Gangload Your Regulator
When I was very young a teacher accused me of being a “space cadet”. My reply was a wide-eyed, “I am?!” I have believed it ever since. This blog will be about my pursuit of that dream: to become an astronaut.
I wish I could tell you that I’ve held steadfast to my aspiration, working always in the right direction. But I truly regret that for periods of time I have folded up and stowed my dream, merely hoping that the right time would come to dust it off. But now I realize I have to make the time right.
That tipping point arrived recently when I accidentally became aware of Astronauts4Hire. Within a few days I chose to join as an associate member. To explain this, I’ll tell you a story.
I am immensely fortunate to work where I do (AGSOL). One of many reasons is that I’ve worked on 15 parabolic flights, comprising about 600 parabolas. But before that could happen I had to get certified by the USAF Physiological Training Program, which included some time spent in a hypobaric chamber. The training induced hypoxia under various conditions, so we could learn to recognize the symptoms in ourselves. This story is going somewhere, I promise!
The most compelling demonstration of the insidiousness of hypoxia due to a slow decompression was a visual effect. The instructors lowered the pressure in the chamber to a level just under what humans need to continue functioning properly. They had us watch objects closely and report any changes in their perceived colors. Nobody noticed any change. Then they told us to “Gangload your regulators and put your masks on.” That meant we’d suddenly be breathing 100% oxygen. And with that, the world was in technicolor! The colors we saw became more vibrant, yet it wasn’t unusual at all. It was immediately obvious that our vision had degraded dramatically while we slowly had become hypoxic – but no one could tell until our normal vision was restored.
Learning about Astronauts4Hire was just like that. I unstowed my astronaut plans and the color flooded back into my world. This dream is my O2 supply. It makes me wonder about the etymological connection between the different meanings of the word “aspiration.” With this aspiration restored the air is fresher, the colors are brighter, and my life makes more sense.
The reasons to succeed in my more immediate or mundane goals are their connections to my larger goal. I must concede the truth: I might never be an astronaut. But as long as I actively aspire, I’m living how I want to live.
The main topic of this blog will be my own efforts to make myself a more viable astronaut candidate. There will be plenty more about the whys and hows, but I think this is enough for a first post. Regular posting will begin on April 2nd, 2011. See you then!