Cody Cart knew when he was only four years old that he wanted to be an astronaut. He had a little bank shaped like a spaceship that he put his tithing money in, and each time he dropped in a penny, a light would go on as if the rockets were firing. As he grew older, his school friends kidded him about being a spaceman, but Cody was serious. Those were the days of the birth of the manned space program, and he listened to every minute of every flight.
Naturally, his twin interest was astronomy. He received a telescope for Christmas and began getting up at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning to look at the stars. “The night sky always fascinated me,” he said. “The whole universe is God’s creation, but we don’t know very much about it. I have often thought that if there were another frontier left, I’d be out exploring it. But the only one left is outer space, and there’s only one way to get there—by becoming an astronaut.”
In school, Cody took all the science and electronics classes he could. “I didn’t think electronics had much to do with space exploration, but dad suggested it, and I loved it!” He became a finalist in a statewide electronics competition.
Part of Cody’s goal to become an astronaut included a goal to become an Air Force Academy cadet. As he progressed through high school, he counseled with his father and mother and prayed about each step along the way. He had three great goals in life. The first was to keep all the commandments of his Father in Heaven. The second was to serve a full-time mission. “All my life we have talked about a mission and the things pertaining to a mission. It was never ‘if you go on a mission’ but always ‘when you go.’” The third great goal was temple marriage.
“Every night before we went to sleep, mom or dad would come around to our beds and ask each of us in turn, ‘What do you want out of life? What do you want to do? What do you want to be?’ Those goal-setting sessions really helped me keep my head on straight. Every night I said those three things and sometimes others—like the astronaut plans—but always those three. We would talk about what I needed to do to achieve those goals, and then we would talk about any problems or questions I had.”
But two of Cody’s goals conflicted with each other. To go on a mission, he would have to resign from the academy after his first year—there was no such thing as a leave of absence for a mission. If he left, he was probably out of the program. To get back in, he would have to be renominated, and the mere fact of his resignation might work against him. What were the odds?
The preparations continued. Cody ran four or five miles each night to condition himself. As a junior, he spent one whole day taking college entrance exams, including the ACT (American College Test), SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test), an Air Force engineering aptitude examination, and a physical fitness test. He was also interviewed and appraised for leadership potential.
The first year at the academy wasn’t spent just waiting for a mission call. “It was hard,” he remembers. “After the first four months I started asking myself ‘Is this what I want to do in life?’ But then I would think back to the confirmations I had received through the Holy Ghost. I knew I was doing things, as President Kimball says, in their proper season and order, and I prayed, and the plan was reconfirmed. I knew I was right where I should be, and that really helped me.”
As the first year drew to a close, Cody had to reaffirm in his own mind his decision to go on a mission. To survive the toughest year in the academy and then give it all up took a lot of courage. And it might also mean abandoning his lifelong dream of becoming an astronaut. “But I had already made the decision to resign eight years earlier. I had no doubt what I was going to do even though I agonized over it.”
In March, during spring break, Cody had his mission interviews with his bishop and stake president. At the end of the summer, following SERE training (survival, evasion, resistance, and escape), he resigned. As with any cadet who asks to leave the academy, he was sent to interviews with several different counselors and officers.
“All of them would drill me at first,” Cody said, “but as soon as I told them my reasons for resigning, their attitude changed. They all expressed their respect for the LDS people they knew, and when I told them I was going to try to come back, which was something of a shock in itself, they said fine.” His written statement included a full explanation of what a mission is and why he wanted to serve a mission.
The officer who had to sign the paper as a witness commented, “I’ve never read anything like that before in my life. Is that really what you believe?”
“I sure do,” Cody replied.
“A lot of them didn’t understand,” Cody explains, “but they accepted my explanation. They were feeling something they’d rarely felt before.” In May Cody received his call to the Switzerland Zurich Mission. He entered the Missionary Training Center in August. Concentrating on studies was second nature, and obedience was ingrained. “I wanted to use my time wisely because I knew I was paying a price for my mission,” he said.
At first the thought of not being readmitted hung over him, but the time finally came when he stopped worrying and left it in the hands of the Lord. Besides missionary work presented its own challenges. “For the first six or seven months, I found myself going through the motions. I knew the Church was true and that the work was important, but I didn’t love it as I should. My academy experience came to my aid. I was used to doing difficult things. I worked hard and prayed every day that the work would become a joy instead of a burden. In the course of about a week, the whole thing turned around. Suddenly I was happier; I was working out of desire, not just duty. I knew my mission would be worth it even if I never got accepted back into the academy.”
Then a letter from home told Cody that Ted Parsons, another cadet who had resigned from the academy to serve a mission, had been readmitted! Maybe there was a chance after all!
Cody took the necessary exams at a U.S. military installation. “My mission president gave me a blessing. He told me I had served an honorable mission and that the Lord would help me accomplish what I needed to.”
Shortly after the blessing, Cody had a head-on bicycle collision, shattering his nose on the handlebar. “Qualifications at the academy are stringent. With an impact like that you would normally lose pilot qualification. If I had hit my eye or forehead or even my teeth, it would probably have disqualified me.” Cody is convinced he was protected.
When the test results arrived, they showed a score higher than the first time Cody applied for admission, which was advantageous because the competition was tougher.
“I had done everything I could. I made sure my end of things was in order. I wasn’t expecting the Lord to meet me more than halfway. Then I left it up to him,” Cody said.
Cody was renominated by his state senator. His faith had paid off. Two weeks after returning from Switzerland and two years after leaving Colorado Springs, Colorado, Cody Carr entered the Air Force Academy once more. His dream of being an astronaut was fully intact, along with his other goals of keeping the commandments, marrying in the temple, and being a lifelong missionary.