space cadet

Definition: (noun phrase) a person who is out of touch with reality, often because they are on drugs

Example: Space cadet Jennifer lost her job at the ice cream parlor when she forgot to turn on the freezer and the restaurant was flooded with melted Rocky Road.


“My brain is just so busy. I'm inattentive; I'm a daydreamer: the space cadet kind.”
-Comedian Hannah Gadsby

It’s definitely a sign of the times when you hear a billionaire has gone to space as a tourist, and you have to ask, “Which billionaire?” This week it was Sir Richard Branson, whose company Virgin Galactic hopes to make money by offering the experience to wealthy clients the future. How wealthy? Well, you’ll need $250,000, or nearly seventeen times the annual salary of a worker earing minimum wage in Alabama today.

While some have criticized Branson and his space tourism competitors (and fellow billionaires) Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, claiming that the money invested in their tourism companies might be better spent on say, alleviating world poverty or curing cancer, many people envy the opportunity to become a genuine space cadet.

In fact, one person paid $28 million in an auction to accompany Amazon owner Bezos on a similar flight later this month. (That’s more than 1800 years of work for our minimum wage earner if you’re keeping score.)

The phrase was first introduced in Robert Heinlein’s 1948 science fiction book Space Cadet. Written for young adults, the book chronicles the adventures of teen space cadet Matt Dodson, who goes to Venus in the year 2075.

One hundred years before that imagined future, however, space cadet had a very different meaning. In 1975, a space cadet was most often found sitting in the back of Spanish class, oblivious to the teacher, after smoking marijuana out in the parking lot behind the high school.

The first moon walk happened in 1969, and it was common practice for teens in the 70s to alert their “spaced-out” peers to reality by imitating the communications used in that voyage: “Earth to Ted! Come in Ted!”

While we continue to use the slang term space cadet in a joking way, perhaps this will change as more and more people actually travel to space.

A. C. Kemp | July 14, 2021

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