Jet lag is in your mind. I know that now because when I arrived in Florida after more than 24 hours of travelling to get there I was so pumped that even after no sleep I was raring to go. What blew my mind further was that I was about to meet 105 people from around the world who all wanted the same thing I wanted. As we all met and shared life experiences, it dawned on me that everyone competing not only wanted the same thing but had the same childhood dreams. Flying, space, adventure; the competition here was sky high!
Arriving into our home for the selection course, I was met by long marquees which held row upon row of beds all sectioned off into areas of 10 beds. These sections would form the groups we would be in for the duration of the course. There were also recreation areas complete with table tennis and billiards tables, a cafeteria, media rooms for all the interviews, and medical tents. I found my home in the Discovery group (each group was named after a shuttle mission) with some very talented and energetic people from Russia, South Africa, USA, New Zealand, Japan, Philippines, Germany, England and Malaysia.
What amazed me was how one common goal can bring people from very different walks of life together. We all knew what the prize was, but we also shared passions in the beauty of flight and exploration. This really hit home about the trouble in the world at that time that continues today. If the world had a common purpose, whether that was space exploration or removing reliance on fossil fuels or even understanding that the desire of exponential growth on our planet alone is futile, then maybe, just maybe, the world would be more at peace. If 105 people from every corner of the globe could get along sharing a common purpose, then that could be a catalyst for the world as a whole.
The first item on the schedule was to meet at the Kennedy Space Centre to discuss rules, requirements, the plan of events and upcoming tests. Sitting in front of the worlds media listening to Buzz Aldrin and members of the XCOR team speak of what we would be judged on definitely set the pace. I knew that all the training and preparation I’d done amounted to a greater chance of success, but I didn’t want to become over-confident and kept my confidence in check as I met the three other Australians in the course. Again, another bunch of like-minded, talented and friendly people. This was going to be tough…
COMING UP: “Remember these coordinates and don’t be sick…”
Photo: Mandla and Chino enjoying some downtime after the assault course.