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For kids, the idea of becoming an astronaut is going nowhere

Retiring the space shuttles, and the iffy immediate future for manned space flight, has implications beyond the realm of science and exploration.

It colors the future in another way. For the first time in 50 years, kids being asked what they want to be when they grow up cannot step forward and confidently answer, “An astronaut.”

This could change. But really, how do children respond to that question in 2011?

A grossly unscientific survey of youngsters at Manito and Audubon parks offered a few answers.

“A flight attendant,” said Ashlin Klocke, 10.

Why? “Because I like to help people.”

And her mother is a flight attendant.

Along those same lines, her 13-year-old brother, Braydon, said he would like to follow in his father’s footsteps and be an engineer.

But 4-year-old Calvin Buratto seemed to think it was a silly question. Or at least one that made him squirm.

So perhaps to cut short being hounded by the media, he agreed that he might want to be a singer, firefighter or truck driver. Not a police officer, though.

On the other hand, Natalie Olinger, who turns 4 next month, is already focused on a highly competitive field with seemingly limited openings. She wants to be a princess.

Of course, she might change her mind in a few years. More than a few accountants and librarians once believed they were destined to be cowboys or big-league third basemen.

Likewise, a young person today saying he or she wants to design video games or be involved in computer breakthroughs might wind up being, well, who knows.

The Tousley/Barker cousins all had answers.

Will Tousley, 5, said he wants to be a “train driver.” He has felt that way ever since he was little and a railroad train rumbled through his field of vision and imagination.

Matt Barker, 10, said he wants to be an insurance agent. That’s what his dad does.

Despite recent events, Robert Tousley, 7, said “astronaut.”

Maybe he’s not keeping up with the news about NASA or perhaps he’s thinking long-term. In any event, he knows what attracts him to that job. “You get to see things in the sky,” he said.

Elizabeth Barker, 8, said she wants to be a teacher like her mom. “Kingergarten,” she specified.

And 3-year-old Jane Tousley volunteered that she wants to be a pony.

That answer cracked up her siblings and cousins. But a girl can dream, can’t she?

After politely suggesting that, at the age of 9, he wasn’t really ready to commit, Jumariea Palmer said maybe he could see himself “working at a store.”

His 8-year-old sister, Amari, visualized being in an office or perhaps at a medical facility.

Paige Allen, who is almost 8, said she wants to be a police officer. Though her grandmother subsequently confided that Paige had previously gone on record as planning to go to college and become a cowgirl.

Sure, some of these kids are a bit young to be put on the spot about vocational inclinations. But Ethan Greiner, 7, didn’t mind. He has given it some thought.

“A shark studier or a Bigfoot studier,” he said.

That could happen.

Good luck to all.



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