My road to the stars

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When you start to walk a road, it always appears hard and long at the beginning, but there are roads that just seems impossible, such was my experience when i was 7 years old and gazed at the stars from the window of the living room of my mother’s house; i stared fascinated the blackness of the sky and silver of the moon and the stars, i played astronaut in a dream ship made of cardboard box between the chairs of the dinning room and a single sentiment invaded my soul: “What am i doing here?”, i asked myself, “I should be up there…” and i remember that one day i pledged my life to the stars: “One day i will be an astronaut, one day i will touch the sky in the name of mi country”
And early in my life i found what i loved most and my path took the turn that resulted in what i am today: in June 8 2007, 39 years old then, in the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia, i officially completed the Advanced Suborbital Astronaut program and became the first Ecuadorian to be trained as a professional astronaut. But what had to happen for that to become reality?
Since 1974 to 2007, 33 years had passed: they were hard years, they are when one holds a dream that in time became a way of life, science and thorough study were my companions and teachers, the discipline acquired in the military academy on the early years was always useful to me and shaped my character strong and unyielding: always chose the hard way to do things, not the easy one, i thought that such way will help me learn more and moreover, it will help me to answer any challenge by myself and with my own means.

Later, in the university i had to study an work at the same time to pay for my tuition, but i always wanted more, my teachers and mentors can vouch for me in saying that it was i the one with the most difficult and unorthodox scientific questions, that were only the reflex of my curiosity and collateral study: Even when i chose to pursue the Systems Engineering career, i kept studying Astrophysics and Quantum Mechanics on my own. i graduated and started my own business while specializing in Cybernetics and studied for a professorship in Astrobiology.

But this story will not be complete with mentioning what did i felt over all those years, what kept me alive: My dreams: Sometimes it was so hard to keep fighting, to keep living in a society in which i could not express myself as i truly was without hearing a mock or a silly comment, however that never was enough to stop me, i learned that the poorest people are not those without money, the poorest people are those without dreams, and i have to admit that there were times when i even couldn’t remember my own, but had lived enough for them that they had changed my path and my destiny forever, like a ship just floating down the river of the life i had chosen when i was 7. Sometimes i just daydreamed, without troubling myself about how i will realize my dream or not: “The time will come when the future will catch up with my dreams” i used to say to myself.

And one bright day that time finally came: it found me married with 3 kids and 35 years, but completely prepared, i didn’t doubted for an split second, the words of my mother came to me again when one day she told me: “A country is big for its people, my son, and people is big for its dreams, and dreams are big when they are shared by many, when for them you will risk everything you are for the sake of everything you can become”, i recalled when i was a little child and in her arms she sung me a song that spoke about “ …The bull in love with the moon, that escapes the flock in the nights just to see her…” and i knew that the time to abandon the flock had come, to defy the unthinkable and to conquer the impossible, to risk everything i was for the sake of everything i could come to be, in the name of a great dream, to fulfill the promise that one night, in love of the moon, a 7 year old child made to his country.
The unforgettable day that i was assigned my Sokol KV2 space suit in Russia, the one and only in the world the bears the Ecuadorian flag over the left shoulder, the same flag that my mother had embroidered for me, the moment when was putting it on, a powerful hurricane of emotions dragged me 33 years back in time to 1974: suddenly i was 7 again and was playing astronaut inside a cardboard box again and saw the stars from the window of the living room, and far, far away a sweet, maternal voice sung “...The bull in love with the moon…”

With all my discipline and all my strength of character, with all my training of so many years and all my unwavering temper, i couldn’t stop the avalanche of emotions and memories running wildly within my soul, flashing throughout my mind, and the tears poured without me being able to contain them.

And I’m pretty sure that when the day of the first manned mission to space of Ecuador arrives, the day that, when flying at 45000 feet high the suborbital module separates from the mother ship and fires the rocket engine that will launch me at 5000 miles per hour in to space, pushed in to my seat by the immense gravity of 8 G’s watching the bluish sky turning black, with the flag of my country over my chest, the ground mission control will hear me yelling from the depths of my heart: “Today you touch the sky, Ecuador”

You, reading this words: What is your impossible dream?, What is your promise to the land you call home?; Never abandon your dreams, never forget the child you were, that child in the depths of your heart that still believes that nothing is impossible. Dare, dare to challenge the unthinkable, dare to conquer the impossible, dare to risk everything you are, for everything you can come to be, in the name of a great dream, in the name of your homeland.
Today i am an astronaut of 41 years old, the first ever in the history of my country, i have planned and commanded 7 aerospace research missions, my flight suit is black as the sky and silver as the stars, i achieved for my country its first space agency, the first civilian space program in the world and i gave my countrymen the technology to defy gravity, thanks to it, we were able to establish the first scientific record for microgravity. Today, the land I call home is a leader in aerospace technology in the region, today my countrymen call me “hero” for lifting my country as first of all and second to none.
But truly, at the bottom of my soul, i am only seven years old and i still play inside a cardboard box, forever in love with the moon.

Ronnie Nader

ASA/T Astronaut – ASM Commander

Space Operations Director- Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency

September 2008

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