There it was hanging on the wall, staring deep into my soul. I got my letter of acceptance a month ago and my parents got it framed and put one in my room and another in the living room.
“ Dear Mr. Fernsby,
Thank you for applying for the Astronaut Candidate Program.
We are pleased to inform you that you have been selected for the Annual Lunar Trip for the year 2050.
It is a pleasure to have you on board. We think your ideas on further lunar exploration are of great importance.
You will be taken to the NASA Astronauts Corps, Houston, Texas on August 1 2050 where you will be given the necessary training and information for two weeks.
The launch is scheduled on August 17 2050.
We are overjoyed to welcome you.
The Astronaut Selection Office ”
Tomorrow I have to leave my home, my family and my friends and just go away not knowing if I will come back.
I know I applied for this willingly but now, when it is time to go, I am having second thoughts about it. I was, or as people called me, a brilliant student in high school. I got my first internship at NASA when I was 18. It was crazy working with the most elaborate minds on earth. While I was there, I met Dr. Nair, the Director of the Science of Planets department. He was really impressed by my work and suggested that I go for training at the NASA Astronaut Corps after my graduation. Initially you required a Masters degree for that but since Lunar Trips have become so often they take in people over 18 and they have a special training designed which is adaptable for everyone. If we are planning to have human settlements on other planets, this is a great start.
Last year a 23 year old girl named Jiya Das was selected and usually the visits are just for a week, 3 days traveling to the moon, one day stay and three days travelling back, but last year due to some issues, they were a day late. Everybody thought that the trip had failed but thankfully they came back safe.
I have been given certain updates since last month about what I will be doing for almost a month and a half, the last two weeks as we will be kept in quarantine.
I was in training for 2 years and I must tell you it is no fun. We were trained about many things other than science. There was a class about the main aspects about the space shuttle that we are going to travel in, The Apollo 31. There were also some survival training techniques for emergencies.
The thing is that I did not do so well in these training sessions. I don't even know why they are taking me. The only thing I was ok at was speaking Russian. I just hated the entire experience. It makes me sick thinking about it.
Today I will be having my last dinner in my home, with my family. I do not know why they are so darn happy. Do they seriously not care that I might just die? This could literally be the last time they would be seeing me.
I do not know what to do anymore.
“Hey buddy, come on downstairs. Your Mom has been calling you forever.” Grandpa said. He probably knocked but I did not hear.
“I do not want to go Paa.” I said looking up at him in almost negligible amount of confidence.
“Why? Are you not hungry? Come on, your mother made you your favorite chicken and boy does it smell good.” He chuckled.
“I don’t want to go t… to…for the trip.” I could not muster to say that I did not want to go to space knowing how much it would break his heart.
“What? Oh son.” He came and sat next to me on my tiny bed.
“What’s wrong?” He kept his hand on my shoulder comfortingly.
“ I just...I don’t...I don’t think I can do this. I trained for two years and my experience was very bad. It is too much Paa, too much. I really thought I could do this you know, I still want to. I was so prepared when I applied, but now...now it's just all making me feel sick.” My voice kept getting smaller and smaller with each word I said.
“Jacob, you are putting too much pressure on yourself. It is definitely not a very usual experience but you were selected for this. The most brilliant heads would not make a mistake of taking someone who did not have the potential. They think you can do it boy. Trust them if you cannot trust yourself.” He said patting my back and smiling. I could see he was really proud of me.
“But Paa I might never come back. I might...die.” I said the last word with hesitation trying to look away.
“Hey, look at me.” He said, turning me to face him.
“You will be fine. You are going to have the time of your life and when you come back, you are going to look back at this moment and have a laugh.”
I fell silent. I did not know what else to say. I could not really see myself coming back. Actually, I could not even see myself leaving tomorrow. The sick feeling came back.
This had been my dream since I started dreaming and now that I had it right in front of me, I was unsure of living it.
I forgot that Paa was sitting next to me and I had not said anything for a long minute until he shook me. I looked up at him.
“You know that you have no choice right? At least at this point.” I was speechless but then I nodded.
“Son, but you do have a different choice.” I looked up in hope of something that would get me out of this situation.
“You can either panic through the entire experience or give yourself a break and let yourself glide through it.” I sighed. I knew this whole time I had no choice. I had been selected and I had to go.
“ You cannot control a lot of things right now but you can control how you react to them.” I looked up at him and he smiled and patted my back again.
“Remember that we all are really proud of you. It is definitely difficult for your parents to let you go but we know we cannot not keep you from doing it. It is your dream and you have the entire right to live it.”
Paa stood up and said, “We are all waiting for you downstairs.”
“Yeah, I will be there in a minute.” I gave an imperceptible smile and walked out of the room.
I sighed. He was not wrong about it. Maybe I should just let it go.
I walked downstairs and my father hugged me and then my mother hugged me and kissed my forehead.
“I am so proud of you sweetheart.” She was tearing up a bit. My father stood beside me smiling wide, patting me shoulder and looking like the proudest dad on earth. I was feeling better now and smiled at them.
“Alrighty everyone. Let us not make the little man wait and have dinner. I am really excited about the ice cream by the way. Guess why? Coz it's the Astronaut’s Ice Cream.” He laughed.
Mom and Dad laughed and I did too. This really made everything better.
After we were done eating, we took a family photo before going to bed for the last time until I came back.
And yes. I did come back. In one piece.