Out of 10,463 applications from the all fifty states, US territories, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the overseas dependent schools of the Department of Defense and Department of State… my dad was one of the 114 semi-finalist for the Teacher in Space program launched in May of 1985. Quoted in The Missourian on Wednesday, January 29th 1986 the day after the Challenger expolosion, my dad said, “If they were to announce tomorrow that they were looking for another teacher, I’d be the first in line.” And he would. Still. Thirty years later.
The application process was long and arduous. It took hours to write essay after essay about teaching philosophies and experience. While a brilliant scientist and educator, if his life hung in the balance determined only by a spelling bee, he’d be a goner. I once saw him write “kat food” on a grocery list.
Although my parents were teachers and had access to typewriters at school, because of the time consuming essays, my parents bought a typewriter for our home. It sat on our dining room table and it came with a spellcheck function that would ding like a bell when you mispelled a word. My dad said, “it sounded like I was playing a musical instrument.” Truthfully, it was my mom who polished those essays. I have no doubt her hand was all over that application. How I coveted that typewriter.
Often, the things worth doing are things we are least qualified to do. Often, the things worth doing are the hardest things, which challenge and test our abilities and there are no guarantees of safety. But if he’d do it all again, I can too. Essay(s) forthcoming.