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Prologue

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On 6 January 2016, I received what was perhaps the most important email of my life:

“After reviewing your application and personal interview, we are thrilled to inform you that you have been accepted to join us as one of only 20 PHEnOM Citizen Scientist-Astronaut (CSA) candidates….”

Just like that, one of my greatest childhood dreams had suddenly, unexpectedly, become true.

I was born and raised in Florida during the Apollo Era. I and (I think!) every other child in that time and place, wanted nothing else in life but to be an astronaut. I was crazy about anything dealing with flight and space. Star Trek was my favorite television show. Astronomy became a passion of mine.Everything I did was geared towards growing up to become an astronaut. I read books, I watched documentaries. I planned my entire academic career as best I could to maximize my chances of making it to that goal.

What the heck happened?

To say things didn’t quite turn out as planned would be an understatement. I believe it was John Lennon who said that life was what happens to you while you are busy making other plans. Like Odysseus trying to return home, my journey to become an astronaut took a bit longer than I had planned. OK, a LOT longer than planned. At the age of 52 I had abandoned that dream as a lost cause. Until 6 January 2016, when life told me that I had waited long enough, I had learned the lessons needed, and I was now ready to advance to the next level.

That next level commences on 15 February 2016, when my two-year training regimen commences. Two years of foreign language training, space suit operations and certification, mission planning, survival training (yes, survival training!), micro-gravity training, high-G/Zero-G familiarization flights, FAA certifications, grant and funding proposal training, and a host of other new skills. It looks like I’m going to be a bit busy these next two years.

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