Anyone who regularly reads this blog or who has made it through the ‘Mission Space’ chapter of Mousetrapped knows how much I love all things space.
The greatest day of my life to date was October 23rd 2007—the day that, aged 25, I got to see something I’d been dreaming about since age 8: a Space Shuttle launch.
Me in my fetching NASA cap, getting sunburned in Titusville on the morning of the STS-120 launch.
Living 4,000 miles from the Cape, teenage me wondered how I could ever manage such a feat, especially since launches were frequently postponed and trying to catch one within a fortnight’s holiday would be almost impossible. I couldn’t have forseen that one day another dream, that of working in Walt Disney World, would have me living only an hour’s drive from Cape Canaveral for a year and a half, with an annual pass to Kennedy Space Centre—the [clears throat] Commander’s Club pass, thank you very much—tucked safely in my wallet, and plenty of chances to catch a lift-off.
Or that only weeks after coming back to Ireland in 2008, I’d meet the astronaut hitching a ride to the ISS aboard that shuttle, STS-120—Dan Tani—in an observatory only ten minutes drive from my home here in Cork.
Or that while living in Orlando, the space section of my nearest Barnes and Noble would convince me that my beloved Shuttle was a mere space bus, and that the real gem in NASA’s crown was the awesome Apollo program, the missions to the moon that should still have us all looking at each other in utter disbelief. We went to the moon! We drove a car around up there! And we did it FORTY YEARS AGO.
But we’re getting off track here.
We can’t do everything we want to do because unfortunately, we only have one life. (And only one brain, and mine just doesn’t do maths and physics like a NASA employee’s should.) I’m pretty lucky in that I am already sort of living what was my biggest dream of all, being a full-time writer, and there are next-best-things I’m quietly confident I’ll meet in my future, like a seat on a commercial space flight.
(A quick soar into sub-orbital space will do me fine. I’m not going for the weightlessness; I’m after the view.)
But some people are chasing their astronaut dream, and one of them is a fellow Irish woman named Norah Patten.
Norah already has an impressive space-themed CV. She has PhD in Engineering, attended the International Space University in Strasbourg (the dream!) and is currently the Chair of the Space Management and Business Department at ISU. Reading her story, it seems to me that she was just born at the wrong time—if the Shuttle program was still in full swing or the missions to Mars had seriously started, she’d already be in the Astronaut Corps.
So she’s doing her Next Best Thing.
The funniest thing about my KSC pics is that I seem to have a different hairstyle every time I go…
The Lynx Space Academy is a competition that will ultimately send one lucky person into space, and Norah is hoping to win that seat. There’ll ultimately be three rounds to the competition, but the first is based on votes. I don’t know her personally (despite what I said in Friday’s post, not everybody in Ireland knows everybody else!), but I absolutely know how much she wants to go to space.
And if she wins this, she won’t just get to go—she’ll get to be, potentially, the first Irish woman in space. Depending on how long this takes, she might even be the first Irish person in space.
Voting for her takes ten seconds. Go to her LSA page, enter your e-mail address and click Submit.
I voted for her, obviously, but I have this blog that thousands of people allegedly read on a regular basis, so I thought I’d share this with you too, in case you’d take a few seconds to help send an Irish girl to space, if only because this Irish girl asked you very, very nicely.
For those of you who can’t understand what all my space fuss is about and would like to find out, I always recommend people start with a three-book introduction: Moondust by Andrew Smith, A Man on the Moon by Andrew Chaikin and Apollo by Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox, in that order. I have about a hundred other space book recommendations, but combined, those are the best Apollo books to start with. Happy Monday!