Dear Annie: I write a blog on science and spaceflight in particular. I had to respond to "Trapped in the Grave of a Dream," the teenage girl whose strict parents only want her to become a doctor or lawyer, when she dreams of being an astronaut.
If she is content to sit in a crew seat rather than a pilot's chair, her course seems clear: Go all the way through medical school and specialize in space medicine. Long duration missions away from Earth are going to need doctors on the crew, so having a medical degree will significantly improve her odds. If she can fit in, say, astrophysics as a minor, so much the better.
It will also help that NASA likely won't be the only one hiring astronauts. Companies like SpaceX and Boeing will be hiring also. And "space hotels" and other private habitats, such as those envisioned by Bigelow Aerospace, may well find that having a staff doctor on board is useful. Even being part of the ground team helping astronauts prepare for and recover from spaceflight, and researching the long-term effects of microgravity and space radiation will give her a foot in the hatch.
I hope she sees this and knows there are a bunch of people with the same dreams pulling for her. Ad astra! -- Joe Science in Waco, Texas
Dear Joe: Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. Here are a few more:
Dear Annie: Forty physicians have been astronauts, several of them American women. This is becoming more common, as long-duration trips are planned. This girl should research astronauts on the computers at her school library. -- N.B. in University Ann Arbor
Dear Annie: When I was 8 years old, I decided I wanted to be an airline pilot. I pursued that dream and have had a very successful career for more than 30 years. I often mentor young kids and tell them to find something they are passionate about and then it's like getting paid to do something you love instead of a "job." Money is important, but it's not everything. And it's always good to have a backup plan. Even if she can't be an astronaut, she can still work for NASA and be involved with space exploration. They used to say the sky's the limit. I say shoot for the stars! -- Captain Glen Mock
From Wisconsin: I am a father to a 17-year-old girl whose life decisions I support. Please, please, chase your dreams relentlessly. Figure out a way to be self-sufficient and never give up!
California: I am a fifth-grade teacher and every year we read the biography of Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space. Her parents supported her dreams, but most other adults were downright discouraging. Mae pursued her passions and achieved her dream by going to medical school and taking graduate courses in the specific areas needed for admission to the NASA program. In the end, she achieved her dream of being an astronaut, but more importantly, she made a difference in our world.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailboxcreators.com or write to Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. You can also find Annie on Facebook at Facebook.com/AskAnnies.
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