As you may have heard, that intrepid man-about-town Richard Branson has developed a spaceflight program for civilians, Virgin Galactic. Anyone who can cough up $200,000 is now eligible to venture into the great unknown. (The latest person to sign up was Ashton Kutcher. Don’t ask me; I have no idea.) (Side note: is anyone else concerned that nearly every member of VG’s official “Team” is touted as a leader of business or finance? Shouldn’t someone working on this program have, I don’t know, worn a space suit at some point in their lives?)
Anyway, you would think Virgin Galactic would be a perfect fit for my brothers and I, because even before we discovered we had an honest-to-God astronaut as a cousin (that’s him on the right, in the picture below), we were utterly transfixed by everything having to do with outer space. Astrophysics. The Final Frontier. Light years and black holes and strings, oh my.
And astronauts are frickin’ rock stars to us.
But sadly, my siblings and I are not Starfleet material. For your enjoyment, here are a few of the reasons why, in our own words.
BROTHER # ONE, succinctly
How many bathrooms do they have at the space station? I stress out if there’s only one and I feel like there is a queue at the door. On a related note: do they have magazines in space, and can you sit longer in zero gravity?
I think we have too little, or too much water in our ears because we could never survive the centrifugal force tests. I can’t even ride roller coasters any more, I get so sick.
Also: Prada does not do spacesuits. Does Gucci do moon boots? I didn’t think so.
BROTHER # TWO, less succinctly
I’m pretty easily distracted. There are too many buttons and gadgets and things to look at for me up there. Astronauting requires you to concentrate on one task for, like, minutes.
Since turning 35, I can hardly turn around without getting motion sickness.
I’m pretty particular about where I poop. If I had to poop in my suit (that’s how I imagine the suits work), or thought I might have to, I would get rather anxious.
All my blood (all of it!) goes to my face when I’m upside down. Astronauts are always upside down (like bats).
I’m scared of the stratosphere.
I would ask the other astronauts a mind-numbing amount of questions: “Have you ever met Joseph Kittenger?” “Do you know Mark Lee?” “Did you know he is my cousin?” “How do we know Dark Energy exists?” “Did you know they can make black holes at CERN?” “How accurate is carbon dating?” “How about those early space missions? Pretty awesome, huh?” “Do you think anti-matter could power long-range space travel?”
That last one would be the clincher – my questions would start as soon as I got on NASA property. No one would be safe: engineers, janitors, mechanics, scientists, astronauts, gift-shop cashiers. I probably wouldn’t even wait for answers.
ME, not at all succinctly
I have an abject fear of crashing during takeoff…and that’s with a normal airplane. Can you imagine being strapped on top of tanks containing more than 2 million pounds of solid propellant and over half a million gallons of liquid propellant, and then being hurled heavenward with enough force to reach 3000 mph in just over two minutes?
I’ve watched video of the shuttle cockpit during liftoff. The astronauts sit there, bored-like, as though they’re riding in a horse-drawn buggy through Central Park. In the clip I saw, one of them kept casually lifting some sort of flat object up – maybe a mirror. Was he checking his teeth for spinach?
I would spend the entire liftoff alternately fainting, vomiting, and screaming “Abort! Abort! Abort!”
I have wicked problems with motion sickness. I had to quit gymnastics when I was five, because of all the headaches. I cannot ride in the back seats of cars, or go on roller coasters that go upside down. Last December, after a few rides on a kiddie water slide, I developed horrible vertigo.
After one spin in zero gravity, I’d be gripping the walls of the shuttle like a laboratory frog, crying piteously and praying loudly in all manner of tongues, foreign and domestic.
Whenever I was supposed to be doing experiments, they would have to keep prying me away from the windows. Onboard the shuttle, the astronauts are all as busy as bees, performing countless experiments that are important to mankind, so they can, you know, justify the $1.7 billion spent to build the shuttle, and the $450 million spent to put it into space. This is not playtime, folks.
Ah, but I am so mesmerized by space! Have you seen the pictures they take from up there? The glow-y earth, the black of space, the swirling lights and stars? Every five minutes it would be the same thing –
Fellow astronauts: “Where’s LaGrow?!”
“She’s staring out the #@&% window again. LaGrow!! Get over here and hold the @#($ beaker!”
(Actually, from what I’ve seen, astronauts are too smart and/or polite to cuss. But I’m pretty sure I would push them over the edge.)
I have, shall we say, sleeping challenges. I still owe you guys a post on this, but bottom line: sleep isn’t a natural state for me. It’s the end result of a series of elaborately calibrated procedures. I require a queen-sized bed, a fan, earplugs, and drugs, and it has to be dark, and I have to have multiple pillows to spoon. And I can’t deal with interruptions.
(This is a pic of John Glenn “sleeping” in Space. I mean, come on.) Needless to say, I wouldn’t be able to sleep a wink. By day three onboard, I would be hallucinating from exhaustion. I’d be naming all the crickets brought along for experiments. I’d be wedging Jello between my toes. I’d be reciting the lyrics to “Jesus, Take the Wheel” in a Cap’n Jack Sparrow voice.
In other words, I would end up being “accidentally” jettisoned into space with the trash, at the earliest possible opportunity.
Fellow astronauts: “…Oops.”
So, there you have it. The sad, sad reasons why my puny kin and I will never be able to enjoy the miracle of spaceflight. Oh, and fair warning: if you are an astronaut, and you are ever introduced to one of us? We will most likely either A. soil our pants, B. start blurting out, Tourettes-like, things like “I love space!” and “Asteroids are cool!” and “I live in Oregon!”, or C. all of the above.
It’s probably best if you steer clear.