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#thesideshow May 7th 2015 Astronaut -Ilana Masad

Before you were a scientist, before you were an athlete, before you plumbed the depths of space in a three-piece suit and a fishbowl over your head, you wondered. You wanted to touch the sky. You didn’t believe, not entirely, that there was anything up there. You were a skeptical dreamer. An agnostic about space. You thought it just as likely as anything else that there would be pink cotton candy beyond the domed sky that covered your world.

Even after the PhD in astrophysics, you didn’t quite believe, not all the way deep down where beliefs become knowledge, that space could be so empty and so full at the same time. You wanted to prove that you could break through the star-spangled canopy and touch nothingness, or some otherness as yet unimagined.

You waited years to shed gravity, to lose the weight piled on your shoulders every day, the burden of smarts and muscle and responsibility. You left your children and your husband behind and you almost wished it was forever, that something would go wrong, that something would malfunction, that you’d die before you saw what was out there.You lived. You saw it. You’d expected disappointment.

Ilana Masad is a writer living in New York. She has been published in The New Yorker, The Toast, The Rumpus, Tin House, Printer’s Row and more. She is also the founder of TheOtherStories.org, a podcast featuring new, emerging, and/or struggling writers.