Updated: 09.11.2013

Who Am I?

I am a Space Baby.

Having been born in 1959, my generation is the first to live its entire life during what can be called “The Space Age.” Although the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) had been in existence for some 44 years before my birth, its successor, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is a mere 246 days older than I am. We essentially grew up together.

Although I did not personally watch President John F. Kennedy’s speech before a Joint Session of Congress on May 21, 1961, (I was, after all, less than two years old at the time,) what emerged from his challenge to America to “… commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth,” had a profound and direct impact on who I was to become and where my interests would lead me.

In elementary school, I remember watching black and white televisions that had been rolled into our classrooms. The entire class sat there, quietly transfixed, as we waited for another three American astronauts, perched high atop a Saturn V rocket, to blast off from Cape Kennedy on their way to space.

Then, several days later, if the mission schedule lined up with our school day, we again watched the black and white tv as that tiny capsule returned safely home, splashing down somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. To this day, I remember how beautiful those three white parachutes looked as they deployed and helped to guide our guys home.

At age 10, I vividly remember sitting in front of our color console tv on July 20, 1969, holding our portable cassette recorder up to the tv’s speaker so that I could record Neil Armstrong’s first words as he became the first human being to set foot on another world. Although I was just 10 years old, I completely understood the significance of what was happening.

Not to be left out, Hollywood also contributed to our ever-growing national love affair with space exploration by bringing us their fictional vision of what the future held through such shows as “The Jetsons,” “I Dream of Jeannie,” and “Star Trek.”

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I dreamed of being an astronaut. I just KNEW that by the time I was an adult, we would be well on our way to colonizing the moon, Mars, and beyond, and I was going to be a part of that future… I was determined to that I would explore the vast unknown.

So what went wrong? How DID I get sidetracked???

My early education was less than stellar – I had been a little hellion in school – you name it, I think I got in trouble for it. But by the time I entered fifth grade, I had straightened out and became a model student. I had always had a keen interest in science and math (even throughout my hellion days,) and intended to pursue astronomy, still with the ultimate goal of joining the astronaut corps…

As I entered high school and planned out my classes for the upcoming years, I headed down the Astronomy path. But then in 10th grade, my Geometry teacher mentioned a new, exciting  field of engineering – Computer Engineering. Right then and there I did an about face and decided to pursue that instead (yes, I have always had a touch of ADD.) In June, 1977, I graduated from high school, and the following September I entered Rochester Institute of Technology, one of the few schools in the country that offered an undergrad program in Computer Engineering. Because it was such a new program, the curriculum was comprised of 50% Computer Science and 50% Electrical Engineering… after just a few programming courses, I decided THAT was not for me, and I switched over to Electrical Engineering, ultimately earning my Bachelor of Science Degree.

After graduation, the engineering market began to tank, and I transitioned over to technical writing where I have been ever since. Throughout my career, I have maintained a love for Astronomy, and still am determined to earn a Master’s Degree just for the fun of it.

The Harsh Reality

I have come to realize that I was born about a half-generation too soon for me to have been able to follow my dreams. I was fortunate to have a mom who instilled in me the belief that I could do – and be – anything I wanted. And for all intents and purposes, she was right.

But as I was dreaming of exploring the stars, the harsh reality was that the Astronaut Corps remained solely comprised of men – many of whom were Military Academy graduates. Women weren’t admitted to any of the academies until 1976, the start of my Junior year in high school, which was just a little to late for me to realistically consider applying for admission. Additionally, there were NO women included in any of NASA’s Astronaut Classes until 1978 when six women, including the late Dr. Sally Ride, were finally welcomed into the corps as part of Astronaut Group 8.

The bottom line is that as I was growing up, the prospect of ANY woman going into space – let alone ME – simply was not realistic.

Returning to the Stars

Several years ago, I discovered the Astronomy Cast podcast with Fraser Cain and Dr. Pamela Gay. I was hooked. When combined with the 365 Days of Astronomy podcast, I was finally able to learn about my first love informally on a daily basis while driving to and from my day job.

Most recently, CosmoQuest and the Zooniverse have brought real scientific research to the general public through Citizen Science projects such as Moon Mappers and Galaxy Zoo. I DO still want to pursue a degree, but I for now I can contribute real science to the field I love by participating in the various Citizen Science projects that are available.

So there it is – my story in a nutshell. Stay tuned for the next chapter.