Tag Archives: astronaut

Bill, I had a space dream, and you were in it

Dear Bill Simmons:

I had this dream last week where NASA offered you the chance to hop on a rocket ship and captain a deep space mission. “Bill,” they said, “We want you to spread sports across the cosmos. Get out there, find some alien life, and teach them all about basketball and football and hockey. Show them about sportsmanship and being a team player and the importance of picking a good mascot to represent their species. If there’s anybody that can not only show the aliens what Earth sports are all about, but can also get them actually interested, it’s you.”


And you were like, “I’ll do it.” And everyone smiled, but you continued, “On one condition. I pick the crew.” And they were a little skeptical, I mean, what do you really know about staffing a spaceship? But eventually they realized that it was the only way they’d get you on board, and so they agreed, “All right Bill, we hope you know what you’re doing.”

You did know what you were doing. You picked me to join you as your first officer. I was sitting here on my computer, dicking around, killing some time before I had to go to work, when I got this call on my cell phone from an unknown number. It was you.

“Hey Rob, Bill Simmons here. I’ve been reading your letters to me every week on your web site asking me for a job. Well, here it is, your lucky day!” And at first I was really excited, like, yes, finally, I’m going to get to work at Grantland, me, a full-time writer at one of the best sports and pop culture web sites on the Internet. My imagination went crazy, I started picturing what kind of posters I’d use to decorate my office, or how I’d casually drop by your office around three-thirty to ask if you wanted anything while I went out to Starbucks.

It was a shock when you told me it wasn’t exactly the offer that I’d been dreaming about, but of course I still accepted without hesitation. Because seriously Bill, I’d do anything to work with you. I’d leave all of my family and friends here on Earth as we set out on a one-way trip to explore the galaxy. That’s the kind of dedication I’d bring to your team, in both my fantasy dream world and in real life.

Yeah, the dream kind of went in a weird direction after I said yes to the mission. Like most dreams go, there were huge gaps in the narrative, weird tangential events that didn’t really make much sense in terms of context or continuity. For example, all of the sudden we were both deep in space, and you told me that the months of isolation were starting to get to you, that routine spaceship maintenance work wasn’t as satisfying as you thought it might be.

But I was like, “Bill, why didn’t you say something earlier? I brought a chess set. We could learn to play, together.” And yeah, you lit up at the idea of a new hobby, something to really challenge your atrophying mental faculties. But we discovered pretty quickly that playing chess in zero-g isn’t really possible pastime. Maybe if I had thought it out a little better, like if I brought some Velcro, something to keep the pieces from flying off the board. But no, I didn’t have anything, and so we both gave up after a few minutes of futilely trying just to keep everything still on the constantly floating surface.

And then pretty soon after that, we weren’t in space anymore, we were at a McDonald’s. It didn’t make sense at all, but neither of us questioned our new surroundings. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, you didn’t even remember being in space at all. And when I was like, “Bill, don’t you remember? The spaceship? The chess set?” you were like, “My name’s not Bill, it’s Fred. And can you hurry up a little with my order?”

It was then that I looked down, and I was actually behind the counter, I was wearing a McDonald’s uniform, and my name tag didn’t say “Rob,” it said, “Jean.” Which, yeah, that doesn’t really make much sense. The rest of the dream went on for like another minute or so, in dream minutes anyway, who knows how long it was in real life. Everything got fuzzier and fuzzier until I woke up, it was ten-thirty, I was late for work. But I still thought, I’ve got to write this down. I’ve got to tell Bill.

And now that I’ve written it all out, I’m actually kind of sorry, because for real, I know how boring dream stories are. Whenever anybody starts telling me, “Rob, listen to this dream I had …” I automatically shut down, because regardless of how interesting the dream may have been in the dream, it’s never even remotely worth retelling once you wake up. And so I don’t know why I thought this one was going to be different, because it wasn’t, and again, I apologize.

All I can say is, when you hire me to work at Grantland, I’ll never talk about my dreams. Unless you order me to. Then I’ll do it. I’ll do whatever you say. That’s the kind of employee I am. Unless you order me to stop following your orders, because I’m not that clever, I won’t really know how to respond to one of those logical paradoxes.

Anyway, I hope you have a great weekend. And I hope that whichever team you predicted to win the Super Bowl wins. And I’ll tell everybody, “See? It’s just like Bill Simmons said would happen. That guy is the best.” Me? I predicted the Giants would win, way back when they were 0 – 6. Things were looking pretty good for a while, until Dallas scored that field goal. I hate the Cowboys.

Your friend,

Rob G.

Let’s go to space

I would totally go on a really long space mission. You know, given the chance, like if they needed volunteers, “Calling all Americans! We’re looking for one patriotic spacefarer to help NASA explore the cosmos!” they’d obviously be making cold-calls because the mission would be too intense, even for trained astronauts. I’m not talking dangerous. Just long. A very time-consuming, extended mission.


But seriously, I’d definitely be up for it. Put me on that spaceship and let’s blastoff. I don’t care about Gravity. Do you think I’m that easily scared off by a George Clooney movie? And it’s not even a George Clooney movie, it’s a Sandra Bullock movie, but I didn’t want to come across as sexist, implying that the most non-scary element of that movie was the lead, Ms. Bullock.

