Why Do Some People Dream Of Being Astronauts? The Psychology of Space Travel

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In 2013, more than 6,000 people applied to be NASA Astronauts. Of that 6,000, 8 people were chosen.
In 2017 over 18,300 applicants applied, and NASA chose 12.

For some, these numbers might seem like a lot of people applying for 8-12 positions. However, there will be others who wonder why everyone is not sending in their resumes for a chance to explore space!

Exploration is an innate desire of human beings. Some feel it stronger than others. This was the same drive that had explorers sail the seas, spelunk caverns and traverse mountains just to see what was on the other side. Human history is filled with stories of adventurers and explorers who looked at the impossible and did it anyway.

Individuals who dream of space and of being astronauts are naturally curious. Curiosity is a virtue, as well as creativity and passion. However, these virtues are not enough to make those dreams come true.

Risk taking, independence, and a deep sense of purpose are common personality traits of explorers and adventurers. These traits create an innate motivation to know and understand the world. Unfortunately, they also create a sense of unease when one is not engaged in an activity that assuages the need for discovery.

Along with those personality traits, explorers share a need for truth. In discovery, the unknown becomes known. Like explorers of long ago, the desire to understand was not just rooted in exploring what was around us but also what is within. Despite the lack of travel or movement, philosophers and psychologists are, in this paradigm, also explorers.

Understanding the inner machinations of human beings is also like exploring the vast space. Exploring our reality is an attempt to understand our purpose on Earth and in this universe.

There is also a trace of narcissism in those who look to space. Astronauts are special human beings. There are few out there that can say that they have traveled in space, and the claim to fame is quite unique.

536 human beings have been in space and only 12 have walked on the moon. These people have generally been humbled by the experience thus proving they are not truly narcissists.

However, believing that you have the right stuff to take on these out of this world missions is a sense of confidence few of us possess.

Each episode of the Star Trek television series opened with Captain Kirk stating the Federation mission, which included the lines, ?to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no person has gone before.? This was the audacious opening to a show that normalized space travel. The words were not just an ordinary mission statement, but the creation of the ethos of space exploration that connected to those with the desire to search beyond the stars. For many, space still calls to us to come and discover the truths of our universe.

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