn’t mind the idea of suffocating, freezing to death in seconds, or being vaporized.
If I seem cynical, I am. But mainly because I’m so disappointed. I really wanted to be an astronaut as a kid. I love The Right Stuff. I had dreams of strolling the maria or looking up at Olympus Mons. I still tear up at Shuttle launch videos. If you asked me what one of my dreams is I would tell you that I hope one of my children is in the vanguard of the diaspora, even if it meant I would never get to see them again. Just because it would mean my grandchildren were first-generation Martians. Human spaceflight was awesome.
And these bastards made it lame.
I still want to go into space, but, if I do, I want to go on the Astraeus with the crew from Global Dynamics. Even if I have to eat limacoids. Failing that, I think I’d call Richard Branson. _________________________________________________________________________________________________