I was in first grade the first time I can remember anyone asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Throughout the year, our parents had come to class to give presentations on their careers. One dad was a fireman. One mom played violin. My mother brought in a food dryer and dried pineapple. Ironically (in retrospect), the presentation I remember most was from a man who worked at the paper mill in Oregon City. He passed around a jar of raw pulp as he described how paper was made. He gave us each a ream to take home.

At the end of the school year, Mrs. Onion asked, “Now that you’ve seen what parents do all day, what do you want to do when you grow up?”

I knew instantly: “I want to be an astronaut.”

For one thing, Steve Austin had been an astronaut. Though his mission had ended in disaster, he did have a bionic arms and legs to show for it. Also, Mr. Spock was an astronaut.

Mostly, I wanted to live on the moon.

Throughout my childhood, I was obsessed with living in space. Every year, my teachers told me, “When you grow up, people will live on the moon,” and I believed them. I wanted to live on a space station orbiting the Earth. I wanted to visit Mars.

I devoured science fiction of all sorts, but especially that which portrayed humans living in futuristic societies. The Jetsons weren’t a comedy to me, but an idyllic vision of what might be. Isaac Asimov’s “Lucky Starr” books were keen not because of the mysteries and the robots, but because they posited a society in which people lived on Venus and Mars and the moons of Jupiter. (Not to mention the asteroid pirates — boy! how I wished I could be an asteroid pirate!)

As I grew older, reality dealt harsh blow after harsh blow to my dreams of living in space. The rapid astronautical advances of my youth gave way to a relative stagnation of space-related progress. Still, I kept the dream alive by watching and reading whatever stories I could find that involved people living in space: The Black Hole, Outland, Alien. (All three of which are horror films to one degree or another.)

In time, my dreams of living in space faded. There were no more moon landings. The Challenger exploded. Gradually I became aware that my peers were actively hostile to the idea of a space program. (I remember one extended argument with some friends about the value and necessity of space exploration; they believed that NASA should be axed completely.)

Now that I’m nearing forty, my youthful dreams seem fanciful. I’d dearly love for the space program to expand beyond shuttle missions and space station stays, but it’s unlikely that we’ll put people on the moon again in the next twenty years, let alone on Mars. I continue to consume stories of space colonization (like Kim Stanley Robinson’s wonderful Mars series), but I recognize that our world has become too inwardly focused to dream big anymore. We’re too busy fighting wars. We’re too busy arguing over who should get how much money. We’re too busy consuming. As a society, we have no vision of the future, no vision at all, let alone a vision that includes space travel.

Still, somewhere in the back of my mind, it’s my dream one day to live on the moon.

9 Replies to “Space Man”

  1. Paul says:

    Though his mission had ended in disaster, he did have a bionic arms and legs to show for it.

    Point of order: Memory serves that the bionic man had only one bionic arm (plus 2 legs and one bionic eye). Please advise.

  2. Blogeois says:

    Bravo! I dreamed of living and working on the moon and then Mars as a kid and I too have become disappointed in diminished space exploration and lack of vision as I grow older. There was also that sad, sad, sad realization around age 12 that in order to actually become an astronaut, I had to know math. LOTS of math. I’m still not sure for what reason; maybe to translate alien currency into Euros, dollars, Yen, or something, but I remember being very, very disappointed in the whole thing after that.

  3. Lynn says:

    I loved Steve Austin. He was an astronaut – how did Jamie Sommers become injured and in need of bionic parts? I’d much rather have a bionic eye that a bionic ear, that’s for sure. She got jipped.

  4. Dave says:

    Well, Lynn, I’m glad you asked. Jamie Summers was a tennis star and Steve Austin’s girlfriend. One day Steve and Jamie decide to go skydiving. Don’t ask why a man that is powered by a nuclear power plant and is exceptionally heavy thinks it’s a good idea to jump from a plane, it just is. Tragically, Jamie’s chute doesn’t open properly and she hits the ground at a high rate of speed. Splat.

    But Steve is not without resources and, seeing the obvious advantages to bionic nookie, he convinces Oscar Goldman to rebuild Jamie but “better than she was before.” Things progress from there and through a series of other bad things, she forgets she was hooked up with Steve and the go their merry ways, each with their own show (including Jamie’s bionic dog, Maximillian) until they’re cancelled after several seasons. They stay cancelled until the comeback show in 1987 when Steve and Jamie get to team up again. Hooray!

    The End.

  5. Kris says:

    Makes you wonder why she would need a “Sleep Number” bed, doesn’t it?

  6. Lynn says:

    Hey, thanx, Dave!

  7. Chamitseren says:

    The problem is that your desire for empire is fading and your willingness to lay slothfully on the couch in front of TVs is increasing.

    The Chinese may avoid the same fate. Their national pride and cash reserves make them long term favorites for colonizing space. Why do you think all the Romulans have chinese names. Imagine Ensign Harry Kim in a captains suit flirting with sexy green aliens.

  8. summer says:

    i too wanted to be an astronaut for the longest time until i realized that i didnt want to just visit space. i wanted to live in it, i wanted to explore and go to planets with different lifeforms. i watched too much star trek, farscape, star wars, scifi, etc. growing up. now i plan to do advertising design. because that and aeronautics are *so* similar.

  9. Lee says:


    Thanks for mentioning the backstory for the Bionic Woman. Even though it was my favorite show as a wee tot, I couldn’t remember how she became bionic. I even had an autographed photo of Lindsay Wagner (the actress).

    But even then I thought it was kind of odd that this super agent was a 4th grade teacher. I mean, what happened if she called away to do top secret stuff? She’d miss school!

    And the bionic dog was just a dumb idea. Even as an 8 year old, I could guess the show was grasping at straws.

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