I wake up to a hot summers morning, made uncomfortable by my thick duvet, quite early for what I thought would be a lie-in from my last second year exam that I took yesterday. I hear and smell breakfast being cooked, I usually do the cooking but it is my lie in day so I don’t care who is cooking as long as it is being cooked. I make my way to the kitchen to find Lia cooking bacon and Jen and Brian making toast. Lia and Jen both have their last exams today; Jen’s Literature exam, everyone else has finished.
“Morning Kye!” says Lia, “Bacon?”
“Morning,” I yawn, “Err in a bit, you guys carry on, I’m going to brush my teeth,” because that’s what I usually do first thing. I struggle to open the bathroom door.
“Err, Rio’s in there!” yells Brian
“Argh!” you have your own bathroom you know!” I kick the door.
“Deq’s in ours and Marcus’ is in his,” Rio shouts from the bathroom. “Good morning by the way!”
I grit my teeth in frustration and bang on the door to try and get Rio to hurry up, “Why are you guys up so early? You guys never get up early!” I yell.
“Too hot and bright,” calls Brian.
I take a deep sigh as Deq walks in through the corridor with his abs on display putting on a vest top. He realizes instantly what I was waiting for.
“Morning Kye,” he pats me on the back as I run into my room to get my spare toothbrush.
I’m organized and pretty much keep spares of everything. I run into Deq and Rio’s apartment to use their bathroom. When I return freshened up, Lia and Jen are halfway through breakfast and Rio is just getting out of the bathroom. I shake my head at him for taking so long and he whacks the back of my head causing my hair bun to fall open, I slap him back and tie my hair up into a high messy bun as we head into the kitchen. Marcus is already here, eating fruit and cereals faster than usual.
“Woah, what are you in a rush for? You don’t have a test today, do you?” Rio asks pouring coffee.
“No, but I have that last assignment to hand in by noon and I need to read it through, it’s fifteen thousand words long,” Marcus replies.
“Argh, I can’t wait for this exam to finish,” Jen exerts her frustration on the ketchup bottle.
“Oh I know, this year they’ve really dragged it out,” Lia agrees.
Lia has been doing a one day a week internship this year with some local lawyers who deal with compensation for car accidents. She wants to gain experience in various law industries, last year she did an internship with civil and domestic lawyers. I bet she’s the most intelligent student in her classes. She knows everything, makes good decisions and judgements and even has experience. I admire that she does love what she does.
“Kye did you get an email about a random class today at twelve?” Rio asks.
“Yes I did,” I say. It is a weird one, the email was sent out to the Engineering, Astro-sciences and Physics departments.
“Are you going to go?” Rio questions.
“Yep. You?” I fire back. “It is the last lecture, we might as well go, it might be important.”
Rio sighs, “Fine, we’ll go.”
The girls finish up their breakfast. Lia takes a quick look at her revision cards she made while Jen checks her pencil case.
“God, I hope we do well.” Jen closes her eyes and tilts her head back as she speaks out loud.
“Ready?” Lia asks, walking towards the hallway still looking at her cards.
“Yep, let’s go and get this over with,” Jen says excited and nervous.
They grab their bags on the way out and kiss their boyfriends as Brian and Deq wish them good luck. Marcus, Rio and I also wish them luck. I adore the cuteness of the couples while the single boys cringe and then make jokes. The girls leave. Marcus leaves shortly after to read through his assignment. I’m left with the other guys and a whole load of mess which I forcefully order the boys to help me clean up before our extra class.
Rio and I arrive outside the lecture theatre. There are around six other people waiting outside, looking deep into their phones.
“Great timing Kye, we’re ten minutes early and no one else is here,” Rio whispers.
“Better to be early that late,” I confidently say.
Rio leans against the wall. Ten minutes later and after more people than I expected turn up from both our courses and others, all questioning what this class is about, we finally are let inside. Someone from Jen’s astrophysics class asks me where she is, which I instantly reply, “In an exam…” then with a quick nudge from Rio I realize that people still don’t know that she actually studies literature and all the astrophysics exams are over so hastily I change my sentence to, “…exam recovery session.” Jen can deal with that one when she gets asked later.
I get my usual notepad and pen out while Rio just sits their slouched in his seat almost falling asleep in the cool, air-conditioned room. The heads of each course are present at the front of the class along with the daunting Dr. Kennedy.
“Settle down,” Dr. Kenner speaks with his usual authority. “For those of you who made efforts to attend today, I assure you, you will not be disappointed. Today’s brief meeting is regarding an excellent opportunity. A paid internship. With a spectacular organization.”
