As it happens, this was not an uncommon story. Tattoos and T-shirts are just outward manifestations — lots of SETIcon people are embracing their love of space science in official, professional ways. I talked to Park Saturday morning, and by the end of the convention I had talked to at least a half dozen others who had switched careers or study programs toward space-related avenues. Kira Lorber, 30, was a nurse before taking a job on a lark with the Mars Institute, and now she spends three weeks a year in the Arctic studying rocks. Orenstein went back to school to study astronautical engineering, and so on. "There are a lot of enthusiasts-turned-doers," Orenstein said. "If we could all find ways to pay the bills thinking about and doing stuff like this, most people in this building would do it."