Space science is more than being stationed on the International Space Station, we know that but too often focus on that as the penultimate goal. Don't get me wrong, I think the experience would be very cool, and well worth the work it takes to get there.
There are so many ways in which one can be active in "space science" - ways that can link ones personal/professional interests to the larger space exploration project. I recently had a conversation with a nutrition researcher who told me of the amazing research underway to explore the means of feeding humans during extended space flights (like to Mars and beyond). Of course it makes sense, but too often we forget about these ways in which one becomes part of the space exploration community.
A few weeks ago, AAAS sponsored an event that brought some space scientists together for conversations with middle schoolers. The group included folks who work to share space science stories and discoveries with larger audiences - and in doing so helping others share in the excitement. These folks also help more lay persons like me to understand the challenges more clearly and, as a result of crowd sourcing like methods, seek out creative solutions to vexing questions. The panel also included a scientist who is using satellite images from space to document human rights abuses here on earth. And let's not forget the electrical engineer who works to be sure that all those monitoring stations around the world and in space orbit can talk to one another and to mission control personnel.
Each of these folks, and my nutritionist friend, are making contributions that build and strengthen what we know to make space exploration possible and even more exciting. What a cool life!
You can learn more about the AAAS event here: AAAS - No Space Flight Required: Panel Describes Broad Spectrum of Space Careers to Middle-Schoolers