The Astronaut

I’m cleaning out the basement and throwing out decades of accumulated stuff. On the one hand, it’s very cathartic to make space an get rid of dust-collecting do-dads of dubious value. But on the other hand, the act of selecting which artifacts to keep and which to throw out brings on a kind of melancholy. Original copies of my Master’s Thesis, letters from my old girlfriend, a vintage slide-rule from my collage days, magazine articles mentioning my name … the flotsam and jetsam of half a life lived. What’s it good for? Why keep it?

Anyway, in a dusty box I came across a little gem. There, shoved into an envelop with kitchy birthday greeting cards was nearly 30 year-old, yellowed newspaper clipping. It was an ad from the careers section of the paper — Canada needed astronauts. Along with the ad, were two letters paper-clipped to the back.

Newspaper Ad

Ad Looking for Canadians with the Right Stuff

It’s the summer of 1983. A young, enthusiastic, but hopelessly under-qualified Ron Riesenbach sees an ad in the newspaper seeking candidates for Canada’s inaugural astronaut program. While only an undergraduate still in University with no military experience, flying skills or biological payload expertise, he decides to go for it. After weeks of filling out forms (“Please list the number of hours you have logged flying the following aircraft ….”, Uhhh, zero.) and getting required medical tests, an application is submitted with a carefully crafted cover letter which celebrates the candidates (pathetically meager) qualifications.

Letter of Application to Astronaut Program

Letter of Application to Astronaut Program

An embarrassingly short time later, a letter arrives from the National Research Council. In gentle (but firm) bureaucrateese, the Chief of Personnel celebrates the great response the ad has engendered, but regrets to inform Mr. Riesenbach that his application will not be moved forward for further consideration.

We Regret To Inform You

We Regret To Inform You ...

Sigh … a dream squashed. But the innocent enthusiasm and bravery of the attempt makes me proud.

This document I’ll keep.