Dear Mr. John,
This letter is to inform you of your termination from the NASA astronaut program. Our decision comes after a great deal of deliberation, and while we take no pleasure in terminating you, we felt it was the only choice we had.
Your offenses have been many. To begin with, we had hoped that after all the hundreds of hours of training you received, you would understand the measures in place to prepare a crew for a launch. So when you showed up, preflight, with a bag packed by your wife, that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Jewelry? Oversize sunglasses? Sandwiches? On a rocket flight? That’s poor judgment, Mr. John. I don’t know if that’s the way it’s done in the rocky-roll world that you’re used to, but at NASA we don’t pack our own luggage.
You should also know that many on the ground crew mentioned that at zero hour (9 a.m.) you seemed to be intoxicated, possibly “high,” as the hippies say. At the time, I thought that to be a baseless accusation and, since we had a mission to launch, I disregarded it. But the transmissions you made once the craft had entered its orbit made me wonder. Over and over we would ask for your readings on the effects of weightlessness, the craft’s condition, and the status of the numerous scientific experiments onboard, but instead of giving us that information, you moped about missing the Earth and missing your wife and being lonely in space. Well, goddamn it, Mr. John, you knew what you were getting yourself into up there! It’s not like riding on a rocky-roll tour bus! Of course it’s lonely! It’s space! Do you realize there are millions of people who’d give anything to be up there? It’s a chance of a lifetime! And you’re crying like a damn baby!
We expect a great deal from our astronauts, but perhaps the most important part of the job is an understanding of science. For our top men—Armstrong, Aldrin, and the like—understanding the science is more than a 9-to-5 job; they work at it seven days a week. Frankly, sir, I doubt your scientific acumen. After demanding data from you for days, you were only able to offer this insight: “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact, it’s cold as hell. And there’s no one there to raise them if you did.” First off, if you did what? That doesn’t even make sense. Secondly, we did not send you up there to evaluate whether Mars is fit for human habitation or child-rearing. Thirdly, your mission was not even going to Mars.
And another thing, the word is “astronaut.” When you run around Cape Canaveral saying “I’m a rocket man!” it’s embarrassing for everyone.
I am sorry to give you this information while you are still on your mission, Mr. John, and we realize that it’s going to be a long, long time until touchdown brings you back here. But NASA felt that your performance was so dismal that we must act immediately. You are simply not the man we thought you were when we hired you for this position. Please consider all future assignments canceled. Your place will be taken by Major Tom, who we expect will be a more dedicated and reliable member of the team.
James C. Fletcher