Talking Space Flight With Future Astronauts

One of the things I love most about my job at the Ontario Science Centre is that it gives me opportunities to connect with some pretty amazing people.  I’ve met some incredible communicators, scientists, leaders, astronauts, and people from all walks of life doing amazing things.  Last night my astronomy background gave me an opportunity to work a special event for future astronauts who are participating in the Virgin Galactic commercial space flight program.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo in flight.In the near future it will ferry tourists to low Earth orbit to experience space. Image Credit: Popular Science

The group consisted of about 20 people, some of whom were lead flight engineers and technicians forking on SpaceshipTwo.  Others were commercial development and administrators for Virgin Galactic.  The rest were private citizens who have paid the funds to be among the first humans to fly into space commercially, including a 13 year old girl who’s father paid for her flight, which won’t happen until she turns 18.  Among the private citizens were some amazing stories, including a 35 year veteran pilot, and a British astronomer who spent decades years working on the Hubble Space Telescope!  His wife was also a world-renowned Harvard Oncologist and had some amazing stories of her own.

Most of them were from out of town and flew in for a big meet and greet as part of the events surrounding their eventual flight on SpaceShipTwo, and visiting the space hall at the science centre was part of this meet and greet.  My role was to be the expert astronomer and a curator for their visit, to add to their experience and show them some interesting artefacts.

Wearing a t-shirt and a labcoat made me feel a bit under dressed, but I was able to give them some interesting information and relate with a lot of their experiences.  We spent an hour enjoying the exhibit with some anecdotes from yours truly, and I was able to spend some time talking about their experiences.

The nicest part of all of it was to meet some important people who genuinely cared about the world.  People who I aspire to be like – people who rose to positions of power and influence by working with others and for others, instead of being crooks or stepping on people to get there.  Sometimes I feel like I see too much of the latter and not enough of the former, but with a group of those who truly cared, I feel like there’s hope for me to be able to influence the world in a positive way some day.

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