Spaced: out

Bon­nie Bur­ton is happy to keep her feet on the ground

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Opinion -

When most kids first saw Doc­tor Who they wanted to hop in the first blue po­lice box they could find and spin off to an­other galaxy. Kids my age dreamt of trav­el­ling with Han in the Mil­len­nium Fal­con, or work­ing along­side boffins on the USS En­ter­prise. As much as I love all th­ese sci-fi fran­chises, the last thing I’d ever want to do is travel in outer space for real. Stars are pretty to stare at and make up fun-sound­ing con­stel­la­tion names for. But I don’t have an urge to wear a cool as­tro­naut suit and launch my­self into a galaxy far, far away. Sure, I’m ea­ger to meet aliens from dis­tant plan­ets… when they come here to Earth. I don’t need to search them out. The idea of not know­ing if a new planet has breath­able air or hu­man-eat­ing plant life scares the crap out of me.

Space hor­ror movies like Alien, Event Hori­zon and The Last Days On Mars re­mind us that there are mil­lion ways us puny hu­mans can die in zero grav­ity. It could be an­gry crea­tures us­ing us as their own egg ho­tel, or a su­per­nat­u­ral force that pos­sesses us to kill each other on a space sta­tion. Or even worse, space zom­bies!

On this planet, you have an end­less amount of ways to sur­vive an at­tack from the un­dead or a venge­ful ghost or even an in­sane co-worker. But in space, you can only go where the oxy­gen is. That could mean a ship, a space sta­tion or the very as­tro­naut suit you’d be wear­ing.

Maybe you just hap­pen to be the kind of as­tro­naut who was ac­ci­den­tally ma­rooned on Mars when your ship left the planet with­out you. Af­ter all, if it hap­pened to Matt Da­mon in The Mar­tian, it can hap­pen to any­one. At least now I know how to grow pota­toes in Mars soil so I can sur­vive. This movie will af­fect a whole new gen­er­a­tion of fans who will ap­ply for an as­tro­naut gig at NASA. I had the op­po­site re­ac­tion. In my per­fect world, we get to stay on this one.

In De­cem­ber 2015, NASA re­leased in­for­ma­tion on how to of­fi­cially ap­ply to be an as­tro­naut. You don’t need any fly­ing or mil­i­tary ex­pe­ri­ence. There’s no need to get a Mas­ters or PhD to be an as­tro­naut; a Bach­e­lor’s de­gree in a science, maths, engi­neer­ing or tech­nol­ogy fo­cus will do. There are no age re­stric­tions ei­ther. As­tro­naut can­di­dates in the past have ranged be­tween ages of 26 and 46, with 34 be­ing the av­er­age age. But there is a phys­i­cal exam you have to pass be­fore they sling­shot you into space. You must be able to see ob­jects close and far away with near 20/20 vi­sion. You have to be be­tween 62 and 75 inches tall. And you bet­ter be as calm as Yoda, be­cause if your blood pres­sure ex­ceeds 140/90 in a sit­ting po­si­tion, they don’t want you on board.

As­tro­naut train­ing is no walk in the park ei­ther. Can­di­dates are re­quired to com­plete mil­i­tary wa­ter sur­vival, a fly­ing syl­labus, and be­come SCUBA qual­i­fied to pre­pare them for space­walk train­ing. There is also a test where you have to swim while wear­ing your as­tro­naut suit. As­tro­nauts are also ex­pected to learn how to op­er­ate each sys­tem, to iden­tify mal­func­tions, and find a num­ber of so­lu­tions to help cor­rect the prob­lems as they arise.

But all that sounds like way too much work when I can just sit on my sofa and wait for alien races to in­vade. No I’m not pro-prob­ing. I just don’t think we need to poke and prod our way through space when we can just be pa­tient in know­ing that if aliens want to hang out with us they will.

“If It hap­pened to Matt da­Mon In the Mar­tIan, It can hap­pen to any­one”

Bon­nie could be thought of as lazy but at least she’s still breath­ing Earth air.

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