one conversation change your life? It did for Robert Curbeam ("Beamer"),
38, a United States astronaut. Eight years ago, after speaking
with astronaut Kathy Thornton, just back from a mission where
she performed spacewalks, he got caught up in her enthusiasm.
decided right then and there, this is something that I want to
experience," said Curbeam. He applied to NASA and was selected
in December 1994. In early 2001, he'll be flying his second mission
to space. The crew of
Mission STS-98 will be some of the first visitors to the International
Space Station (ISS) since it officially opened its doors as earth's
new home off-planet.
didn't always plan on
being an astronaut. In junior high, he and a friend spent
hours after school designing airplanes, rockets, cars--mostly
mechanical things. "We just loved science, and we thought the
space program was just the most exciting thing in the aerospace
field then. I never really thought that I would be the person
climbing in someone else's design to go up to do the things I'll
do." Hearing Curbeam's enthusiasm makes you want to suit up and
go with him.
are surprisingly normal people. They talk about how they're just
part of a team; that flying to space is just part of their job.
"It doesn't matter whether you're playing football or soccer,
or whether you're on a business team trying to close a big deal
you just want to do your best and live up to the standards which
you hold yourself to and which your teammates expect of you. And
if I can do that, I'll be a very, very happy guy when I come back,"