5 Candid Facts about Astronauts

Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut, an autobiography of Mike Mullane, tells the reader about the preparation for Space Shuttle flights and flights themselves, bureaucratic blunders, moods of ordinary Americans and the antagonism of super powers.

5 Candid Facts about Astronauts

1. Astronauts Hate Psychiatrists

Selection of astronauts is extremely severe. Only 35 people of 8 thousand who applied for participation in the Space Shuttle program were selected. Future space explorers drive their physical fitness almost to the ideal state, but years spent caring for your health and long workouts are helpless when it comes to a psychiatric examination.

“I didn’t want anything to stand out in any report coming out of my medical exams. I wanted to be so normal that when somebody looked up that word in the dictionary, they would see my picture. So I lied. I didn’t mention pissing in radiators or exploding car engines or dodging mountains in a Cessna 150. I lied even when the truth might have helped my cause”, tells the author.

Mike Mullane tells about the examination conducted by two experts where each of them went out of his way to place some psychological mine under Mike’s feet. Just like every other candidate, he heard questions answers to which are far from obvious. Trying to win commission’s favor, future astronauts lied to psychiatrists.

2. Nothing Human is Alien to Astronauts

The author wrote a separate chapter of his book dedicating it to the relations of young astronauts with the opposite sex, giving it the title of Babes and Booze. Space Shuttle astronauts were welcome at officers’ clubs. The word “astronauts” spelled colossal success with women.

The fact that none of us had been any closer to space than an airline flight attendant didn’t seem to matter. To the space groupies the title was good enough.

Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut

Mike Mullane did not enjoy the bachelor privileges of young astronauts as he had already been married during the selection process. Yet, a wedding ring did not stop many other space explorers from tasting corporal pleasures. Promiscuity was not disapproved of at the moment when Space Shuttle program was in its initial stages.

3. Rule 1: “Death is Better than Shame”

“Death is better than shame” is the refrain the reader encounters in various chapters throughout the whole book. Actually, this simple, but powerful motivator put many astronauts among the selected group.

It was the shame of failure that forced candidates to study tirelessly and to get out of their way and beyond their potential in an attempt to keep the content of their stomachs inside their bodies when they imitated microgravity conditions.

4. Astronauts are Immature in Their Relations with Females

Mike Mullane said that he belonged to the people from the “Planet Arrested Development”. The astronaut studied at a Catholic school, and his further life was devoted to the army. Even the independent choice of clothes was an impossible task for Mullane, as a result. The author, besides that, had no knowledge and skills in the sphere of relations with the opposite sex. Mullane noted that a certain underdevelopment is characteristic of most airmen who applied for the astronaut position.

I recall an early incident of telling a joke to a TFNG audience including Sally Ride that had the word ‘tits’ in it. Sally hardly said another word to me for the next ten years.

Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut

Women had to go through the same training as men in the Space Shuttle program. We should give them credit for patience as one could hardly imagine a place where the concentration of incorrect and sexist jokes was greater than among the astronauts.

5. There are No Racialists among Astronauts

Positive discrimination was reflected in all spheres of American life. NASA was not an exception, trying to enroll females and Afro-Americans in the Space Shuttle program. There was no race discrimination in the Space Shuttle crew: a different color of the skin was a breeding grounds for inoffensive jokes, but not for any hostility.

Guion Bluford was the first black astronaut who had the honor of the space flight. Afro-American candidates who did not pass the selection process for the first Space Shuttle flights were disappointed not just by the fact that they did not get onboard, but that they didn’t win the title of the “first black astronaut”.

Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut is not a patriotic brave story of NASA space flights and is not an artwork striving to insert the dream of becoming an astronaut in young minds. Mullane does not iron out difficulties, openly criticizing the NASA directorate and the administration of George W. Bush.

In spite of its documentary nature, the book is full of drama, and the chapter describing the Challenger disaster and the author’s impressions of it deserve special mention.

There are a little more than 500 people who visited space on our planet. Less than a hundred of them wrote memoirs about it. The book by Mike Mullane are the memoirs that deserve reading.

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