“Mom, Dad, I want to be an astronaut.”

Photo: Hunter Freeman

The fateful words: “I want to be an astronaut.” For decades, how many parents have smiled (or grimaced) upon hearing the pronouncement from their own child’s mouth. The good news here in the 21st century is that the time is at last right.

When we grew up (and our parents as well) astronaut as a career choice was unrealistic. Times have changed. If your daughter or son is under the age of 13, by the time they are out of college—think 2025—the likelihood is that astronautics will be a hot career path.

Today there are tens of well-funded start-ups in the US and around the world actively preparing to send tourists to space for the developing “space tourist” market. In fact, there are no less than three international companies competing to be the first “space hotel”—Russia’s Orbital Technologies, Spain’s Galactic Suites, and US’ Bigelow Aerospace. Space hotels and space tourism equal space jobs.

Yet clearly this is a shift away from traditional astronautics. Traditionally, astronauts were practically demi-gods, possessors of that rarified quantity known simply as “the Right Stuff”. With astronaut jobs going mainstream, get ready to add Right Place and Right Time to that list: Astronautics is entering  the job market.

In fact, in order to keep up with the demand for human resources to fill the roles, astronautics is about to experience a re-invention. Whereas before the likelihood of becoming an astronaut was up there with being a JFK or a Barack Obama, we are going to see the advent of a second-generation of astronaut. Think astronaut-as-classmate. That’s where we are headed, where are friends and families become genuine space professionals.

Beyond this, as important technology breakthroughs unfold at an unheralded rate (such as breakthroughs in energy sources, battery power, health and longevity) we are going to see astronaut evolve completely. The next-generation astronauts—or humannairesare going to be human beings who work live and play entirely in space.

As startups such as the asteroid mining Planetary Resources morph into exist and reality, opportunities to leave the planet entirely are going to create an entirely new role and new legacy. Humannaires are going to take astronautics to the next level and transition earthlings into full-time space humans.

All it takes is a couple important breakthroughs and space mining towns are suddenly reality.

For now, the reality is that when your daughter or son says to you, “I want to be an astronaut,” you’re in luck. They picked a career in a growth-oriented field—at the right time in the right place.

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