On Getting a Call from NASA

In the Spring of 2020 I decided to do something a bit crazy but also a life long dream: I applied to become a NASA Astronaut. It was pretty clear during the application process that my chances were ridiculously slim given my age (over 60) and my lack of a science/engineering degree or “experience,” oh, and my “health.” But what the heck, why not.

So, ever the last minute person, I spent days working through the application, realizing how few boxes I could check that would help my effort, but got the document posted on the last day applications were being accepted. Then I heard nothing, for months. 

Finally, in January 2021 I got the following email:

Dear Astronaut Candidate Applicant,

I wanted to reach out to you again regarding Astronaut Selection timeline. Based on the trajectory of the pandemic and the limited availability of COVID vaccine at this time, we have further delayed any on-site activities until at least this summer. We still hope to announce a new class of Astronauts in late 2021 or early 2022. I know this is not great news, but a further deferral protects the health of applicants and our NASA employees. We will post an updated schedule on our website soon.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. Please email questions to astronaut.selection@nasa.gov.

Best regards, Anne Roemer – Manager, Astronaut Selection Office

Cool. I was busy with my first year remotely teaching robotics and media at a Las Vegas Middle School and then switching to “hybrid” in the Spring (2021). Spring turned to Summer and then turned to Fall and I struggled to transition to face-to-face robotics with kits and robot parts that hadn’t been used (or organized) for over a year and students who act as if they’ve never seen the inside of a classroom. So, the NASA astronaut application wasn’t top-of-mind. But occasionally not hearing from NASA would briefly cross my mind, but just as quickly was dislodged by a paper airplane or students angrily shutting each other’s Chromebooks (which often makes the student lose any work in progress and have to endure the slow login process). Love it. 

Then early in December the following headline crossed my feed, “NASA to Announce America’s Next Class of Astronaut Candidates On 2021-12-06.” Better check my spam folder, just in case I missed something. Nope. Nothing from NASA there. Damn. Hmmm, what are the chances that they are going to make the announcement of the new astronaut group and not have already contacted hopeful candidates. Yeah, not a good sign. 

Sure enough on Monday, December 6th the following headline appeared on the NASA website with the group photo of ten smiling  brand new astronauts: “NASA Selects New Astronaut Recruits to Train for Future Missions.” Damn. 

Astronaut Candidate Class of 2021. Photo Date: December 3, 2021. Location: JSC Mall. Photographer: Robert Markowitz

Well, that pretty much settled that. That was pretty much like having someone break up with you via social media or text message (not that I know what that’s like…). So, of course the next morning I got the following email from NASA Astronaut Selection Office:

Well, it was a pretty ridiculous impulse to think I might join the astronaut corps given my non-science/engineering education/lack of flight experience/age and health issues. Damn. Alas, I still love NASA. 

Sources:

• NASA to Announce America’s Next Class of Astronaut Candidates On 2021-12-06 | NASA, https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-to-announce-america-s-next-class-of-astronaut-candidates/

• NASA Selects New Astronaut Recruits to Train for Future Missions | NASA, https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-selects-new-astronaut-recruits-to-train-for-future-missions

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