Ground Control to Major Joel

Spaceflight was supposed to bring us an alien war, not a bunch of Snoopy pins

Jim Mahoney / AP

The Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center on Friday, July 8, 2011

When I was a kid, I was pretty into outer space. I was also into fingerprints, dinosaurs, food coloring and putting pieces of plastic shaped like Smurfs in the oven until they became smaller, thicker pieces of plastic shaped like Smurfs. But neither I nor any other kid in my grade wanted to be an astronaut and drink Tang and eat freeze-dried ice cream. NASA made a huge mistake by letting us taste its food.

Being into astronauts was as weird as being into cowboys, circumnavigators or whole-grain cereal. For an adult, it would be even weirder. I can name 20...

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