PUBLISHED IN THE HERALD FEBRUARY 24
It really is a job that’s out of this world: NASA is calling for applications from budding astronauts. The Artemis programme aims to put people back on the moon as early as 2024, and it’s open to everyone – well, sort of.
Successful candidates will have a master’s degree in a STEM subject, along with 20-20 vision, excellent physical and psychological health, US citizenship and at least two years of “related professional experience” or a thousand hours piloting a jet-plane.
Some of those would rule me out, I realise now. Actually, all would rule me out.
My degree is in Arts and not a master’s, I wear glasses, I’m unfit, I’m not American and I’ve never flown any plane not made of paper. On the plus side, I a decent Michael Jackson-esque moonwalk – never know when that might come in handy on the lunar surface – and I’ve always liked the thought of going into space. That counts for something, surely?
I’m probably not along among my generation in dreaming of life among the stars. We were raised on comic-books such as Dan Dare and 2000AD, TV shows like Buck Rodgers and Battlestar Galactica, and a welter of sci-fi movies about space, rockets, aliens and laser-guns that fire out a sort of green pulse and make a noise like someone is pressing all the keys on a synthesiser at once.
We were also raised just after mankind first walked on the moon, so we assumed that, soon, everyone would be jetting off to Neptune on business or spending their holidays touring the rings of Saturn. Astronaut, therefore, was one of those dream jobs for my generation. Not the kind of thing anyone really expected to do, in truth, but a possibility all the same.
An exciting, glamorous, exotic possibility, filled with cool technology, sexy alien babes, a hell of a lot of chrome fittings, and most important, the chance to say stuff like “Engage warp drive!” and “Multi-phase blasters set to exterminate!”
Other dream jobs of my youth included, at various times, movie star, private detective, secret agent, shape-shifting inter-dimensional assassin, immortal vampire who also fights crime, and Kim Basinger’s boyfriend/sex-slave/whatever.
I wanted to be the frontman in a heavy metal band. I wanted to take over from Batman when he got too old for the gig. I wanted to be the main striker for Liverpool FC; failing that, any position on the Liverpool team; failing that, any position at any decent club. I also had vague, but nonetheless committed, plans to basically steal Axl Rose’s entire existence.
None came to pass, as you might expect. For one thing, Ian Rush was still banging them in like billy-o at Anfield, and Axl Rose was acting increasingly edgy and paranoid, as if he was onto me somehow.
I’m unsure how many of these would still be on young people’s professional wish-lists, though. Does anyone under 40 want to be an astronaut anymore?
Rock music is dead for modern-day youth. Movies have been superseded by the internet. Vampires were rendered forever uncool by Twilight. Secret agents are now considered amoral tools of the ruling kleptocracy. Batman is too male, pale and stale.
Professional football remains a desirable destination for kids, but even there, I presume a generational shift. My dream was to win games and lift trophies; today’s soccer-wannabes dream of huge endorsements, their own jewellery range and a million followers on Instagram.
The ultimate dream jobs for millennials, and the generation that came after, seem things like YouTube star, Reality TV contestant, social media personality/influencer/content-provider, activist, advocate, tech start-up, app designer, hard-left or hard-right online provocateurs, or a combination of them all.
A few want to be professional video-game players or package-openers. Others want to be full-time couch-surfers. Still others hope to monetise the fact that they had a baby, or bought something, or thought something, or basically just exist and are special and so the world should pay them for it.
A surprisingly large number, meanwhile, recently applied to run a hostel on some wind-blasted island off our Atlantic coast, which would have amazed their forebears who were stuck on similar islands for generations, with nothing but seaweed and their own unending misery for nourishment.
It’s enough to make us older folks scratch our heads and wonder what the hell is up with kids nowadays. But I won’t be doing that, because I realise that every generation thinks the succeeding one is daft and has the sense of a toilet-brush. We’re all equally stupid and equally to blame.
I can only imagine my parents’ reaction, for example, when I announced my ambition of playing for Liverpool while also filling in for Batman, squiring Kim Basinger around town and being a vampire who fights crime. “I’ll give you Batman – on top of the head! Now eat your seaweed.”
Nowadays, of course, I’d be filming myself eating that seaweed, and extolling its virtues in exfoliation, colon cleansing and charkra-realignment. Feel free to use that one, YouTubers.