Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Light, of a sudden, as tunnel’s end nears

Well, the season seems to be suddenly almost over here at Pole. Summer is fleeting, and winter crew members are flocking, while the temperatures start to flirt with moving in the colder direction. Station population is down in the 180s right now, but will probably swell a little bit as incoming folks overlap with outgoing to do turnover for winter. As far as I know we’re still looking at a crew of 51 for winter 2012 at South Pole. This also heralds the beginning of another training cycle for the fire brigade, as new members arrive with however little or much experience they may have.

Transition news is still pretty sparse on details, at least from my soon-to-be employer, Lockheed. Getting all the paperwork squared away prior to the now-March 31 turnover date (for all but the food services subcontractor, which will transition on April 1) will be a nice milestone to have passed. There are so many things that are TBD at this point that it is still a bit disconcerting, given how the trend of employee benefits seems to be sliding in the economic times of the last several years. But, it will be what it will be, and hopefully we’ll not have too many contract-driven issues to deal with in addition to the ones facing anybody spending a 9-month stint isolated at the South Pole in winter.

Another future employer of mine, thinking positive, just announced they had the second-highest-ever number of applications for their astronaut candidate positions. A total of 6,372 applications were received by NASA for what I’ve read will be 9-15 positions. If I pretend I’m into numerology, perhaps that the record number of applications was set in 1978 will prove auspicious. According to the NASA astronaut selection timeline, during March through July there will be the down-select for highly qualified candidates, references will be checked, and a lucky few will be asked to take an introductory medical exam. Despite the stiffer competition, compared to the last time I applied, I still feel good about my credentials. With engineering, spacecraft operations, real remote living experience (with no chance for a lifeboat/rescue during winter, unlike the ISS), and a healthy mind and body, I figure my chances are just as good as any of the other 6,371 potential future team members I will be measured against. The allure of the Right Stuff, for me, has never been because it would be a cake walk to be selected.
"Every crowd has a silver lining."
~P. T. Barnum

1 comment:

Becky said...

And three winters at the Pole show a certain fortitude as well.
Here's hoping you finally get the job you want!