Sending Marco Rubio to Space

This could be you, Marco. ( )
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

BuzzFeed reported today that Ron Paul, father of Rand, said recently that he wants to send Marco Rubio to outer space because of his “crazy” proposal for more military spending:

Well, it’s good for jobs. Think of how many jobs he’s going to create. And then we can send them all to outer space. I’d like to send—like I once said—send all these politicians that promote these ideas to outer space. That’s where they belong, because it’s crazy! You know, where’s he going to get the money?

This got me thinking. What would it take to send Rubio to space?
Paul has two options.
He could send Rubio to space through a private spaceflight industry, but it wouldn’t be cheap. A decade ago, a roundtrip ticket to the International Space Station cost private citizens $20 million, and now it’s $35 million. Paul can’t afford that; in 2012, his net worth was under $5 million. Neither can Rubio, who finished paying off his student loans just three years ago.
Or, Paul can go the traditional route, and have Rubio apply to become a NASA astronaut (but he’d have to act fast—the deadline for that is December 14).
NASA requires the height of astronaut applicants to be between 62 and 75 inches. Rubio is 70 inches tall, so he’s good there. But NASA also requires candidates to have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. Rubio’s degree is in political science, so he’d have to go back to school—and then spend at least three years doing something related to that degree. More tuition, more student loans.
If NASA decided to take a chance on a senator-turned-space geek, Rubio would have to complete two years of training, and then a few more years of working a desk job before he’s actually called up for a mission. Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, a former NASA astronaut, recently described in Quartz what that entails:

If you’re not already a test pilot, you’ll do flight training in Pensacola, Florida. First, you’ll complete a water survival course. This includes escaping from the helo dunker—which means you’ll be strapped into the body of a helicopter, plunged into a swimming pool, flipped over, and finally allowed to break free. You do this three times, the third time blindfolded.

After all that, NASA would pay Russia $70 million to launch Rubio from a remote part of Kazakhstan to the space station, since the U.S. doesn’t have the rockets to send its own crew to space.
“Where’s he going to get the money?” the elder Paul asked of Rubio. Well, where’s Paul going to get the money to send Rubio to space?
Update: Molly reminds me that two members of Congress have been to space. Jake Garn, a former senator from Utah, flew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1985. Bill Nelson of Florida, now a senator, went up as a congressman in the Challenger in 1986. Ten days after Nelson landed, Challenger blew up as it returned from another mission.