Everything about space has always fascinated me. Before a life event beyond my control prevented it, my dream was to be an astronaut. Not the eight-year-old “when I grow up…”dream, but I really was going to be an astronaut. I had written (now you know how long ago it was) NASA for an application to see what I needed in college, and was on a first-name basis with the woman in the astronaut selection office. I really was going to be an astronaut.
In retrospect, to be an astronaut you must like math and science. I liked neither. Oh, well, I was going to be an astronaut.
Of course, because everything about space was so interesting, of course my seventh-grade science project just had to be space related. To this day, I have no idea how I thought of my project, but it just popped into my head: “Does the Density of a Planet’s Atmosphere Affect the Impact a Meteor Would Have?” I simply threw rocks on a sand-covered paper plate that had either a Kleenex, paper towel, or washcloth on it to mimic different atmospheric conditions. My seventh-grade mind didn’t think of some things, like not all planets are solid, how was I sure I was throwing the rocks each time, etc.
I guess the judges at my school didn’t think of that, because I won first place. But besides being a nerd, I must to admit to being a bit of a klutz. Walking up to turn in my project at the district competition, the unthinkable happened: I dropped the plate. My parents and I fiendishly recreated craters before the projects were due (picture us in the parking lot, using our knuckles to recreate the “meteor” indentations in the different atmospheres), and I thought we did a pretty impressive job faking the wonder of science.
I didn’t go beyond the district competition. I still wonder: what if I had been more graceful back then…?