Monday, April 19, 2004

"...I'm floating in a most peculiar way..."

David Bowie, "Space Oddity"

Congratulations to astronaut Mike "Spanky" Fincke, who launched tonight in a Soyuz for a 6-month journey to the International Space Station.

Mike is a member of the "Sardines" astronaut class of 1996. This is his first flight - a nearly 8 year wait. I hold a special affinity for the Sardines, as they were the first class that came through after I started work in Training. I taught every member of the class, all 44 of them, about the Environmental Control and Life Support Systems on board the space shuttle, and taught most of them about the shuttle's mechanical systems like the payload bay doors and landing gear. And I've taught every astronaut in every class since then at least one lesson somewhere.

But Mike getting hired was a rude awakening for me. He was one of two astronauts hired in that class, for the first time, who were younger than me (Stephanie Wilson is the other). At the time it was disheartening for me and my attempts to apply to be an astronaut - the ones getting chosen were always still older than me so in theory I could explain my not getting chosen on my age. But with him and Stephanie, I couldn't even do that anymore. Maybe, despite my self-delusions to the contrary, I really was being rejected due to my qualifications (or lack thereof), and not my age.

It's tough finding out that your lifelong dream not only won't come true, but can't.