Archive for Helen Sharman

The Society for Failed Astronauts 

Posted in Biographical with tags , , on December 30, 2017 by telescoper

Attempting to reacclimatise after a whole week  incommunicado one of the first things I noticed was the newly published New Year’s Honours List.

Among those receiving an honour this time round is Helen Sharman who has been made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (whatever that is). 

Helen Sharman became the first British astronaut in 1991 when she took a turn in the Mir space station as a result of Project Juno.

I’m not a fan of the honours system (to say the least), but Helen Sharman’s achievement is well worth celebrating, so heartiest congratulations to her! 

I remember being asked to chair a public talk by Helen Sharman many years ago at which I absent-mindedly introduced her as Helen Shapiro. I wanted the ground to swallow me up after that gaffe but she was very charming about it and took it in good spirit.

Anyway, the selection of potential astronauts for Project Juno began in 1989, with newspaper and radio adverts. About 13,000 people applied. In fact, to let you all in on a secret, I was one.

A keen long-distance runner in those days, I was physically fit enough to be in contention. I could also provide evidence of an ability to learn languages, chiefly through a knowledge of Latin and French from O-level. I passed the initial selection but, predictably, was later rejected after failing the psychological tests.

I noticed that Helen Sharman and I were born just a few days apart (in 1963) and it occurred to me that there must be quite a few people out there, of a similar vintage, perhaps some of them readers of this blog, who were among the 13,000 who, like myself, failed to become astronauts. 

I would be very interested to hear from anyone who applied to Project Juno to find out what they ended up doing. I know one or two university professors after being rejected by Project Juno, but there must be some among the 13,000 who did something useful with their lives! Please let me know through the comments box.

Perhaps we could form a (not very exclusive) club? How about the Rejected Astronaut Society? No. the initials ‘RAS’ are taken…

I know. The Society for Failed Astronauts!