NASA Lags in Shuttle Patch Development (AP). AP – When space shuttle flights resume, the astronauts will have putty and other filler to repair cracks and small gashes in the wings, but they will not be able to patch a hole as big as the one that doomed Columbia, NASA said. [Yahoo! News – Reader Ratings]

I’m glad NASA is working on some ideas to reestablish our presence in space.  As I read the above, I thought again of those daring astronauts of STS-107 who were only 16 minutes from home.  What great aspirations they had to tackle such a dangerous job!

Here’s something only a very few of you know about me:  after the Columbia’s final flight, I was so inspired by those heroes as to obtain application materials for the Educator Astronaut program.  It seemed to make sense.  I’m an educator.  I have a degree in physics.  I have a background in astronomy.  I know could execute the assigned tasks aboard the space shuttle and be a good ambassador for NASA’s programs.  I could make a difference in the wake of the Columbia mission.

As I waited for the application materials to come in, I continued to consider the pros and cons of the career shift.  I came the the conclusion that it wouldn’t necessarily be a promotion.  

On the one hand, would be able to touch many more young minds through lectures and school visits.  And being an astronaut is a noble calling that only an elite few can have a chance of reaching for.   But teaching is a calling, too, and working in the classroom every day allows you not just to touch young minds, but to really help to improve students’ lives.  Classroom teaching is not glamorous, but it is very necessary.  It is a question of breadth vs depth.  Apples and oranges.

I favor the depth, I suppose.  Making a big difference to a few.  When the final application materials came in the mail, I told my girlfriend that I thought I’d stay on Earth.  And, as aspirations go, being responsible to those who are close to you and (someday) settling down to start a family is as great an aspiration as any.

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