Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Alan Shepard party of two. Please proceed to the 1st tee.

I can’t hold my tongue any more… Ever since I read this article about a Cosmonaut given the go-ahead to hit a golf ball off the International Space Station as a publicity stunt for a Canadian golf club manufacturer, I’ve been sick to my stomach.

I’ve crafted my entire career to be eligible for the astronaut core. There are as many paths to become an astronaut as there are candidates, and I’ve enjoyed every challenge I’ve taken on. The biggest challenge is trying to anticipate what kinds of people NASA will need for future missions. Well, I will now add "Sports Equipment Representative" to the list.

Ironically, it’s the ex-communist Russian Space Agency, not NASA, that is leading the Station into the new era of commercialism. Space tourists pay a lump sum ($20M, I believe) for a ticket aboard the Soyuz capsule, pass the physical, and the Russians will fulfill your fantasy of entering the Cosmos. But here’s the particularly difficult thing: The man ready to perform the world’s first (dare I say the Galaxy’s first?) publicity stunt in space is not a salesman, but an engineer and pilot with extensive experience in zero-g. Mikhail, how far thy fall from grace? The stunt has been thinly justified as a way to commemorate Alan Shepard's historic golf ball drive on the moon 35 years ago, but whom do they think they're kidding?

Lemme see… the NASA web page How to Become an Astronaut 101 needs to be updated:

Get educated: Check.
Stay interested in Space: Check.
Stay fit: (er) Check?

Play golf: Ah… Check!
Sell sporting goods: Wohoo! Anyone want my clubs?
Pay that $20M: Powerball baby here I come!!!


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