Rio leans to one side almost asleep and I sit with my face on my arms on the desk also sleepy and bored already. I don’t need an internship, I need an audition.
“Please welcome Dr. Nigel Hadfield.”
A man well dressed in a suit and tie stands up from a chair near the front and smiles giving a short nod at the few of us. Rio gives me an annoyed look for bringing him here.
“Dr. Hadfield is a space Astronaut from NASA and this internship is indeed out of this world with NASA themselves.” Dr. Kennedy finishes applauding the man.
My eyes pop open, my head lifts up like a meerkat and my spine straightens making me taller than everyone even those sitting behind me. I look at Dr. Hadfield and locate his badge on his blazer collar. He is from NASA!
“Dr. Hadfield, as some of you may know, is an astounding astronaut,” Dr. Kennedy’s face was lit up too, I’ve never seen him so happy or excited.
He’s an ASTRONAUT! My whole body illuminates. My eyes widen and adrenaline gushes through me. All I could think about was Jennifer, who currently, is probably finishing her literature exam. Rio also sits up, he grins at me and my huge smile, knowing exactly what I’m thinking. The others in the class also seem suddenly more awake and interested. One boy gets out his notepad whilst a girl next to him pulls out her glasses.
“NASA have an excellent opportunity for our students, whereby a paid yearlong internship will be offered to one of our exceptionally talented students,” Dr. Kennedy informs us as he pulls up a presentation on the screen. “Dr. Hadfield will now provide you with some further information and criteria.”
Dr. Kennedy and the other teachers clap. I quickly clap and then get my pen and scribble on my notepad to ensure it is working, ready to note down information.
“Thank you very much Dr. Kennedy,” Dr. Hadfield takes center stage. “As introduced I am Dr. Nigel Hadfield, just a very brief introduction about myself; I graduated in Mechanical Engineering and I have worked for NASA for over fifteen years as an astronaut, mission specialist and flight engineer, I was also commander of a recent undersea mission that I’m sure some of you may have done some research on.”
The slides of the presentation flow along with his words.
“We acknowledge that many young people like yourselves dream of becoming astronauts and with the advancing technology that the present day and the future has to offer we require young people like you, who have the ability to pioneer that future. Hence, at NASA we have set up a Young Astronauts and Scientists Training Program – YAAST Program, where we have fifty internship places available. We have selected twenty five top universities of which one of them is yours. From each university only two exceptional students will be offered an internship, which will begin in the summer of next year after you have graduated. Anybody from each of these scientific disciplines listed may apply for this internship.”
A list appears on the board, it includes all the engineering disciplines, physics and all the astro-sciences.
Dr. Hadfield continues, “Now, you must be wondering what the application consists of? Well, it is not as simple as it may seem, this will require hard work and innovative ideas. To be considered for a place at the internship you are required to use your skills and knowledge gained from your studies as well as individual research and experiment, to fully design and build a prototype piece of equipment that can be used in space.”
The room waves with gasps and whispers.
“Now, of course the design will not be perfect, we do not expect you to know everything but we are encouraging you to be as innovative and creative as possible with a concept of realism taking into consideration the use of equipment, the economics, the hazards, transport, size etcetera. You will be allocated with a supervisor from your school which I am sure Dr. Kennedy and your lecturers will be more than happy to assist you with. Your supervisor will not only guide you when and if needed but will also form a reference for your application. A detailed project brief will be provided to yourselves by your supervisors,” Dr. Hadfield nods at Dr. Kennedy as Dr. Kennedy nods back. “You have from now, one year to complete the design and build of your project including an information pack in the format of an essay to describe and explain your project. Furthermore, this time next year I will return with a panel of judges from NASA who will assess your project and your skillset in the form of a presentation that you will conduct to explain your creation. Each presentation should last between fifteen to twenty minutes. More details on what to include in the information essay and presentation, and a checklist can be found in the project brief. Now, I shall hand back to Dr. Kennedy, but before do, I would just like to say that this is a truly incredible opportunity. You will gain a brilliant experience from this internship and if your design is innovative and practical it may be developed further by you with a team of our experts. Moreover, you will have the opportunity to work alongside experienced and admirable scientists at NASA and will be trained in an area of your choice whether that would be a mission specialist, flight engineer or one of the many roles we have at NASA. In addition to all this, there are prospects for a full time position with ourselves once you have successfully completed the yearlong internship. So do take part. Be imaginative. Be practical. Think like a scientist. Think like an astronaut. This is a challenge and yes, it may seem difficult and unachievable but years and years ago we once thought going to space was unachievable or landing on the moon was impossible however, after research, creativity and innovation, Yuri Gagarin made it to space and Apollo 11 landed on the moon with Neil Armstrong with Buzz Aldrin. There are many of you and only two places. This is not for the faint hearted but if you put your mind to it, anything is possible. We have already proved that. Good luck.” Dr. Hadfield finishes with a roaring applause from us and the teachers.
