CAPE CANAVERAL, FL—Ryan Hodson, 20, an unpaid intern at NASA's Launch Control Center, announced Tuesday that he was confident Kennedy Space Center officials would give him the opportunity to board a craft sent to orbit the Earth and participate in a space walk before his internship ends in June.
"Working at NASA has been such an amazing experience," said Hodson, a sophomore majoring in cultural anthropology at Columbia University. "I've really built a rapport with many of my coworkers. All the extra effort I've put in is really going to pay off when I'm rocketing towards space."
Hodson said he has paid his dues at NASA by efficiently completing all tasks given to him since his internship began in January, including filing documents, keeping office supplies such as paper clips and rubber bands fully stocked, placing lunch orders, and organizing periodicals in the lounge every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Although he considers himself hard-working and goal-oriented, Hodson believes it is his outgoing and approachable nature that will ultimately encourage NASA to invite him to join the crew of its next manned spaceflight in late May.
"They said during my internship interview that there were no opportunities to go to space, but I know that's just something they tell everyone so you don't get your hopes up," Hodson said. "I've been dropping hints here and there that I wouldn't mind leaving the Earth's atmosphere, so it's only a matter of time."
"The key is you've got to make your presence known if you want any chance of getting on that shuttle," Hodson added. "It'll be great getting that one college credit for this internship, but going on a space walk will be something I'll always remember."
Hodson, whose resumé did not list any formal flight training or an academic background in engineering, mathematics, biological science, or physics, said he was positive that before the next launch, NASA officials would notice he had refilled all the staplers. And although Hodson falls below the specific standards of the NASA space physical for vision and blood pressure, as well as not meeting fitness, stamina, and strength prerequisites, the 20-year-old did meet the height requirement.
Hodson, however, said he believes that none of NASA's basic criteria are as important as being punctual and having a great attitude.
"If you show a little initiative, sometimes you can bypass a lot of those things," Hodson said. "Besides, I think I've already proven myself by moving all of the colder sodas to the front of the refrigerator."
If allowed to forgo the 20 months of required training that include spending 300 hours underwater in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory to simulate the weightless environment of space, Hodson calculates that his being a member of the next shuttle crew could save NASA several hundred thousand dollars and eliminate what he called a "huge waste of water." Hodson also insisted he did not need any g-force training, as he's ridden several roller coasters in the past and already knows he has a "pretty tough stomach."
Maintaining that he has become "indispensable" around the Launch Control Center, Hodson said it was inevitable that his presence would be required aboard the shuttle as well, where he would carry out the specialized duties the astronauts have grown accustomed to him performing on Earth. Moreover, Hodson said he was excited to observe the way hot liquids such as coffee behave in weightlessness and how many reams of paper he would be able to carry under similar conditions.
To prepare for the possibility of a seat opening up on the shuttle, Hodson has reportedly been collating papers near the launchpad on days of scheduled space flights for the past two months.
"If they need a guy, I'm here," Hodson said. "Walking in space is all about being in the right place at the right time and who you know. I met one of the astronauts when I sat next to him at lunch. Seems like a really nice guy. He knew my name before I knew his."
"I'm already a fixture around here, and I get along great with everybody," Hodson added. "I'm not sure why they'd want to bring in an outsider from some flight academy that might not fit in with the staff's mix."
Hodson stressed that, like on Earth, he would not overstep his bounds while in space by interfering with the astronauts' duties to repair heat shields, transfer docking cones, or retrieve satellites during the extravehicular activities. Unless he's needed, Hodson said, he would mostly be focusing on floating around in space.
Although NASA officials have repeatedly told him that they will never consider adding him to a space-shuttle mission, Hodson claimed the intern who trained him got to walk in space.