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The story I'm looking for had a female protagonist, a young girl (unattractive and unloved) whose ambition is to become an astronaut and travel to the stars. There is a particular planet that is "calling" her. She becomes an astronaut and eventually is allowed to travel solo.

Once launched, she redirects her ship to the planet she has felt an attraction to. She arrives at the planet and is greeted warmly by its inhabitants. They have indeed been calling her. Unfortunately the planet is radioactive. The radioactivity is necessary for life on that planet but it is of course fatal to her. She dies there, surrounded by creatures who love her.

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This description sounds like James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Sheldon)'s 1981 novella "With Delicate Mad Hands", although lacking some major details. The protagonist of the story is a young, unattractive orphan who is "an expert at being unloved". Since childhood she has heard a "Voice" that she believes comes from space, telling her to "Come".

She works hard to become certified to work in space, but the only way that she can become an astronaut is as a menial servant and sex object for otherwise all-male crews ("We know the men do better with a female along, not only for physiological needs but for a low-status noncompetitive servant and rudimentary mother figure.").

She is never allowed to travel solo—she

kills the crew of the ship and hijacks it.

The Voice guides her to a highly radioactive planet where she crash lands. Aliens approach the ship in greeting and after some pantomimed communication she realizes that they are telepathic. These aliens leave and after some time another alien comes who she eventually recognizes as the Voice:

Could this be—was she at last looking at the one who—was it this alien being who had "spoken" to her all her life? Was this her Voice?

and realizes that

She had never been alone.

She, Carol-Page-Snotface-etcetera was the Beloved ... and always had been.

As this rosy fur-clad soft-eared glowing-eyed one was of course hers, though she had never used the word. Her lifelong love.

The air in her ship finally runs out and so she leaves the ship to be with the alien, and does in fact die in his arms. (The aliens are genderless but "she took to thinking of the alien as 'he,' meaning no more by it than that 'it' was insupportable and 'she' or 'sister' was not quite appropriate in a human sense".)

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  • This is the one, thank you for your help!
    – SLowry
    May 21 '20 at 10:57
  • 1
    Great answer. Thought it sounded familiar but couldn't place it. A typically "upbeat" Tiptree story. May 21 '20 at 13:11
  • Whoa. This would make a great Vin Diesel film. 'Riddickette'... 'Daughter of Riddick'...
    – smci
    May 22 '20 at 23:58

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