By Mordechai Schmutter
If you’re looking for a career that involves a lot of travel, a decent amount of job security, and you don’t want to have to wear a tie, I would definitely suggest getting a job as an astronaut. There’s no better time. NASA has just announced that it would start accepting applications for its next class of astronauts sometime this month.
The class is going to graduate in 2015, so that’s just two years of school for a job that the entire world looks up to. Okay, so the whole world won’t necessarily look up to you. The world in general can only name about one-and-a-half astronauts. There was Neil Armstrong, Buzz Something, and that third guy who waited in the car. But there have been a whole lot of astronauts since then that people can’t name, and there’s no reason you can’t be one of them. My point is that for those of you who say that there’s no job market out there anymore, you’re obviously wrong.
As soon as you get up there and you look down on the majestic blue ball that is the world, you’re going to wonder: Who wore this suit before me? Did they dry clean it? What does a dry cleaner charge for something like this?
You should definitely apply. I don’t know the actual halachos of being an astronaut, like what kinds of toothpaste foods are kosher, besides for the applesauce, what time you’d have to daven, and whether you’d have to get the suit checked for shatnez. I do know that you’d have to buy a yarmulke that ties under your chin. I also know that there are some parts of frum life that would definitely be more difficult in zero gravity, such as shechting animals, putting schach on a sukkah, and davening Shemoneh Esrei. But most astronauts are only up there for six months, after which they come back down and get consulting jobs.
The benefits are great. It’s a government job, so you have great health insurance, although they give you a physical before they even accept you to make sure you’re not the kind of person who ever needs health insurance. You also get a nice amount of vacation days, although where are you going to go? A lot of good those do when you’re trapped on a space station. You also get to take off on random government holidays, such as Flag Day, Groundhog Day, and George Washington’s yahrtzeit. And that Thursday in November that commemorates that one weekend that the colonists of Boston didn’t starve to death.
Pretty much anyone can apply, although the last class, which graduated in 2009, had nine students. The classes are nice and small. If you have a learning disability, this is a great school for you.
There’s not a very good chance that you’ll get in. The average job opening receives dozens of résumés, most of which they don’t even look at. NASA gets thousands of résumés, including a résumé from every six-year-old boy in the world. Also, to even be considered, unless no one else applies, you need a degree in some kind of relevant scientific field, plus time spent working in the real world, or at least in a lab. They want you to have a reasonable knowledge of science, because there are only a certain amount of times you can go, “What on earth is that?” “What on earth is that?” before the other astronauts lock you outside in your space suit. They don’t want someone who is going to get up in the cockpit and say, “Whoa! That is a lot of buttons.” You also have to have some basic knowledge of what you’re seeing up there. There’s no GPS in space.
They accept pilots, and I’m sure that many people become pilots in the hope that someday they’ll get accepted to astronaut school. If you ever go into the cockpit of a plane, you will see the pilot and the copilot pretending to be astronauts, saying things like “Roger” and throwing clipboards back and forth like there’s no gravity, and hanging from the ceilings. That’s why they never let passengers into the cockpits.
You also need to be reasonably healthy. They don’t want to cut a mission short because Murray had a cardiac event.
MURRAY: “I’m having a cardiac event! Everyone’s invited!”
You need 20/20 vision, because everything in space is pretty far away, and if you think it’s hard to find a contact lens on the floor, try doing it in zero gravity.
“Did you just swallow my contact lens?”
“Um, I don’t know.”
You can also apply if your eyesight is such that it is correctible to 20/20 via laser surgery. If you’re afraid of lasers and don’t understand how something that can pulverize a tank can also fix your eye, and you’re afraid that the technician will forget to turn the knob from “TANK” to “EYEBALL,” then maybe space travel in general is not for you anyway.
Applicants also have to be between 5’2” and 6’3” to apply. I’m not sure why. It’s not like people aren’t bumping their heads on the ceilings anyway. I think it’s because they want to make sure you can fit into the last guy’s spacesuit.
As far as the rest of your physical shape, NASA spokespeople say that they run a physical, but you don’t have to be in amazing shape. “We don’t make people run ten miles just to apply,” they said. “Once they get there, we’ll torture them and make them fit.”
Too fat for the space suit? We’ll MAKE you fit. For one thing, the interview is on the 36th floor, and there are no elevators.
Also, all students are required to pass a swimming test during the first month of training. They have to swim three lengths of the pool wearing a flight suit and tennis shoes, and then tread water for ten minutes. It turns out the best way to simulate the gravity of space is to do it underwater. If you’re looking to gear up for your entrance exam, you might want to try—I don’t know—repairing your car at the bottom of a swimming pool.
Their goal is for everyone that they accept to eventually pass, but once in a while, someone does not.
“Mr. Johnson, your son is failing astronaut school. He keeps screaming “We’re all going to die!” in the middle of the simulations.”
“What are you simulating?”
But if you fail, you get to be one of those guys who sits in front of that whole bank of computer screens and plays solitaire.
This would definitely be a great opportunity for you or anyone you know that you’d like to launch into space for long periods of time. You only have until January to apply, so apply now! Space is limited.
Um . . . You know what I mean. v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of three books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.