Man fulfilling lifetime ambition of becoming an astronaut ‘now sh*tting self’
One of the first memories of Paul Barclay, a 46-year-old university scientist from Bedfordshire, is of using a plastic goldfish bowl as a space helmet and a tinfoil covered cardboard box as a rocket to recreate the adventures of the space race in his back garden.
At the time he would tell everyone that when he grew up he wanted to be an astronaut, but now 40 years later, heavily harnessed at a 90 degree angle into a space shuttle attached to 1,000 tonnes of highly explosive rocket fuel, the civilian space programme participant was said to be wondering whether if he started to cry uncontrollably and asked for his mum, NASA might cancel the $50 million mission and let him just go home.
When told there was an opportunity to participate in biochemistry experiments on the international space station the mild mannered scientist had not been able to believe his luck. ‘It wasn’t until too late that I considered I get a spot of vertigo going up a step-ladder and taking the kids on the spinning teacups at Thorpe Park is enough to leave me white-knuckled with terror,’ he confessed, before adding, ‘Oh my God, I AM GOING TO DIE!’.
In the run-up to launch the enormity of his trip crept up on Barclay, helped by ‘supportive’ texts from friends back home telling him ‘Don’t even think about Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia…’. He also attended briefings from former astronauts to learn about the unique experience of space flight. ‘They said a space walk is the most beautiful way to see the glory of planet Earth, they skimmed over the bit about one slip and you’re floating away screaming into eternal nothingness like a falling nightmare that never ends.’
As the countdown entered its final seconds and the primary engines engaged Barclay found some consolation in the fact NASA had made him wear a form of adult diaper when they put him in his space suit. Yet he couldn’t help but wonder why, if he had to have one childhood ambition fulfilled, it couldn’t have been the letter to Jim’ll Fix It asking if he could do a number on Top of the Pops with Showaddywaddy.Click to send this story to a friend
Posted: Oct 18th, 2009 by nealdoran
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