Being an Astronaut: Childhood dream
As a school going kid, space travel fascinated me. I envied my Mom when she told me that in 1969 they were live witness to the Apollo’s 1st moon landing on their TV sets. In 1980s in absence of even a TV or a library in my small town all my questions were largely unattended. But the little I could grab from school books and some Russian magazines (Soviet News, Sputnik) & American center’s SPAN made me an aspiring cosmonaut! In 1984 when Rakesh Sharma went into space with Russian astronauts abroad their space vehicle, I rationalized that living for being an astronaut was too much to ask for specially when India doesn’t have its own manned space program. I still cherished a wish to work for NASA or somehow sneak into a spaceship! The least I thought I would do is become an Aerospace engineer.
None of this happened, I was only good enough for a Masters in Physics. But I continued to closely follow the space missions with NASA and U.S.S.R’s space agency. And the Universe did grant my wish of visiting the National Air & Space Museum , Washington DC where I relived the Apollo’s moon mission. I still have to go to the Kennedy Space Center, Florida & Mission Control, Houston. Little did I realize that my childhood dream was still so strongly hung on seeing myself as an “Astronaut”. No there are no surprises! I don’t go on to become an Astronaut. But I just met one in flesh and blood! Yes, right here in Hyderabad when Dr. Mary Ellen Weber appeared in a talk organized by the US consulate in Hyderabad. All those pent up emotions surfaced to the fore as I saw the lady in uniform just inches before me!
Even at 40+ I felt thrilled, it felt I shared the moment of being in space as she went through presentation slides of her stint on missions STS-70, STS-101 abroad the space shuttle. She like me too dreamt of being an astronaut as a young girl, the difference was she meant it and didn’t make a compromise and I stood there with tears brimming my eyes, reminding myself “How important it was to believe in your dreams” and knowing you can make it a reality.
I shook her hands, and shared the same space (air) with her! Yeah, I met an astronaut the other day! And I also got a picture clicked! And I still came happy and sad and very emotional. I now understood the feeling why some people feel so touched when they meet a celebrity they are a fan of!
It was indeed a photo finish!