I have a dream where I am flying to the International Space Station (ISS) in the Dream Chaser commercial crew vehicle I am helping to design. My co-worker Steve Lindsey, former head of the astronaut office and a pilot of two Shuttle flights and commander on three others, sits in the pilot seat. Former NASA flight director and also current co-worker, John Curry, is on the ground directing our flight in mission control so we hear his voice in our headsets. He is wearing a special vest we gave him as a salute to Gene Kranz. Many of the engineers I work with on designing the various subsystems of the Dream Chaser are in flight control with John, sitting on consoles supporting the flight. This dream is so vivid because this could be a reality five years from now.
The next step in making this more than just a recurring night-time dream is I submitted my application today for the NASA astronaut program. The applications process closes January 27, 2012 and then the waiting begins. Last time NASA had an astronaut selection in 2008-09 they had over 3500 applicants, 400 Highly Qualified Candidates, 120 selected for interviews, and 9 selected. I was fortunate enough to interview in December 2008, but I was not selected. Those selected for interviews this time will go down to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston between August-October, 2012. From that group, finalists will be selected for a second interview and a complete medical evaluation that will be conducted from November 2012-January 2013. The next class of astronauts will be announced in March 2013 and start their training in June 2013.
I don’t know if I have a better chance of being selected this time than in 2009 or not. It is an honor to get as far as I did the last time and from that small group there aren’t many bad choices they can make because the folks are all amazing. If I were chosen, I would go through approximately two years of training before the possibility of then training for a specific flight. The timing could allow me to fly on Dream Chaser on a flight to ISS in 2016 or 2017. That would make my engineer’s dream of getting to fly to space on something I helped design a reality.