My Worst New Year’s Resolution
(A true story, I think)
I was approaching my fortieth birthday with the realization I probably would not achieve my goal of being an astronaut although having worked almost two decades for NASA. I was determined but I needed a plan.
I discovered a breach in the security system: back-up space suits in case one was damaged where hung in a closet-type small room on the Shuttle next to the cargo bay. I worked on the Shuttle as a maintenance man, often by myself. I was the same size as several of the astronauts so I tried on one on – a perfect fit! NASA designed the suits so they could put on by the astronaut themselves in case of an emergency.
It would be over a year before I finalized my plan. I made a New Year’s resolution to go on the next Shuttle of 1990: April 24th, the first step in making this a reality.
I clocked in before midnight on the 23rd and took the elevator up to the Shuttle. I was alone; the crew cabin lights were out. Hands shaking, I picked out “my” suit and slid it on – thankfully I had practiced this, even in the dark.
Relax. What are they going to do if the find you? Control your breathing, slow and relaxed. I’m glad I connected the urine leg bag!
When lights came on in the Shuttle I used the leg bag. Preflight inspection started. I listened carefully to conversations; everything seemed to be so calculated. I heard the Shuttle door close and gave another thank you for the leg bag but I should not have had three cups of coffee before I came to work. What is the volume of this bag?
I knew I was going into space when the engines started! The shuttle was bumping and jarring but it was exciting.
What if found now? They certainly won’t kick me off (I hoped anyway). I remember they had been taking up lab experiments in the cargo bay; maybe I could sneak into the cargo bay before they caught me and chained me up or something. I peeked out of the “closet” to discover everyone was working on computers and other equipment. Appraising this was the time; I floated into the air lock between the cabin and the bay unnoticed. Opening the air lock into the bay I found it was filled with a monstrous piece of equipment.
Finding hand holds along the sides, I maneuvered to the top to a door. I’ll hide here awhile. I’ve several hours of air through this suit. Oh, the beauty of space is more than I thought. What a story I’ll have for the family when I get back home! Mark my word.
I felt the equipment being moved; looking out I noticed the Shuttle arm had hold, lifting “us” away from the bay. Where’s the doorknob to get out? No doorknob inside – duh! I looked for suit’s communication button, why hadn’t I spent a little time studying this suit? I heard over the headset, “The Hubble Space Telescope has been successfully deployed.” The Hubble what? Where’s that mike button?
I was getting cold, fast. Space is cold but the suits were supposed to keep you warm. I turned and saw writing on equipment: “Solid Nitrogen Heat Sink”. Oh my, I’m inside the new space telescope which is kept super cold by solid nitrogen; and now me too! I’ll be frozen solid. Where’s that mike button?
Losing consciousness, I heard a door opening. Light bathed the compartment hitting on the mirror on the other side of me. That’s it! I’ll place my hand on the mirror and they will see it and send the Shuttle back.
It was several weeks before NASA noticed my hand, by then I had been frozen solid. I would be there until 1993 when NASA sent a repair mission to “fix the mirror which was ground improperly” – seems a hand resting on the mirror wasn’t something NASA wanted to admit.
I accomplished my dream though. NASA gave me early retirement after they thawed me. They had found a way for long duration space travel by “freezing” astronauts. But this is kept secret by NASA, along with my record of almost three years of space travel. I’m told they are still trying to determine if my brain damage was caused before or after my freezing.
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