Why I Love Rocket Ships
I didn’t write anything yesterday, and aren’t you the lucky ones. But today there’s something I really need to write about and that is the incredible impact the NASA space programs have had on my life.
Now, most people just go ‘yeah, yeah, old story, who cares’ but since this is my blog and you’re reading it, please don’t say such things. I’m writing about this because this subject is near and dear to me.
Some time ago I went to the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC, and I saw my very first IMAX film which was to date the most impressive thing I had ever experienced. That film was all about a recent mission of the space shuttle Atlantis. When the liftoff came in its incredible roaring thunder, its remarkable grace and majesty, its wondrous expression of humanity and in particular of being an American who helped make is happen in his own very small way, why, I broke into tears with the rest of the audience and gave a standing ovation.
I had never to that point ever exhibited any real show of ‘patriotism’ in such a way. Yes, I loved (and still do) love my country, but to that point in time I felt confused about my role in this society, unnerved by the perceived failures of our elected officials and somewhat frightened of being a militaristic state. To some degree that is still true. But on this occasion, standing in awe with tears streaming down my face, I was overcome by the fact that given enough incentive, enough money, enough solidarity and collective goals, we made something happen that brought us into a very different future.
Put On A Happy Face
I had been in love with space and space travel since I was very young, reading every science book I could get my hands on. When I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up rather than saying ‘a doctor, a lawyer, a fireman’, I said I wanted to be an astrophysicist. That was in fourth grade. Nobody else even knew what the hell that was and I had to explain it. Twice.
But I knew what it meant. How unfortunate I didn’t focus on that goal but then, although I know accounting, I’m not a ‘math’ guy. And without calculus I was doomed. But I put on a happy face. When president Kennedy declared his mission to put a man on the moon, I was only five years old. But I knew what that meant even then. I thought about the moon often and watched as the NASA team built and fired off those incredible Saturn V rockets. I was a member of the generation that would be the first spacefaring people earth had ever produced and that to me is the greatest happiness embodied. It’s a great reason to smile.
Brave New Worlds
How little I really knew. Like many people I was astounded and impressed by our astronauts. I was just a kid and had no real idea of what impact the Apollo missions would have until July 20, 1969, when my best friends and I watched the landing in their living room. There was so much happening in the world then, massive societal upheaval. We were changing as people so quickly we were probably over some kind of speed limit.
And lord knows, I was in upheaval just like the rest of the world and didn’t realize that the worst of it would come not then, but now.
First Stop: Planet Hell
Space isn’t all glorious colors, beautiful planets and cosmic fabulousness. It’s dangerous. It’s loaded with gamma rays that zap you, magnetic fields that can rip the iron right out of your blood, stellar explosions that tear whole solar systems apart. And what can you say but oh, well. that’s the universe for ya.
When you enter the world and you’re shot off into the universe that is your time in space, you’ve got to learn to be resilient. You’ve got to be ready for just about anything and that includes the occasional gamma-ray burst of confusion. We can’t prepare for everything and most especially, we can’t prepare for the unknown so that we’re totally safe all of the time. There’s no such thing as safety. And life’s unexpected happenings include the great, the good and the bad. Sometimes the very worst, indeed.
If you’re destination turns out to be a hell among the stars, what’s the best thing to do? Move into Hypergear and get the hell out. Find someplace where you can thrive. Giddy up and out of there.
Take Us To Your Lea– Oh, Nevermind, Zap The Bastards
When the Space Aliens show up, there’s a decision to be made. Do I come in peace? Or do I zap them out of the sky with my little triangle-thingy?
When your space alien turns out to be a mental illness it can be very hard to choose. So it’s best to establish a council of Peace and/or War to make the determination. But a council is going to be involved no matter which way you look at it.
Without having good advisers to help you out you could end up with a war on your hands or a war on everyone else’s hands. That’s not cool. Or worst of all you could end up with alien tentacle things all stuck up in your brain telling you to do things that you don’t want to do.
Sure sounds like mental illness to me; it’s like your alien brain making you behave in ways that would normally be contrary to your behavior. That’s why a therapist — a counsellor — needs to be among your most trusted advisers.
Head Back To Planet Earth, And Step On It
Sure, the tried and true space program gave me some wonderful fantasies and even better realities, like watching someone walk on another body in the solar system. But I could never have done such feats by myself. Really, who’s gonna shove me into a rocket ship and keep their head on the shoulders?
Well, I’ll tell you. Absolutely no one. I would tear them limb from limb rather than have them fire a rocket under my ass and send me skyward.
But it turned out I lit the damn fuse myself. I didn’t know how to fly the thing, I had no idea if there was adequate life support, didn’t know where I would land but I got on that rocket all by myself and lit the thing up.
When I succumbed to mental illness that’s just what I did. Lit that fire under my butt and screamed through the entire ride.
But now I have my therapists in Mission Control helping me out. They help me make the right decisions so that I can get back to earth without any more explosions, any more guidance system failures. They help me understand my orbital issues and can tell me how to get back in one piece without landing on Planet Hell ever again.
Love The Moon, Wish I Weren’t Here
So the first stop on the homeward journey turns out to the Moon. Why the moon? Well, when you’re coming home from the frontiers of the universe, it’s important to watch your landing site from a distance for a little while. That way, you can get an idea of where you might land. And while Luna is a wonderful place it’s not for me. I need to be on solid ground. The moon’s crazy. After all, why do you think they call it lunacy? But once you understand why you’re there, the moon becomes just one more stop on the way to Planet Health. Home. But it’s an important stop. Your time of observance, of reflection and learning becomes the basic construction of your earth reentry vehicle.
Believe me, I’d much rather have my feet on the ground than my ass on the moon any day.
With good guidance from my therapist and a reasonable reentry plan, I’m coming in for a landing in society once again. I expect it to be bumpy. I imagine there’s going to be a lot of heat to deflect but now I have a heat shield to protect me from the worst of it. So, here’s what we’re gonna do:
Plan A: splash down in the middle of nowhere. At least I’ll be home in a Nitrogen-blue sky bobbing in the salt water until someone on a great big aircraft carrier comes to help me back to land. Breathe in the beautiful air of my home.
Plan B : Hang out in orbit in my moon-suit to deal with shooting the space sharks until I figure a way back down to earth without a landing vehicle.
Frankly, I’d rather go with Plan A.