Thursday , August 5 2021

My Odd Job: You never cease to be an astronaut

Space travel in my blood came from an early age and never came out.

The space race only started when I was a kid, and it was very exciting. When NASA began to launch missiles, I started building my best friend in my cellar. We even had our own launch platforms.

I started as a US Navy pilot, which increased my chances of becoming an astronaut, as almost half of all the astronauts who flew before, the sailors. So NASA thought they needed them at that time and so it stayed so long.

To be chosen for the astronaut, you had to be in almost complete health – NASA could choose millions of people, why not start with the healthiest?

When NASA started launching missiles, I started building my best friend in my basement (Photo: Jon McBride)

They also studied your education and experience. I flown 25-30 different types of aircraft and had a flight diploma. I customize the package they wanted, but there is no definitive way to become an astronaut – people come from all backgrounds and lifestyles.

When we arrived at the space program, NASA began to select non-pilot candidates, appointed mission experts. In my class, we had first non-pilots, first women and first African American people. We were a well-rounded group and I was very happy.

The training was quite primitive these days. How do you train to go into space in a vehicle that you have not yet flown? That was their best score. The first simulations were pretty rudimentary, but when we progressed through the Space Shuttle program, they became better and better.

At that time, training was quite primitive (Photo: Jon McBride)

In the middle of the program, we had simulators that could be placed in vertical positions, lowered and actually flew off the ground, so when you arrived on the plane it was as you were before.

It was up to us to maintain our own ethics of practice and stay in shape – there was no one above you, who would have told you to do 20 pressures or 40 jumps. You had to take at least one physical year, but when you came into the active flight status and assigned to the mission, you will receive almost every month for your flight.

Many people in my class loved to run, but I hated him, so I played on the basketball team of astronauts – in fact, we were pretty good! – and was part of a big softball team that traveled through Texas.

For the first time I went into space in 1984 as part of the first crew of seven on the Earth observation mission on board the Challenger spacecraft.

I was so enthusiastic that I worked there all over in microgravity (Photo: Jon McBride)

The best word for describing the departure of the universe? Unwritten. There is no simulation that could take you from zero to 25 times the speed of sound in eight and a half minutes.

For the last three or three minutes, you are subject to continuous acceleration with three times the gravity force, pushed back to your seat when you are faster and faster.

You can try to simulate everything you want until you get into this thing and do not do it really, you never experienced it. This is a unique adventure.

When I was sitting in front as one of the pilots, I could only think about it: I better do my job. I remembered everything I was taught, and I was ready to handle every situation.

Take off was one of the most mild, pleasant and interesting things I did (Photo: Joe Newman)

This is a wonderful part of the exhibition: in the simulator, when you were working on one problem, the training team in the system would make another mistake. But during my first startup, I was ready and thought, "Just throw me away, I can master it."

So let's take off … and nothing goes wrong! All lights remain green. It was one of the most gentle, nice and interesting things I did. You are in the most complex vehicle in the world, surrounded by some of the most talented individuals in the world who are under the control of the sharpest people in the world. It's hard to describe the enthusiasm that you are one of the people who do this.

We worked on board for 16 hours with half an hour to get breakfast and prepare, and then half an hour before going to bed for dinner.

It took only a day or two to regain my "earthly legs" after we landed (Photo: Jon McBride)

I say "work" … it was a pleasure, a pleasure, because I was so excited that I was up there and doing all this in microgravity. I would look out the window and see that the Arctic is passing and 45 minutes later Antarctica came. These memories will stay with me forever.

I had a flight plan with stops and checklists that I kept the chain up to the waist, but we carried out the mission so many times on the ground that I barely opened it.

During our flight nothing happened. We had some minor problems, but we achieved not only 100 percent of the goals of our mission, but we gained additional things that NASA put on our standby list if we had time.

For meals, we could eat everything we wanted – I like the fillet mignon with green beans and mashed potatoes.

More: Food

All meals are pre-ordered before you go, and then before cooking, vacuum packing and thermal stabilization before lifting. When you're up there, pull out the aluminum bag, place it in the oven for five minutes, cut the top and squeeze out your steak – I like that my medium is scarce.

I've been in space for almost nine days. It took only a day or two to regain my "earthly legs" after we landed. The biggest thing you lose is your sense of balance. Dizziness lasts several hours, but it may take several weeks for you to return to normal if you are there for a long time.

I miss the space. You should not take someone up and back every day. I think this will be the future of space travel, but there are so many things that we have to do and learn before we can have commercial space flights, or great – go to Mars.

First, we need to be able to recycle and reuse everything we take with us. We need to start using these types of technologies here on Earth, otherwise we will run out of all our resources – we go through them astronomically.

The things we do in space are spectacular (Photo: Joe Newman)

Now I am working in a Kennedy space center in Florida, where I plan to visit astronauts, I speak and perform special tours. I will be there until they expel me, but you never cease to be an astronaut.

I am a member of the Space Researchers Association and I was president for three years. If you want to be in this group, you must fly at least once in space over 50 miles and around the Earth, so this is a very select group of people.

We are confronted with the problem of how to maintain public interest in space travel, if you do not do something spectacular every year, but the things we do in space are spectacular.

Each mission makes unique things for a better life on Earth.

Jon McBride is an ambassador to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For more information, visit

Jon was filmed at The Trafalgar St James, London. For more information, go to

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