The Right Stuff

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

I just finished the terrific (and hilarious) book, Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, and was struck by a pang of wistfulness for my one remaining unfulfilled ambition – to see the earth from space. Now you would think that a book that described in laugh-out-loud detail the perils of weightlessness on a whole range of bodily functions would be off-putting but instead it provides a refreshingly inspiring vision of why we crazy humans yearn to burst free of our own atmosphere.

I was reminded of my own childhood ambitions of becoming an astronaut (crushed sadly when I realized I would need at least some modicum of mathematical expertise!). I confess my childish ‘list’ of career options was a distinctly motley collection. Writer was always top of the list (thankfully!) but after that there was actress (Cate Blanchett and I were in the same high school class after all :)), political journalist (for many years my mother had visions of me coming back from various war-torn regions in a body bag), astronaut and then (far, far down the list) politician (!). So on earth did I end up being a lawyer? Probably because people managed to convince me that I should follow a career path which would at least have an outside chance to making money.

Reading Packing for Mars reminded me once again that only when we humans follow our passions can great things be achieved. Anyone stepping back and looking objectively at manned space travel would think it madness – though no doubt someone looking objectively at the probability of publishing success would conclude the same! – but nonetheless we continue to pursue our dreams. Despite the fact that I have been able to pursue my #1 childhood ambition, I still have a yen for the possibility of space travel. The thought of seeing earth-rise is still tantalizing. I suppose I had better hope that either NASA suddenly needs someone with my meager skill set on their Mars base or that I make a cool few million dollars so I can hitch a ride on Virgin Galactic.

So what do you think, have I any shot at being the first recovering-attorney-historical novelist in space? What crazy childhood ambition did you have and do you ever still yearn for it once more?