Parents have long known that the popular childhood ambition of becoming an astronaut is a difficult endeavor. It requires hard work, focus and years of dedication. However, the results of a long-term study by the National Employment Council recently revealed just how slim their chances really are.
“I think parents have always known the odds are against their children becoming astronauts,” said Roger Dell, project director of the study. “But our results put an actual number on those odds.”
Indeed, the numbers are shocking. Of every 10 first-graders who raised their hands when asked if they wanted to be an astronaut, only 3 of them would ever go into space.
“You believe in your child. You want them to succeed. But you have to be realistic,” lamented Mark Bering, a parent whose 7-year-old daughter said she wants to become an astronaut. “You never want to discourage your child from pursuing her dream. But after hearing about the study, I’ve been trying to talk her into another career.”
“It’s human nature to think your child will be one of the 30 percent,” Roger continued. “What if they’re the 70 percent who don’t make it to space? You have got to have a back-up plan.”
Even among those who do make it to space, the outlook is not always stellar. Emily Tufield, a former astronaut, was laid off after her first mission into space. The company she worked for, Hartford Astronomics, has laid off 15 percent of its astronaut workforce in the past 12 months. The issue is automation. Companies are finding cost savings in automating space flights. Why pay for life support systems when you can install AI and robots for a fraction of the cost? Emily’s lack of seniority – having only one space flight under her belt – was the reason she was chosen to be laid off.
She has been fortunate to find work as a race car driver. Many of the skills astronauts possess translate to her current job: working well under pressure, technical expertise, and pushing the limits of human endurance.
“It’s a good job. It pays well,” Emily said. “But every time I round a corner and hear the wheels screeching, it reminds me that I’m on the ground, not up in space where I really want to be.”