I remember sitting in my primary school gym and watching TV, with the little kids, and we'd see the astronauts put on their space suit, get on the rocket. The rocket takes off! And then we'd see them walking on the moon, or driving that lunar Jeep. I remember being in that gym and thinking, ''This is so cool! I'd love to do that!''. It didn't matter if this looked like something I could never reach; this is what I wanted to do. So, the impact of the Apollo mission on me has been immense, and that's why I'm here today.
I was inspired to be an astronaut by the very first people that flew into space. As I was starting to become aware of the news and read newspapers, watch television, and see what was happening in the world around me, the most exciting thing going on was the race to the moon. Neil Armstrong, and Buzz Aldrin, and Yuri Gagarin, and Alexie Leonov, the very first human beings ever flying in space, were making those very first steps. And about the time that I was turning ten, that's when Neil and Buzz were walking on the moon, and to me, I just thought it was the most magnificent adventure in history, and I wanted to be part of that.
The real nitty-gritty of the job is what really makes it worthwhile, and that is the people that you work with. It attracts such an incredible skill level, such a variety of people from all around the world. I've worked with astronauts from all of the different space-faring nations, and the filter that selects people into the space business, and specifically to become astronauts, is a filter that brings in folks that are challenging, resourceful, experienced, humble, and fascinating people to work with. That's the best part about being an astronaut.
To become an astronaut, number one, you have to be very lucky. You have to be born with a body that is healthy, with eyes that see well enough, a lot of things you have absolutely no control over. You have to be born into the right country, at the right time. If I had been born ten years previously, I could not have been an astronaut. At the same time, you need to have an absolute burning desire to do this job. It is an absorbing job; it becomes your life. It isn't your profession. Being an astronaut is who you become, what your life is defined by.