Today I discovered that ESA (the European Space Agency) is recruiting new astronauts – it would be wrong not to apply.
The first small steps for a children’s author (but giant leap for Europeans) have now been taken by enquiring about the relevant medical examinations. Preparing for an imminent book launch hasn’t proved sufficient motivation to get fit and lose some weight. The merest glimmer of a place aboard the International Space Station will see the kilos fall off me in no time.
Do I have any chance whatsoever? I remember Jodie Foster’s Dr Arroway in the film Contact (when confronted by the magnificence of space) said, ‘They should have sent a poet.’ I’ve got to hope ESA will consider a children’s author, complete with a Cambridge science degree, to be close enough. One of my proudest moments at university was meeting Carl Sagan, author of Contact and the wonderful series Cosmos that helped inspire my dreams of space and the Johnny Mackintosh stories.
“They should have sent a poet”
The most serious impediment to my application may well be the UK government’s refusal to sign up to the human spaceflight aspect of ESA’s budget. The future of humanity depends, ultimately, on whether or not we leave this island Earth and become a space-faring species. Fail to do so and we will (I hope it’s later rather than sooner) become extinct. I come from an island nation, with a long and proud history of exploration and I hope government will have a change of heart.
As Sagan put it in the introduction to Cosmos:
“The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. From it, we have learned most of what we know. Recently, we have waded a little out to sea, enough to dampen out toes or, at most, wet our ankles. The water seems inviting. The ocean calls. Some part of our being knows this is from where we came. We long to return.”