On the Virgin careers website, Virgin Galactic has posted a want ad for Astronauts. They have three positions to fill, and we have sent in our application for consideration. They informed us via auto-reply email that if they feel we are an appropriate candidate, we will be asked to interview. We have drafted an open letter to Sir Richard Branson because, in the words of Neil Armstrong, “you need three things to be an astronaut: persistence, persistence and persistence.” (Neil Armstrong never said that).
Dear Sir Richard Branson,
I am happy to follow up on my application for the advertised Pilot-Astronaut position on Virgin’s careers website. One thing that was of concern to me was the brevity of the application process. Not to tell you how to hire people, but a resume upload and five yes-or-no questions do not make an application.
To wit: I only answered one of the yes-or-no questions in the affirmative: “Are you a U.S. citizen.” The next three I feel were unfairly weighted against me and I did not have an option to explain my answer. I feel I must use this platform to expound on my reasoning for answering “no.”
Are you “A current FAA commercial (or equivalent) pilot license and FAA medical?”
First of all, how can you be a license or a medical? I’m a flesh and blood man with wants and needs. For example, the need to be an astronaut. I don’t have a license because of inside-the-beltway politics. You know the FAA makes you have flight experience before giving you your license? True story: I passed my driver’s test without having ever driven a car before. Flying in space is just like driving, just much less traffic (which makes it easier).
As for the medical, I can take one, no problem. I have fallen arches and was told in fifth grade that I have scoliosis, but I’m pretty sure the school nurse was in a rush and just wanted to take her smoke break.
Are you a “Graduate of a recognized test pilot school, with at least 2½ years post-graduate flight test experience?”
Not a recognized test pilot school, per se, but I am certified in CPR and was able to land a 737 in Microsoft Flight Simulator ’98 the first day I started playing. Also, student loans are a bitch.
“Do you have a diverse flying background with a minimum of 3,000 hours flying to include considerable experience of: large multi-engine aircraft and high performance fast jet aircraft and low lift-to-drag ratio glide experience (e.g. simulated flameout landings) in complex aircraft?”
I’m going to change my answer to “yes” on this one.
“Do you have operational experience of a commercial aerospace aviation project or business?”
“Operational experience” is such a vague term. Do I have “operational experience” of my nervous system? No, but I still wince when I put rubber cement on my forearm and rip it off after it dries. What am I getting at exactly? I’m not sure, what was the question? Do I want to be an astronaut? Yes, yes I do.
Sir Branson, I feel that this application process is in direct opposition to what you believe in. You call yourself a “rebel billionaire”; what’s more rebellious than sending an undereducated and delusional man into orbit on a complex, multi-million dollar space craft that he is not qualified to operate?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 12, 2011