In preparation for a Soyuz mission slated for the International Space Station in November, NASA astronaut Anne C. McClain has a condensed daily schedule that includes some rather rigorous activities. Such as enduring zero-gravity conditions in a plane designed to carry out those types of maneuvers. Or climbing on board a contraption that spins to duplicate the neck-breaking forces of lift-off.
Still, McClain claims that's not the toughest part of her day. Nope, what she finds to be most difficult is leaving her four-year-old son at home when she goes to work. That's why she brought the boy with her to an August NASA photo shoot featuring her in the space suit she'll be wearing during her upcoming mission.
"I try to remember he will grow up and know what it looks like, behind the scenes, to pursue a dream," said McClain, who finally posted those images on Twitter on Sunday. "He is my 'why.'"
For someone who's already been an aerospace engineer and an decorated Army major who used to fly attack helicopters, being a mom isn't something she takes lightly. McClain posted the images to Twitter complete with comments from a mother who asked about the rigors of balancing her home and professional lives.
Sometimes she's able to take her son to work, depending on her schedule. But McClain added that the jury was out on whether she or her boy enjoyed that bonding experience in the workplace more.
And when asked whether it was harder to stay on Terra Firma or leave the earth's surface, McClain was also hard-pressed for a definite response. She acknowledged that even though her job is different from most occupations, it's still a situation familiar to most parents in that one option is comforting, while the other not only helps her reach long-term objectives and realize valuable learning opportunities.
"But it doesn’t make missing out on waffles with the kiddo in the morning any easier," she added.
As well as sharing breakfast and downtime with Jr., McClain just might be able to pass on what it takes to be in one of the most exciting careers on — and off, the planet. Besides being a U.S. citizen with top post-secondary marks in science, engineering or math, becoming a NASA astronaut also requires three years or at least a thousand hours of experience as a jet aircraft pilot. Then there's the selection process that's reportedly 74 times tougher than it is to attend Harvard. In 2017, of more than 18,000 applicants, NASA selected only 12.