Oh my God, that finish was intense! He could be a motivational speaker, he could. I’ve got goosebumps, wow! He shakes Dr. Kennedy’s hand, takes a sip of water and begins to put on his jacket.
“Thank you very much Dr. Hadfield. Can we please just take a moment to thank Dr. Hadfield as he now has to go and speak to another university,” Dr. Kennedy applauds again.
We applaud again. Another lecturer leads him out as he smiles with his eyes looking at us on his way out.
“So yes, this is the fantastic opportunity NASA have to offer and we, as an institute are truly honored to have been selected,” Dr. Kennedy begins. “The project briefs and further information have been uploaded onto the online virtual learning center. Read through it carefully. If you wish to take part in this competition as such, then please do contact myself or one of our school heads and you will be allocated a supervisor with whom you may discuss your project and ask for advice. We understand that equipment and materials for these projects will be very costly, therefore we are allowing you to use the school’s equipment and material from the science storage labs on level minus two. Please note that the usual material extraction procedure will still apply; you must sign in and out of the labs and you must record the equipment and or material you take from the labs in the record book with your student number as you should be aware that each storage item is counted regularly. The usual rules apply to the storage labs and you must seek permission before taking out equipment from your supervisor. Equipment is very expensive therefore please ensure your project plans and detailed designs have been thoroughly checked with your supervisor before you go ahead and build. Also, you will be restricted to how many of each piece of equipment or material you may take, therefore think through this before hand. Everything that you need should be available in the storage labs however, if there is something that you require which we do not have in the labs and if it has a high cost, you may fill in a material request form which can be found in the brief and submitted to your supervisor.
Now, this is a great opportunity however it is a very difficult application process, designing and building a piece of space technology is not an easy task and therefore I advise you to only take part in this if you are very serious about taking this internship with NASA. This is not a game and you must take this seriously, deceptive swindling use of equipment or school materials will not be tolerated. Hence, and as I said previously you must confirm your designs with your supervisors prior to building. Any designs that we believe will not meet its theoretical application, that are insufficient or impractical will not be given permission to move forward and you will not be authorized to build.
Nevertheless, you have one year to design and build your projects, please think about this carefully and read through all the material provided online before making the decision to take part. Once you have thoughtfully decided to take part, you must request a supervisor before the end of this week. Once allocated, I would recommend making a start on your designs right away as this will be the longest and hardest part of the project. Staff will remain available over the summer to assist, however appointments must be made in advanced as we also have families to see to. You may use the school’s resources over the summer, the library for example will be open twenty four hours a day and you all have access to the labs via your student card, nonetheless we would advise you to work in the labs when staff are monitoring for health and safety purposes; over the summer this will be from nine a.m. until six p.m. Monday to Saturday.
Are there any questions?”
There’s silence in the room, I think everyone is excited and are already thinking about projects.
Dr. Kennedy continues, “Right, well, I am sure there will be plenty of questions soon, therefore a discussion board has been set up on the Virtual Learning Centre where you may ask any general questions. Think about it carefully. Best wishes. Have a productive summer,” he finishes.
He really emphasized the think about it bit, it’s like he only wants a few people to do this. The teachers leave smiling confidently. The students seem anxious but eager. It is such a great opportunity! This message is going to spread like wild fire. Everyone is going to try it, I just know it. It’s NASA! Even the people who don’t really want to become astronauts or a space scientists will try their luck. People begin to leave, the room is loud with chatter. I look at Rio who looks at me unsure about the whole thing.
“Hmm, good, but not for me, I’m a car guy. You?” Rio says leaving his chair.
“I have other passions to pursue,” I say smiling wide.
Rio shakes his head subtly and presses his lips together thinking about what I’m thinking.
“Oh come on! This is the opportunity she’s been waiting for!” I say.
“Yeah, but Kye, look at how many restrictions there are! How is she going to get a supervisor and equipment? What if she can’t come up with a decent idea?” Rio asks, waiting for me to pack up.
