When applying for a new job, there are few more impressive accomplishments you could list on your resume than “astronaut.” Sure, brain surgeon is damned impressive. Navy SEAL, unquestionably awesome. But astronaut is the only one that tells people, “I’ve been to space, dude.” So it’s understandable that former NASA engineer Jose Hernandez wanted to list “astronaut” as his profession on the ballot in his race for U.S. Congress in California. And now, despite the efforts of his opponents on the other side of the aisle, he’ll be able to do just that.
According to the L.A. Times, Hernandez wants to list his occupation as “astronaut/scientist/engineer.” Given that Hernandez flew on the space shuttle Discovery’s STS-128 mission in 2009, you’d think that claim would be pretty clear cut. If it walks like an astronaut, talks like an astronaut, and gets launched into the final frontier on a pillar of flame like an astronaut… Not so, claimed Republicans, who argued that Hernandez shouldn’t be allowed to call himself an astronaut since he left NASA in 2011 to work at a technology company.
Okay, that logic would make sense in most cases. It would be silly to list my profession as “chicken cook” when I haven’t worked at Boston Market since I was 16 years old. And if “chicken cook” would somehow make me look more impressive to potential employers, I should absolutely be called out for trying to use it. However, I think there are certain jobs that earn you the right to identify as them for life. Served in the military, especially during wartime? You bet soldier, you can call yourself a Marine (or whatever) straight up until the Grim Reaper takes you. Worked as any sort of first responder — police, fire, ambulance? Fly that flag high. Basically, if you’ve put your life on the line for others, or for a noble cause greater than yourself, you can damn well lay claim to that title from now until doomsday, as far as I’m concerned. And that bloody well includes “astronaut.”
The judge who decided this case apparently agrees with me. Judge Lloyd Connelly rejected the notion that Hernandez’s interim job disqualifies him from identifying as an astronaut. Connelly said that Hernandez earned the right to call himself an astronaut for “more than the time spent riding a rocket.” Now Hernandez is free to proudly cite his astronaut badassery as he runs for California’s 10th Congressional District. And if I were him? I’d totally have some “astronaut” business cards made up, too.