A week ago, I got what may be the most important email of my life.
Over the last few months, I have been networking like crazy in the hope that I could land a job in the space industry right out of college. While largely unsuccessful, that effort led me into contact with Project PHEnOM – short for Physiological, Health, and Environmental Observations in Microgravity. They are one of the first commercial suborbital astronaut training programs, and were looking for candidates for their first team.
I was skeptical, both of its legitimacy and of my chances. Legitimacy because, well, it’s one of the first programs like it out there. How did I know they would deliver on the goods? Did they have qualified staff and connections in place? After talking with them, I realized that they not only have a good background – their CEO is a former exercise scientist at Johnson Space Center – their training program is also cross-linked with several well-known universities for college credit.
As for my chances, NASA accepts less than 1% of >6000 qualified applicants during their astronaut selection rounds, so I had good reason to believe I wouldn’t make the cut for PHEnOM even though the qualifications are much less stringent for suborbital astronauts. I thought their response would be somewhat like the ones I’ve gotten from other space companies: “You have a good skill set but your experience does not match what we need for this position right now. I hope you will apply again!”
So imagine my surprise when I got the acceptance email.
Over the past week, I’ve been scrambling to get the word out and raise money for the program. Because it doesn’t come cheap – $12,500 total, with $3,000 of that due later this month. So far, my GoFundMe campaign has gotten 18% towards the first deposit. If it does not reach 100% by the end of this month – or if I don’t get alternate funding – this will be a very short adventure. I really hope you can help out.
I will, of course, be blogging about my experiences as often as possible. Here’s a brief taste of what’s to come from my acceptance email:
- Aerobatic flights with Patty Wagstaff. This is to train us to endure the G-forces involved in being an astronaut.
- Commercial space suit familiarization and operator training with Final Frontier Design. FFD is a spacesuit company based out of Brooklyn, NY.
- High-altitude chamber rides/hypoxia awareness training with Dr. Paul Buza of the Southern Aeromedical Institute (in addition to the training, we will begin a formal research study with Dr. Buza during this time).