“We’ll figure it out. Trust me! And don’t worry about ideas,” I leave my seat too. “Ahh! I can’t wait to tell her!” I run in front of him. I’m so excited I literally can’t keep it in.
“Hey! Don’t you think we should read the brief first?” he calls from behind.
We run home. This is made for Jen. Everything happens for a reason. She wanted to go to NASA, but NASA has come to her. Thanks God!
* * *
“Jen!” I shriek running up the four flights of stairs.
Rio runs two steps at a time almost over taking me.
“Jennifer!” I shout again reaching the top, completely out of breath.
Jen casually comes out of our apartment eating an apple, ready in her gym wear. We planned to have a work out session after exams since we had put it on hold whilst examinations took place. Lia follows her also dressed in gym wear and the boys come out of their apartments looking sleepy.
“What?” she asks.
I ran so fast that now I need a moment to catch my breath. Meanwhile Rio runs up to her and hugs her.
“Jen! I have got some fricking awesome news for you!” he says letting go and winking at me.
Jen frowns and then walks into our apartment biting the apple, “What’s the news?”
We all follow her into the living room.
“Well, what is it?” Brian reinforces the question.
Jen sits on the high stool in the kitchen, Lia sinks into the sofa with Deq, Marcus also sits on the sofa and Brian sits on the other high stool.
“I mean, I personally think it is a bit of a challenge, you know it’s…it’s tough. But if you want it then, yeah, you should go for it,” Rio doesn’t make things any clearer as he leans on the kitchen bar speaking to Jen. “It’s wicked,” he whispers intensely.
“What’s wicked?” Deq says making a jumbled face at Rio.
I dump my bag on the floor, sigh hard so that I can be heard and then accompany it with a fake cough, “Jen, what Rio is trying to say is that we have just found you your way to space!” I speak dramatically with enthusiasm.
“Space?” Marcus says intrigued.
“Space.” Rio replies.
“Guys, can you cut the suspense please?” Lia says.
“Yeah, and if this is like a stupid prank, then I’m going to slap you both and Kye…” she pauses to eye me. “We are wasting gym time!” she harshly takes a bite from the apple and crunches on it loudly.
I quickly get to the point. “That lecture we just went to, was hosted by Dr. Nigel Hadfield.”
Jen freezes. The crunching stops. I thought she might know who he is. She knows every single person, monkey, animal that has been to space, past and present.
“Dr. who?” Deq says making the boys laugh.
“Nigel Hadfield?” Jen whispers.
“The astronaut Nigel Hadfield?” she stares in astonishment.
I nod again. She looks at me, gets up from her chair and holds my shoulders.
“Nigel Hadfield was on campus today and I didn’t know!” she yells shaking my body. “Oh my God, is he still here?”
I shake my head, “No.”
“Nah, he left like half way through, but you know who he is Jen?” Rio asks surprised.
Jen lets go of my shoulders and now walks up to Rio, “Of course I know who he is. He’s the guy who went to space a few years ago, he was commander of the undersea mission NEEMO 12, remember Brian, I was watching interviews of him on YouTube and he was talking about that mission, he’s done so much and has had many different roles at NASA and…” she stops. “Wait a second… he came from NASA? What was he doing here?” she finally asks the right question.
Rio looks at me with an impressed expression.
“He came to tell us about an internship opportunity NASA are offering fifty final year science students, two each from twenty five selected universities,” I explain.
“Internships!” Jen smiles, her mouth wide open, “No fricking way!”
“Yes fricking way! You heard right, NASA have chosen our university to select two exceptional in Dr. Kennedy’s words - students to join the Young Astronauts and Scientists Training Program also known as YAAST Program for a yearlong internship,” Rio describes, “And it’s paid!” he adds.
“Yes, and there’s an opportunity to secure a full time position with NASA,” I explain further.
“And you can chose which department you’d like to train in if you get selected,” Rio adds.
“But, the application is tough Jen,” I move in closer.
“How tough?” Lia asks.
“Very tough,” Rio keeps everyone intrigued.
Jen sits back on her chair, listening intently and taking in all the bits of information Rio and I are giving.
“Tough? Like is there an assessment? An essay? Exam?” Marcus asks.
Rio laughs dramatically, “Yeah all that and more.”
“What more, idiot?” Deq asks.
“Yeah, what is it man? Cut the suspense! Do you have to build a rocket? Jeez.” Brian yells.
“Pretty much. You have to design and build a prototype piece of equipment that can be used in space,” I reveal.
They all shut up.