But I’m not scared. Remember that scene where a piece of space debris ripped a hole right through that guy’s head? Come on, that didn’t look that realistic. Start fitting me for a spacesuit already. Can mine be blue? Like midnight. Like space blue. Even though space is black. But like a spacey navy blue, with yellow stripes around the wrists, and a golden-tinted spacesuit helmet.

What’s the hesitation in sending a crew of astronauts to an asteroid, to Mars? What are all of the professional astronauts scared of, cosmic radiation? Space madness? What else could astronauts be worried about? Claustrophobia? A debilitating loss in muscle and bone mass? Actually, that’s probably be the one thing that really creeps me out, that of my own body slowly disappearing right before my eyes, just because I don’t have any gravity to keep everything fresh.

But whatever, I’ll still do it. I’ll just clench my muscles, all of them, constantly. That’s got to be good for something right? And I’ll just make sure to do plenty of space jumping jacks. Even without gravity, that’s still got to be pretty tough, extending your arms and your legs out, it’s got to get tiring eventually. I think I just solved the whole no gravity problem. Someone should get a message to any astronauts currently in space: do some space jumping jacks, like a thousand of them.

Or even better, they could get some sort of a mechanical suit that does the space jumping jacks for them, so they could put it on while they’re asleep. Even better than that, you could just heavily sedate anybody in space and then program that same space jumping jack mechanical suit to do all sorts of crazy exercises, space pull ups, space Insanity.

Or even much, much better, let’s just sedate all of the astronauts, the whole time that they’re in space. Wait, no, while that would work for really long voyages, the idea has already been explored in pretty much every space movie, like Alien, like Event Horizon. By the way, if you’re wondering what I was talking about earlier with space madness, watch Event Horizon, that movie was scary as hell.

Man, I actually think I took this thought experiment a little too far, I’m pretty scared now, not of space, I think I’d still be down for some space, but of Event Horizon, I’m telling you, that movie is terrifying. It’s like, while they’re all asleep, the spaceship passes through some dimensional portal to hell, but you don’t know it, because they’re still in the hell dimension, or something came back with them, and then the captain pulls his eyes out.

Jesus, some things cannot be unseen. I was like twelve years old when I saw that movie, I was alone in my bedroom, it started playing on a movie channel late at night. I was like, oh boy, I love sci-fi, I love Star Trek, this movie should be great. And here I am, a grown man, sitting here writing about how he’d be a great pick for an extended space mission, and I can’t even get through the whole thing because I’m still a little scared, every night before I go to bed I pull the covers up really tight, all the way to my neck, I try not to think about Event Horizon, but I’m telling you, if you haven’t seen the movie, watch the movie, and then you’ll know about the panic that I’m grappling with on a daily basis.

But regular space, come on, this isn’t sci-fi, it’s real life. And I can’t think of a better candidate to be a real life civilian astronaut. So NASA, if you’re reading this, and if you’ve been contemplating a civilian astronaut campaign, but you’re not sure about how you’d get it started, don’t bother. Just pick me. I’m your guy. Let’s go to space.

What makes a hero?

What makes a person a hero? You hear the word thrown around pretty casually, hero, like look at me, I spent six months aboard the International Space Station, or, hey everybody, I just landed an airplane in the Hudson River. Everybody knows what I’m talking about, the word hero applied to people simply for doing their jobs. And in the second example, it’s doing your job, but not even doing it correctly, because airplanes aren’t supposed to land in rivers, they’re supposed to touch ground on a runway, in an airport.


Come on, when I was in high school and my car skidded out of control and I swerved onto my parents’ front yard, nobody was giving me any rounds of applause, no, it was just my dad, yelling about how much it was going to cost to fix all of those holes in the grass, which, I never really understood how you can get so angry about a lawn, it’s just dirt, grass will grow there eventually.

No, real heroics involve going beyond the ordinary, which, while you might think my astronaut examples apply, they don’t, because think about it, astronauts today aren’t doing half of the cool stuff that they used to do. Maybe if one of them hijacked a space shuttle and went to Mars, without permission, without even the necessary provisions, and then he got there and he found a Martian space colony, and it spawned this whole new era of interplanetary diplomacy between us and the previously unknown Martian people, maybe that guy would be a hero.

Maybe. But just hanging out in orbit, running space tests and doing routine space work, yes, it’s a lot more exhilarating than say, waiting tables, but I wouldn’t be too quick to apply the hero label. Again, it’s all about exceeding expectations, about going way further above and beyond what people would think you’re capable of.

Which is cool, because it leaves everyday heroics accessible to the average person. You don’t have to go to space, you don’t have to pilot a giant plane, all you have to do is take everybody by surprise with something that nobody would have ever see coming. Like take the waiting tables example, say there was a guy that started to choke, and I rush over to his side, he can’t breath, and so I start pushing down on his chest, I mean, I took a first-aid course years ago, but I can’t really remember the specifics.

