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Space Flight at 50: The Journey Continues

What Do Former Astronauts Do?

With the end of the space shuttle, seven veterans take off in different directions

One more chunk of advice: "Don't ever grow up. We may all be getting older, but you don't have to feel it. ... the idea of a 25-year-old being trapped in a 58-year-old body. Keep the attitude of a younger person."

Over the years, other astronauts, have found themselves in effect laid off. "I did not retire, my career was terminated," says 76-year-old Story Musgrave.

Back when he was just 62, Musgrave was the oldest active astronaut, and he'd logged more hours that anyone when it came to repairing the Hubble Space Telescope. But then NASA "said it's the end of the road," he says. "I had six flights. I could have done a lot more there. I was the lead person to fix the telescope. But after my last flight, they told me: No more, that was it. They didn't offer me anything else."

After NASA handed him the pink slip, he had no job, just gumption. He started a landscaping business, a media production company and a real estate development company.

"There is a cruel depression within the building business; there's no building going on," he says, but adds that "the whole real estate world looks like it's turning the corner."

"I have not stopped, I haven't even slowed down," he says. "I guess I have confidence. I leap off the cliff and hope I get some wings as I go down. I don't mind reinventing myself."

Phil Scott writes for Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine.

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