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My Alternate Universe

Tonight, the space shuttle Discovery is lifting off for a two-week mission. As part of the mission, the astronauts will be delivering replacement parts to the International Space Station.

I'm feeling a little bit wistful about this mission for one rather odd reason. Friends of mine may recall that back in 2003 I applied for the Educator Astronaut program. (Looking back, I see that I didn't really blog about that much, but the four posts I did make are listed at the bottom for anyone who wants to read them.) I made the first cut, but then NASA decided that my medical profile did not meet their standards. (Given my nearsightedness, I can understand that.)

People may see where this is going. In 2004, NASA selected a class of Educator Astronauts, and I was not among them. Five years later, two of those astronauts, Joseph M. Acaba and Richard R. Arnold II, are getting ready to go into space on their first mission, STS-119.

Both of them are extremely qualified to be astronauts, of course. According to their entries on Wikipedia, Acaba studied geology in college and graduate school and served in the Marine reserves, and Arnold studied Environmental Science and worked as an Oceanographic Technician for the United States Naval Academy. Also, both had distinguished careers as teachers before they were selected to be astronauts. To be honest, I'm proud that my former profession is being represented tonight by astronauts such as these two men.

Still, I can't help but imagine that in some other universe, I'm getting ready to go into space myself.

My Educator Astronaut Posts from 2003:


If the sky clears early enough tonight, we can see the launch as Discovery comes up the Atlantic coastline. The forecast calls for 50% overcast in Boston at launch time. The shuttle would rise over the southern horizon 7 minutes after liftoff, and fly about 10-15 degrees high, moving south to southeast, with main engine cutoff visible from this area. More info:


I saw your invitation to come watch with you; unfortunately, I think I'm feeling too exhausted today to even try to look for it on my own.
NASA scrubbed the launch because of a fuel leak. Maybe tomorrow night.
I hear ya! Back in 1998, I was all over the AsCan lists, reading up on how to become an astronaut. I started working out, getting into shape. I took flying lessons and got my pilots license. And then I realized that my chances were pretty slim. Reading the bios of most of the people who made it into the program, I saw they were one and all extreme overachievers (multiple Ph.Ds, M.D./Ph.Ds, with 5,000 hours in 12 different kinds of aircraft, and Eagle Scouts to top it off!)

I decided that I should stick to writing and maybe one day, sell a story. Having done that, whenever the shuttle launches, I too get a bit wistful (and envious) that it's them and not me.
Sorry for your wistfulness over the launch; I know how much you hoped for that spot.

December 2016

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