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Why I Decided Against Being An Astronaut

Since I can remember, I was interested in science, math and health. I carefully followed the space program in the early 60s and clearly remember rejoicing when watching Neil Armstrong live in black and white landing on the moon in 1969. Becoming an astronaut seemed to be an appealing choice. So I set my goals and planned on entering the Air Force Academy and becoming a pilot with an intention of becoming an astronaut.

I became rapidly disillusioned with the U.S. military in my application process and decided in high school it would be wise to pursue my other passion -- health -- so I set my sights on medical school and I have absolutely no regrets. In high school, I was, like so many other people, absolutely clueless about health as my parents were (and still are) typical Americans who don't understand the basics about health.

Space tourism will become a big industry. Just about one year ago, the $10 million Ansari X prize was won by Space Ship One. Immediately afterward, Richard Branson partnered with Burt Ruttan to form Virgin Galactic which is scheduled to offer flights into space in 2008 for $200,000. They already have more than 10,000 people who are interested in taking that flight.

While a quarter-million dollars seems like a lot to travel into space, it is a small fraction of what civilian astronauts have been paying. Earlier this year, space CEO Greg Olsen paid $20 million to fly into space and visit the International Space Station.

With what I know about health, I would not take $20 million dollars to fly into space. I am far too concerned with the damage that radiation can produce. We are designed to live in the protection of earth's atmosphere and when we venture outside the protective envelope we are asking for problems. We clearly know that commercial flight crews have a higher risk of cancer and they only fly seven miles high and still retain the bulk of the atmosphere's protection.

It is my impression most medical professionals are clueless about energy medicine and have little to no appreciation of the dangers or radiation. This is true for X–rays and cell phones.

It seems obvious to me that losing your shielding to cosmic rays is not a wise move at this point in history. I do believe, however, science will eventually discover some type of effective shielding that may even exceed the protection of our atmosphere but I don't see that happening in my lifetime. The NASA article I found this morning acknowledges much of the danger of cosmic radiation will affect your bone marrow and, interestingly enough, your hips are the most vulnerable.

However, it is my impression individual cellular damage and destruction is far likely to be a more serious concern. Any way you roll it, even though my childhood dream was to become an astronaut, you will not see me on any space flight in the future.

NASA Science October 26, 2005

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