Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Chance

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If I wasn’t going to go to space as an astronaut, I was going to pave

my own way to the skies.

Ever since I was a little boy, I have dreamed of building

space ships and becoming an astronaut. Inspired by the

great explorers of the early days of NASA, who landed on the

moon, and by watching fantastic science fiction movies like

the Star Wars trilogy, I imagined that one day I too could explore

the universe. My fascination with space grew throughout

my school years because I realized how important it was

for the future of humanity to continue exploring space. My

favorite class was astronomy, and in elementary school I

even built a huge model of the solar system out of wood with

little colored planets, which is still on proud display at my

parents’ house. I also read many great books about space

exploration by such authors as Robert Heinlein and Isaac

Asimov. My first space book, Cosmos, by Carl Sagan, I read in

third grade—it was a little difficult but I read every page and

enjoyed it very much!

While in high school, I visited the Kennedy Space Center

with my family and up to that point, it was one of my life’s

greatest adventures. Later, I visited the National Air and

Space Museum in Washington, DC—another great adventure.

I appreciated very much that both my parents were supportive

of my passion and interest in space and encouraged that

I pursue a degree in space technology. I got accepted at the

University of Virginia, where I began study in Aerospace Engineering.

I also founded the Space Advancement Society,

Source: Printed with permission by Eric Anderson, President &

CEO of Space Adventures.

which is the Virginia chapter for the Students for Exploration

and Development and Space (SEDS) and which allowed me to

meet many new friends also interested in space exploration.

Also while at the University of Virginia, I had some excellent

summer jobs. In my first, I worked at the National Radio

Astronomy Observatory studying deep-space galaxies with

famous astronomers. I got to travel to the largest telescope

in the world, the VLA in Socorro, New Mexico. The next

summer, I was selected as the top student from Virginia to

enter the NASA Academy program. I learned a lot of leadership

skills, met some incredible people, and helped with space

shuttle experiments at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Summer.

In my last summer job, I worked for a foundation that

was offering a prize for the first space tourism vehicles to be

built—it was called the X Prize! I continued to maintain close

contact and friendships with the people I met in those summer

jobs for the rest of my life.

After graduation, I decided not to apply to the NASA astronaut

corps because I had imperfect vision, a major impediment

to an aspiring astronaut. Although my long-time dream

of becoming a professional astronaut would not come to be,

I knew I had to seek alternatives to make a positive out of my

dream. In 1997, fresh out of college and filled with enthusiasm,

I decided to start a space tourism company with the

help of travel and aerospace experts such as Buzz Aldrin and

other astronauts. If I wasn’t going to go to space as an astronaut,

I was going to pave my own way to the skies.

What I have now come to realize is that flying in space

with NASA is only one way to get into space, and it may even

be less exciting than being a private space explorer and pioneer.

In the commercial space industry, the possibilities are

endless, and they don’t depend on having perfect vision or the

ups and downs of government budgets. The mission of Space

Adventures, the company I am heading, is to open the space

frontier to regular people like you and me. We have already

had two clients fly to space, and both said it was the most rewarding,

inspiring, wonderful life-changing experience they

had ever had.

Today’s young generation will be able to travel to Earth’s

orbit, the moon, and beyond, because people continue to have

the vision and the courage to innovate. Never give up on your

dreams; there are always ways to achieve them. Just be creative

and don’t be afraid to take a chance in life!