Endurance by Scott Kelly

Endurance by Scott Kelly

Author:Scott Kelly [Kelly, Scott]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Published: 2017-10-17T00:00:00+00:00

11

ONE AFTERNOON in early 1995, I was in my cubicle at the test squadron, in a trailer adjacent to a row of World War II–era hangars and the flight line where F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18 Hornets sat idle ready for flight, when I noticed that one of my colleagues had a big stack of papers on his desk. I asked him what he was doing.

“I’m filling out my astronaut application,” he said.

Of course, I had been aiming to fill out an astronaut application someday, but I’d assumed I wasn’t ready yet, that I wouldn’t be for another ten years or so. I was only a little more than a year out of test pilot school, just thirty-one years old, a bit on the young and inexperienced side for a pilot astronaut. I also didn’t have a master’s degree yet, which I thought was a requirement. But I asked my colleague whether I could take a look at his application. I was curious about what was involved, and I was especially curious about why his stack of papers was so thick. When I paged through it, I saw that NASA was looking for a lot of the kinds of information you would expect: transcripts, letters of recommendation, a detailed list of job responsibilities to date. I also noticed that he had included everything he had ever done in his life. This guy was one of the best qualified among us.

Looking over his application, I had an idea: Why not apply and be rejected? It would give me the opportunity to find out what the process was like, and rejection wouldn’t harm my chances in the future. I decided to take a different approach from what my colleague had done. I would include only what seemed really important. If my application was brief and concise, maybe the person reading it could take in all the information and be left with a clear sense of who I was. This minimalist approach was also appealing to me because the deadline was fast approaching.

I filled out the application for federal employment and submitted it on time. Months later, my colleague whose application I had first seen shared the news that he’d been called for an interview with NASA, in the first week of interviews. The conventional wisdom at the time was that NASA called their top choices first, and those interviewed in the first round had by far the best chance of being selected. I congratulated him and figured I would never hear anything.

A few weeks later, Mark and his wife were having dinner with Leslie and me at our house. Halfway through the meal, Mark announced that he had also been called for an astronaut interview.

“That’s awesome, congratulations,” I said. And I meant it. I felt he truly deserved it. He was clearly more qualified than I was, with his master’s degree in aeronautical engineering. I decided not to mention that I had applied too, because I figured I wouldn’t get an interview anyway, and I didn’t want my not getting called to take attention away from his accomplishment.



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