I must admit, as soon as I hear that word, ‘astronaut’, my ears prick up and I’m searching around for whoever said it. I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut and I’m in awe of those that have managed to leave the confines of our atmosphere and unshackled from the bonds of gravity float freely outside of this world.
So when I saw an advert from the BBC requesting participants to go through a psuedo-astronaut training and selection programme run by Chris Hadfield, a 20 year veteran of NASA, I jumped at the opportunity. It could be the closest I ever get to experience being an astronaut and here's why...
Quite literary and within the margins of error everyone that has attempted to be an astronaut fails. Not only do you have to be in top notch physical shape (in ways that you will have no idea about), but also must have developed over the preceding decade(s) skill sets that are at the forefront of your chosen field and be ones that are of core requirement for the astronaut corp (which may change!). That requires a lifetime of dedication, hard work and belief. And then, you have to hope that there will be a selection process during those years when you are at your prime!
The last ESA selection process was in 2007-8. During that selection process nearly 10,000 highly skilled applicants from across Europe vied for six places. The odds were pretty slim of making it into the final six and many exceptional candidates didn't. It is the hardest selection process that exists.
But imagine achieving that dream. It would be the ultimate adventure: Imagine seeing the Earth, the most incredible place in the known universe, from the vantage point of orbit. Just that thought leaves me breathless. And so, it’s always been a question I’ve asked myself, do I have what it takes to be an astronaut? Of course, I think I do, but do the experts? What actually do you have to have to be an astronaut?
Fortunately I have had the opportunity to find out. Filming this BBC series putting us through a similar selection process to a real astronaut selection process has been one of the most intense periods of my life. The other candidates are amazing. The stress you see is real and Chris Hadfield and his team made sure it was as realistic as possible.
Episode 1 of ‘Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?’ airs BBC 2 at 9pm on Sunday 20th August.