Space Camp Progress Report, by Lucas Gardner
Hello from the United States Space Camp! Your son Spencer is having an absolute “blast” out here. This is a routine progress report from the Space Camp directors. Unfortunately, we’re sad to say that, in the opinion of all of us here at Space Camp, your son will never, ever be an astronaut. It’s not going to happen. It just isn’t.
It’s not often that we send negative progress reports to the parents of our attendees, but out of concern, we feel obliged to be direct with you and say: Even for a 12-year-old, Spencer shows an extreme ineptitude for aviation.
On the first day, we try to get the kids excited by letting them put on a real-life astronaut suit. They love it. Except Spencer got extremely scared inside the astronaut suit and said it felt like he was trapped inside the body of a larger man. That really upset him. He told us that he was “still going to be an astronaut but I just won’t wear the suit.” This was an extremely troubling start for Spencer.
Then we tried to let Spencer ride the 1/16th gravity chair, which simulates the experience of walking on the Moon, but he made us stop it because it was too scary. We have let children as young as seven in the gravity chair and they do fine and have a great time. So we told Spencer we could turn off the gravity chair and he could just sit in it, but that was too scary for him, too. He is, essentially, afraid to sit in a chair.
Then, we took a tour of a real-life space station. We let the kids go into the Mission Control room and Spencer had a meltdown. He seems to be overwhelmed when there are a lot of buttons on things. We’re talking full-on panic attack. It was just a real mess. A real astronaut would have been mortified to witness it.
Spencer sometimes forgets which one is the Sun and which one is the Moon. We’re baffled by that.
Despite all of his shortcomings, Spencer still insists he wants to be an astronaut when he grows up. We’re not in the business of telling children to abandon their dreams. We’re writing you this progress report because we genuinely want to know: How do you want to proceed? We’ve all been talking about what it would be like if Spencer somehow became an astronaut and—oh my God—we shudder at the thought. It would be a astronomical bloodbath. Just pure chaos beyond the stars.
If you wish to keep steering Spencer down the path towards being an astronaut, that will require tremendous effort on everyone’s part. You are going to have to do a lot of work with Spencer at home in order to get him on the same level of aeronautical proficiency as the average 12-year-old, which is already extremely low. Spencer is going to need weekly Space Camp trips if he has any hopes of excelling. You are going to have to help Spencer study at home, for several hours a night. You might need to arrange to have a gravity chair installed in your home for Spencer to practice on. If you are not prepared to work closely alongside us on this extremely challenging course of education, then you’re going to need to explore different paths for Spencer.
Now, unfortunately, we need to break some worse news. We accidentally sent Spencer into outer space.
Yesterday we went on a routine field trip where we take the kids on a real-life spaceship and let them look around. After the tour, we accidentally left Spencer behind in the spaceship. He must have fallen asleep in there overnight because he was still in the spaceship this morning, when it was launched on a lunar exploration mission. Don’t worry—Spencer is fine. The crew found him shortly after liftoff and squeezed him into a spacesuit, which, from what we hear, was quite a battle. He is currently about 159,236 miles from the moon.
We are in close contact with the crew and they are taking great care to make sure Spencer doesn’t find out he’s in outer space. Oh my god, that would be a nightmare. They’re keeping him away from all windows, so as far as he knows he is still in a dormant spaceship on Earth. Please do not be alarmed. Spencer will be taken good care of up there, and he will return home after the lunar mission, which will be about two-and-a-half weeks from now.
The other option, which we of course would not explore without your blessing, is that we turn this mishap into a form of immersion therapy. We could tell Spencer that he is, indeed, currently in outer space. Either he will rise to the occasion to become the astronaut he claims he wants to be, or it will be a nightmare of an experience for Spencer, which could be a sobering wake-up call that makes him realize that he is not the young man for the job.
We leave the decision up to you. Please get in touch with the Camp immediately and let us know if you’d like us to tell Spencer that he is in space.
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Lucas Gardner is a comedian and writer in New York City. His work has appeared in The New Yorker and more can be found at LucasGardnersThings.com, on Twitter, or in his novel, Quietly, From Afar: A Dark-Comedy Cartoon-Western.