"What's the next best thing to astronaut?"
October 20, 2015 4:27 PM   Subscribe

The Astronaut Instruction Manual [via mefi projects from Mefi's own Mike Mongo]

Excerpt from the Mefi Projects page:
Almost a decade ago, at age 42, it dawned on me I was not going to get to be an astronaut.

Seeing as this thought was potentially devastating to my inner-11 year old, I was immediately forced to recalibrate. 'What's the next best thing to astronaut?' I pondered, 'What is the career I can do that will allow me to live out second half of my life without having become an astronaut?'

And the answer hit me immediately: astronaut teacher.
Much more backstory at Mefi Projects.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (10 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Mike Mongo also responsible for possibly the greatest story ever told on MeFi and without a doubt the greatest story ever told on MeFi about Macho Man Randy Savage.
posted by griphus at 4:30 PM on October 20, 2015 [8 favorites]

Those who can astronaut, astronaut. Those who can't astronaut, astronaut teach.
posted by BiggerJ at 5:31 PM on October 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

This is literally the perfect book for my space-mad 7 year old daughter.

Could I get a signed copy, I wonder?
posted by leotrotsky at 5:35 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

500 favorites!
posted by Oyéah at 5:49 PM on October 20, 2015

Sweet - just ordered a copy to read to my three year old (though more recently he's been more interested in being a Garbage Truck driver - maybe he could be a space Garbage Truck driver?)
posted by inflatablekiwi at 7:08 PM on October 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

This looks really cool! I'd love to see the table of contents, if possible. Is that posted somewhere?

Also: Here it is at Powell's and Barnes & Noble.
posted by amtho at 8:35 PM on October 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Shoutout to my fellow Key West Mefite and near-about City Commissioner Mongo. Nice work!
posted by halfbuckaroo at 8:49 AM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ordered it - ostensibly for my 4-year old, but secretly for me. I am super-excited to get it and read it, because nothing puts me back in touch with feeling like a child more than my wonderment about space.
posted by SNACKeR at 2:35 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

When I posted this on Mefi Projects, I never thought once I'd make it to the blue but I was honored to share The AIM because well inspiring young students has turned out to be the most rewarding work of my entire life. And, as I explain to students nearly every day, career-wise I have done everything I ever wanted my entire life. I never shorted myself in that regard. So when upon reaching my early-40s and after a lifetime of having achieved quite a good many genuinely fulfilling career objectives, the realization dawned on me that there was no practically imaginable scenario which would lead to my becoming an astronaut. So, I recalibrated: If I was not to become an astronaut, what career would satisfy that longing in my heart, mind, and soul?

And as I pointed out, literally instantly I knew the answer: astronaut teacher.

Working as I was at the time in marine science education (senior researcher for an eco-charter day excursion), the experience of participating in and facilitating science experiences for young students had become a facet of my job that I had come to relish. It would generally go like this: young person picks up on my own excitement for the utter amazingness of the natural world around us, the day progresses, learning ensues, and then suddenly out of nowhere some idea would click in place in said person's thinking and before everyone's eyes the most amazing thing would happen:

A scientist would be born.

That is, a person would become someone who appreciates/geeks over "the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment" (or, what is science). And oh my google no kidding IS THAT THE COOLEST THING IN THE WORLD OR WHAT? because I like them would always be in complete agreement on this point. Trust, once you hold an actual octopus in your hand and IT CRAWLS UP YOUR FACE, or let's say you are underwater–with a camera!–and a 5-ft black tip shark–"one of the most bitey sharks in the world"–comes swimming around to you and just hangs out, your life is wonderfully charged and changed forever.

At the time, being part of those moments when they happened fueled my entire week: I wanted more! Which is how the "teacher" part of "astronaut teacher" immediately jumped to mind.

The other inspiration for my then-new career role was that when I was growing up no one had ever pointed out the way to astronaut for me. Yes, I had good people/teachers thankfully draw my attention to science and to wonder and to creativity. Yet no standout individual had perceived that I was 100% geeked on space and space exploration so much so as to make a point to align my inner career compass with such a particular career-guiding North Star. Subsequently, I indeed had not pursued or become an astronaut. No quid no pro quo.

And it was with these three ideas in mind–1. I was grown-up but more likely than not wasn't going to get to be an astronaut; 2. facilitating young students having geeking moments on science was super fun for me; and 3. I could use my super science teaching powers for pointing the way out to our space future to students and at the same time prevent the astronautingless career fate that had befallen me by the time I became a grown-up (age 42! I brag)–that I wrote and created The Astronaut Instruction Manual.

To be fair, that process leading up to having The AIM really published and distributed as it is now took nearly a decade. I spent 2007 writing it, and self-published it as Mike Mongo's Astronaut Instruction Manual for Pre-Teens in 2008 (dedicated then as it were to Eliot in the above octopus video) but that said just writing, self-publishing, and having it out there led to teaching opportunities …and then speaking opportunities …and then invitation to space science conferences …and then in 2012 I wrote an academic paper that got accepted for presentation and later published titled Children: The Future of Space is Presently 8-12 Years Old, and this led to further credibility and further attention and I worked and worked and worked and taught more and more... ...which led to The Astronaut Instruction Manual being accepted for crowdfunding in 2014 by new publishing company, Inkshares. (Their model has since changed to be wide-open to give anyone that same opportunity. For the record, great company, great people, great business model.) And as I mentioned after a solid year of pre-production, proof reading, copy editing, graphic design, layout, galleys, and actual production, The Astronaut Instruction Manual arrived on October 13. Since that time, we have shot to the #1 New Release in Children's Astronomy Books on Amazon and just got picked up by target.com. It's been a whirlwind 8 years in the making.

And I am teaching almost everyday. At schools, throughout school districts, at special events, everyday it seems like another success. Of course, the real success is this. Every student, every classroom with whom and with which I have a successful engagement is one more person and group who cannot look back when they grow and say, "No one ever said to me I could grow up to live work and play in space". And I tell the students that too. In fact, we co-sign Astronaut Permission Slips to make that official.

Here is what is important to understand. Space is 100 miles away. Tomorrow's jobs are in space. Letting students know this today gives them a critical competitive advantage in tomorrow's job markets. When we ask young students, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and they reply, doctor, police, firefighter, athlete, construction, chef, veterinarian, mechanic, artist, we must be ready to answer back, "Have you ever thought about doing that in space?" Because we are all astronaut teachers.

By working as an astronaut teacher myself for eight years, and "studying my business like it was homework" (a practices I frequently encourage students) the entire time, most amazing to me now is I have been led to this other epiphany: the solutions to every challenge we face on earth today–ecology, sustainability, energy, health, inclusion, equality, even cooperation and prosperity–are found in solving for the challenges of space. I share this insight with grown-ups too.

What inspires me today as I proceed forward–as a speaking, engaging, authoring, and science-loving astronaut teacher–is greater than what inspired me to begin. What inspires me today is the premise that by encouraging today's students to pursue space careers and to solve for space, and providing them with the tools and skills they need to do so, they will deliver the future they want and humankind needs. As it turns out, it's a space future after all.

In other words, and coming from the inner-11-year old himself, yes!
posted by Mike Mongo at 10:53 AM on October 24, 2015 [3 favorites]

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