And it’s not working, so I grab a knife and start cutting a hole in his throat, a makeshift tracheotomy, but it backfires, I miss something because, again, I have no medical training, at this point I’m going solely off of stuff that I’ve seen on TV. And he starts bleeding everywhere. No, I’m not a hero. Not yet.

So I take a bunch of straws and I combine them into one really long straw, and then I cut myself open and I stick one end of the straw into my veins and the other into his. I have no idea if it’s going to work, I’m not even sure our blood types are compatible. But I get lucky, and it does work, and he survives, and we both wake up in the same hospital room, side by side on two adjoining beds, it turns out this guy is a billionaire, he leans over to me and says, “Son, you were a real hero. You saved my life! And now I’m going to reward you with a huge cash reward.” I’m still not done. I’d then have to deny the reward, say something like, “All in a day’s work,” and then I’d have to go back to the restaurant and say sorry to my boss for missing the rest of that shift.

Then I’d totally be a hero. Because you need that extra layer of adversity, that final level of impossibility that you still wind up conquering. It’s like, again, I’m not trying to knock the Subway Hero, but is that guy really a hero? You know who I’m talking about, right? The guy that jumped on top of the other guy when he fell on the tracks? I’d say, courageous, yes, quick-thinking, definitely, but heroic?

I’m not so sure. He knew exactly what he was doing. There was a space in the tracks where he was able to wait out the train. All he did was position both himself and that other guy into place. Anybody could have done it. No, heroic would have been like twenty people stuck on the tracks, and the train’s coming, it’s barreling out of control down the tunnel, there’s no way this is going to end well.

But then this guy jumps from the platform, he opens up his chest, he’s Superman. He puts his hand out and slows down the train just by pushing it, and then with his super speed he gets everyone to safety before any damage is done. Now that’s a hero, that’s what I call heroics. If you’re not really going that extra step, if you’re not wowing me, then what are you doing? You’re just doing your job. You’re just kind of regular. And again, I’m not saying I’m a hero, so I’m not trying to put anybody else down. But just take a minute, the next time you go to call someone a hero, think about it. Can this person run faster than a car? Does he have X-ray vision? No? Maybe he’s not a hero after all.

First words on Mars

I’m always thinking about what my first words are going to be when I step off of the shuttle that takes me to the Martian surface. “Remember Rob,” I can hear my flight trainers words echoing in my memory, “You’re about to be the first human being to ever step foot on Mars. Your words will be immortalized. I’d put some serious thought into what you want to say.”

mars astronaut

And the ship’s doors will open, I’ll walk out, my foot hitting the red soil, and I’ll shout out, “Yee-haw! I’m on Mars! Fuck yeah mothafucka! I’m on fucking Mars! Mars baby! Ho. Lee. Shit! Mo! Ther! Fu! King! Mars! Who’s on Mars? I’m on Mars! Maaaaaaaaars!”

At this point, I’m expecting my second in command to be a little confused, she’ll be worried, she’ll be like, “Captain? Are you OK? Captain?” but I’ll just be running in huge circles around the landing site, kicking up clouds of red dirt, screaming the whole time in celebration. She’ll wonder if the long journey, the months spent in isolation, if they’ve finally caught up to me somehow. Is this space madness?

“Captain!” she’ll try to get my attention, to warn me that I shouldn’t be acting so reckless, the cartwheels, the handstands, that I might puncture my space suit, that we’ve gone too far for me to jeopardize the entire mission with any accidents I might incur as a result of my laying on the ground making Martian dust-angels.

And yeah, I know, it takes something like half an hour for communications to reach the earth, and so everyone at home would be patiently awaiting the news, all of the TV stations would have gotten rid of that seven second delay that they use for other live events, because, come on, who would expect such a crazy speech from a professional astronaut? And little kids would be gathered around their living rooms, they’d hear me go, “Fuck yeah! Mars!” over and over again.

And they’d go to school the next day and they’d be going nuts, sitting in their classrooms, everybody parroting my speech, “Fuck yeah teacher!” they’d be running their own circles around the desks, “I’m Captain Rob! I’m on fucking Mars!” and what could the teachers possibly say? You’re going to stand up there and tell little kids not to curse? Why? The first person to ever step foot on Mars, he’s up there right now, he’s probably still cursing.

So she’d give up on pointlessly trying to censor everything that comes out of her students’ mouths. Everybody would, parents, the government, nobody would care about cursing anymore. They’d lift any restrictions about what you’re allowed and not allowed to say on TV. “From now on,” the chairman of the FCC would make an announcement, “You’re allowed to say whatever the fuck you want.”

And so I’ll have ushered in two new chapter of human history with one dramatic speech, and centuries from now, when human beings are living in space colonies throughout the galaxy, they’ll look back, to the first generation of astronauts. And because we’ll be so comparatively close together, they’ll look at Neil Armstrong and they’ll think, well, the moon’s not that big of a journey. But Mars. That’s huge. Also, Armstrong tried to say something big and grand, but he botched it.

And then they’ll look at me, my recording will be timeless, the whole, “Yee haw!” thing really tapping into the human spirit, and it’ll also be the first time that humans were allowed to say fuck on broadcast television. I really hope NASA accepts my application to be an astronaut.