Hopeful Space Cadet: John Herman

John Herman has made a name for himself as an explorer of cyberspace. Soon he may blast off to explore outer space.



Astronaut Buzz Aldrin announced last year that Space Adventures, a "private spaceflight company," was offering a free ride into suborbital space to the winner of a nationwide contest. More than 50,000 people entered. One thousand of those were selected to produce a video explaining why they want to go. Newmarket's John Herman, a teacher and new media expert who admits he has a fear of heights, is also a new dad who wants to pass along a sense of adventure and possibility to his son. His video, featuring his kid, won him a place among the final five candidates. This month those five will travel to Seattle to compete in a series of mental and physical challenges designed to determine who has the right stuff to become a citizen in space.

So, from 50,000 down to a final five. You said you never thought you'd actually get this far. Are you getting nervous you might actually be the one?
Not as nervous as I am nervous about letting down my supporters. For me to be where I am, thousands of votes were cast in support of me. Now it is up to me to compete against the four other space candidates in a series of physical and mental challenges. I do feel the pressure of everyone's hopes on my shoulders, and I aim to do my best.

What does your wife say about all this?
You may need to ask her. Some days she is very supportive. Other days she needs a reminder of why I would want to go to space at all. Spaceflight is a rare opportunity that most will never see in a lifetime. Neil Armstrong once said of going to the moon that "it's in the nature of the human being to face challenges. It's by the nature of his deep inner soul ... we're required to do these things just as salmon swim upstream." I feel very much the same way. It's space!

You are a science fiction fan. Which fictional space traveler will you use as inspiration?
I am indeed a fan of science fiction, but my inspiration is science fact. Alan Shepard of New Hampshire was the first American to experience a suborbital space flight. John Herman from New Hampshire plans to respectfully follow his lead.

Do you get to meet Buzz Aldrin? Any other space-related celebrities?
I have no idea. I heard that the winner may meet with a celebrity but I don't know who it is.

So in May they put you through a battery of tests to see if you are spaceworthy. Do you get to kick the tires of your spacecraft?
The final challenges are being held in Seattle in the shadow of the Space Needle over the course of three days. Locations for the actual flight are currently being explored. I read that New Mexico and Florida were under consideration. I very much doubt a craft will be onsite in Seattle, but who knows?

If exposure to cosmic rays in space give you a super power, what super power do you want to have?
My mind says invisibility, but my heart says flight. There is something about the ability to soar among the clouds that is incredibly appealing.

Are you thinking of a cool space handle that people can call you? Astronaut Herman doesn't have a lot of zing.
I can't go to the gas station or the local coffee shop or grocery shopping without someone calling me Spaceman. This will no doubt be my new super-hero name if exposure to cosmic rays gives me powers.

You have quite an online following. I assume you'll be tweeting and Facebooking from space.
If I have Internet access, then I will do more than update my Facebook status. Perhaps a live video hangout or more. I think part of this experience is sharing it with others. With that said, I suspect that web access is limited in sub-orbit.

You are a multi-media storyteller. How will you share the story of your trip with others?
I would be excited and honored to share my story with anyone willing to listen. Frankly the experience of Space Race 2012 right here on Earth has been incredible. The community came to my support and dreamed with me these past few weeks, and in many ways it has already been an amazing trip.

Assuming you can bring something on board to keep as a souvenir of your time in space, what would you want in your pocket?
I would probably bring a toy for my son, something he could bring to show and tell and say, "My dad took this to space with him." As I note in my video, he is my true inspiration.

What's the one question that no one asks you?
No one ever asks me about the book I am writing. Ironically, I am currently writing a young adult novel that takes place in space. I assure you that if I take this suborbital flight then it will be recounted in the book. What science fiction writer has had an opportunity of first hand experience like traveling to space?

What's a Neil Armstrong-esque catchphrase you could use when you reach your suborbital apogee?
I am not sure what would come out of my mouth when confronted with weightlessness and a view of the curvature of the Earth. It appears that people have prepared words in the past so they aren't left saying something silly. I better start thinking of something. The default post to most new blogs comes to mind: Hello, world!

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