I’ve been mulling over a career move this week that’s really out of this world.
The European Space Agency has, for the first time in 11 years, put out a call for new astronaut candidates.
It’s something I’d love to do, but I have to confess there is a very slim chance of me being accepted.
The ESA is looking for people under 50, which is just about the only box I manage to tick. You’ll need a masters or postgraduate degree (a fail for me) and they are looking for diverse candidates – in other words anyone white, male and not disabled doesn’t stand much of a chance.
Chuck in the fact that I don’t really care for Star Trek and don’t see what the fuss is with Star Wars and I fall even further down the pecking order.
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I am prepared for the gruelling year-and-a-half selection process though that probably involves being spun around in one of those chambers and a trip on board the infamous ‘vomit comet’ so you can get used to zero gravity.
Anyone who has been on the clackity old snails at Yarmouth’s Joyland may get some idea of what this is like.
Of course I don’t really stand a chance of going, but can you imagine the reaction if someone from East Anglia became an astronaut?
I’ve always thought it would be the peak of human life to actually leave this planet and look down at Earth from a great height.
I get that lovely sense of light-headed floatiness whenever I take a plane journey and go above the cloud layer and it’s even better when it’s early morning and you are among a few thousand people in the air while the other 7.5 billion odd are stuck on the ground.
Becoming an astronaut would be fantastic – but it would be even better if one day we genuinely could have the chance to become space tourists.
Do you remember Dennis Tito? Before you Google him, he has nothing to do with Yugoslavia or The Wizard of Oz. He’s an 80-year-old American who 20 years ago became the first space tourist, self-funding an eight-day stay on the International Space Station.
I was fascinated by him then and ever since I have warmed to astronauts like Tim Peake and American Chris Hadfield who have broken down the barriers to us mere mortals and, through social media interaction, effectively taken us with them on trips to another world.
I though after Tito’s pioneering trip in 2001 he would open up the world of space tourism and it would by now be a more common thing – you can just see the way another American entrepreneur Elon Musk is going that he is probably going to take this a step closer.
I know Sir Richard Branson has wanted to go into space for a long time, turning the dreams he harboured as a child into reality, which is something that’s probably in all of us.
Who doesn’t remember growing up with science fiction on the TV or comic books – I’m sure Doctor Who or the Alien movies or 2001: A Space Odyssey made you think what it would be like to take part in a mission into space or maybe you were inspired by Neil Armstrong, Yuri Gagarin or Felix Baumgartner or even Top 10 hits by David Bowie, Babylon Zoo or the hyper naff Rah Band.
Part of the appeal of applying is probably a reaction to spending a year at home stuck inside that has given many of us the urge to experience some kind of foreign travel, although I admit leaving our atmosphere is one serious long-haul trip.
As a column that celebrates life post 45, I’ve got to fly the flag for us Second Halfers and at least point you in the direction that this new astronaut search is taking place – so here are a few tips.
If the ESA interview panel ask if you have experience of being stuck in the confines of a small space for a long period time, just tell them that you’ve had to endure 11 months working from home in a small office doing Zoom calls with your manager, which is just like communicating with Mission Control.
You can handle eating freeze-dried food from sachets at times that may feel strange to your body clock – just reminisce about your student days eating Pot Noodles and Pop Tarts.
And if they ask if you’ve had any experience of dealing with aliens who may not communicate in the same language, tell them what it’s like to do home-schooling with a five-year-old.
If you are interested, you can do your bit for East Anglian history by applying between March 31 and May 28 at www.esa.int