“But not just any old piece of equipment and not just a drawing or something made from a cardboard box. This has to be innovative, real, practical, sensible, and useful-”
“And it has to work,” Rio cuts me off but makes a good point.
“Shiiiiiiit!” Deq says thrilled.
I look at Jen who has her thinking face on, “Tell me more,” she says.
I take out my notebook and we go through everything bit by bit, we tell her everything Dr. Kennedy said and everything Dr. Hadfield said. From the project requirements and what the internship will offer, to the presentation, final assessment and equipment policies. Everyone seems to take an interest into this, I mean I don’t blame them, this is NASA. I even get my laptop out and all seven of us sit in the living room surrounding the laptop which displays the project brief. We go through it line by line.
Afternoon turns to evening, we cancel our gym plans and order in food. The project brief is extremely long, it has sixteen pages of health and safety conditions alone that the prototype has to comply with. There is a checklist and all of the assessment information as well as some useful resources such as books and websites. Jen doesn’t speak much, instead she just takes in all of the information and writes things down as we go along. She seems happy at times and then a little tense at other times. I put my all into throwing in persuasive comments while we speak, I really want to make sure she is motivated to do this. We finally finish reading through the brief.
“Wow,” Jen sits back and ties her hair up.
“That’s a long brief,” sighs Lia.
“That’s a big project Jen, are you up for it?” Brian asks her.
The question we’ve all been waiting for. There’s silence as Jen is put in the spotlight, but it doesn’t take long for her answer.
Jen straightens her back sitting on the floor leaning against the sofa, “Yes. Yes, I am,” she says, nodding gently looking at each of us in turn.
I smile lengthens. We all smile. My girl. I knew she would do it. She looks at me last and I nod back at her with determination.
“Do you have any ideas?” Lia asks fascinated.
“Well, yeah I think so, not like fully developed concepts, I couldn’t explain them right now, I need to think about it more, but yeah I think I have a few possible suggestions,” she responds positively.
“Damn, she’s already on it,” Deq laughs.
“That’s great Jen, we’re all with you, but you do know there’s a lot of shit in that brief that you’re going to struggle with,” Marcus points out.
If Jen is going to do this we need to identify what’s going to hold her back.
“Marcus’ right. For example, how are you going to get a supervisor?” Brian asks. “I mean you hide from all the science teachers as it is.”
Jen thinks about the issues. That is an important point. She needs a supervisor to check that her project is going well. There’s stillness already, we can’t even get passed the first hurdle.
“Look, at first I didn’t think this was a very good idea to be honest with you,” Rio speaks. “However, Jen, after talking through it, you seem like you can handle it and you’ve done two years of this subject undercover plus literature and so far – fingers crossed for the results – it’s gone well. So maybe you don’t need a supervisor. You don’t have to have one.”
“I don’t?” Jen asks.
“Well…you know… nah! They’re only there to make sure you’re doing stuff correctly. As long as you know what you’re doing and it’s good, then you can just present it,” Rio responds.
“Yes, and if you need any help we can ask together or I’ll ask for you,” I say.
“Yeah okay,” Jen looks like she has the passion to overcome these little issues. Her confidence is strong when it comes to astrophysics. It’s just the stupid ways that this world works that’s makes her nervous.
“Don’t worry Jen, we’ve got this,” Brian reassures her.
“Okay, no supervisor. Cool. Any other issues?” Lia asks.
I can’t think of any at the moment and nor can anyone else. Getting a supervisor is the only major problem and so what if we have to break a few rules. Who hasn’t? Everything else is fine.
“I don’t think so, you just need to design it, we’ve got paper and pens and the internet and then you just need to build,” Deq says.
“Yes, trust me Jen, this is what you’ve always wanted, this is your opportunity and it has come right to your doorstep. As long as you have a good idea, you can make something wicked. I know you can, we know you can and you know you can. ” Brian hugs her.
Jen smiles with determination in her eyes. The sound of a lucky charm rings in the air. We all pause anxiously listening to the magical sound at this magical moment in time.
“Oh the pizza’s downstairs. I’ll go and get it,” Marcus says looking at the message he receives on his phone.
“You better get designing Jen. Bring those ideas out!” Rio says, opening the fridge to get some drinks.
“Cheers to that!” Deq says getting off the couch to help him. “Get a lemonade for Kye.”
We embrace the happy moment. For once something has come to us. The dream has come to the dreamer. Things happen when you least expect them, that’s true. I just hope this goes well. Jen’s determined and we all know she can do this. Time for dreams to come true.