When astronauts had to be men
December 2, 2012
It was a time in the 60's when every child looked at the space program on tv in awe. I was already a fan of sci-fi, jumping from the expected Nancy Drew stories, right into Isaac Asimov. I decided to write to NASA to find out what I needed to do to prepare to be an astronaut. My letter was well crafted (for a 9 year old) and I sent it off with eager anticipation. Weeks went by, then months, so I figured they didn't get the letter and I sent another one. Within a short time a large manila envelope arrived. In it was a cover letter followed by black & white glossies of the astronauts. The letter was nicely worded, and indeed gave me the criteria required to be an astronaut: You must be in military, be a pilot and have x number of flight hours. The hidden message was clear, only men at that time were pilots. You might have thought my hopes were dashed to the ground, and, they were a bit. But, I continued to read science fiction and fact and follow the space race. When the space capsule came to the Phil. museum I badgered my teacher to take us there on a class trip. When it was time for questions, no one had any....except for me. I asked a number of space related questions, which the tour guide was surprised at, and then asked him if the astronauts really drank 'Tang' (if you are old enough, you will remember the commercials). In my twenties, I was in S. California, and it was the launch of the television show 'Cosmos' that drew me back. My roommates were less than patient as I huddled in front of the tv - to listed to Dr. Sagan's incredible expose of the planets and the universe. I was that little girl again as I traveled with Carl to places I wanted to go. I joined The Planetary Society when it was in it's infancy, continued to read and watch everything about space.
An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.