Friday, October 19, 2012

Space Is The Place!

Between my ears

Endeavor soars over LA on its last flight before being hauled off to the museum. Nice view of the LA skyline and Hollywood sign.   

NASA illustration
I've always been a space cadet.

I was born under the sign of the blazing payload. While I was being knit inside the womb, NASA's Redstone rockets were running dress rehearsals for the Mercury program. Just a few months ahead of my arrival, Soviet Cosmonaut Valentia Tereshkova became the first woman in space and orbited the Earth 48 times.

An emergent model of human being, I was crafted for the new age, pre-loaded with space in my head and a built-in yearning to break free. 

 My surroundings reinforced this fixation on gravity clearance. My earliest memory was being held up to a window as a baby, to watch a neon sign flash like the burn phase of a booster rocket. A few years later, I would feel the love vibration of a sonic boom, a gift from a pilot crossing our prairie sky.

Throughout my childhood, the motifs of flight or high energy explosions pulsed through architecture and commercial design. Roofs had wings, cars had tailfins.

Satellites, boomerangs, arrows, launch pads and starbursts symbolized the freedom and motion I felt was my birthright. Even the high school in my small Kansas town had a parabolic awning, a popular style of the time, referencing the gravity-defying flight trajectory of rockets. 

It was my expectation that aerodynamics and lift would always be an integral part of everyday design. And that we would visit space forever.

 NASA had told us that space exploration would improve all our lives for the better, through new advances. It was true. I was eating breakfast cereal shaped like flying saucers, and watching TV shows like The Jetsons, I Dream of Jeannie, the Thunderbirds, and Major Astro. At the end of every show, Major Astro signed off in a cheery space vernacular, saying, "Happy Orbits, boys and girls ... Everything will be A-Okay and all systems will be go!"

Major Astro

The men in shiny pressure suits and helmets were part of the patriarchal order I was told to revere and trust. They ascended the heavens on my soul's behalf, leaving the earth by way of turbulent G forces, and enduring the fiery hells of re-entry. 

I remained on the surface, playing with dirt, cutting my feet on rocks...but I felt good, because the shiny men said the dirt under my fingernails was dirt busted loose from the stars. The rocks - pieces of meteorite, for all we knew. Buckminster Fuller, said, "We are all astronauts." As if to drive home the point, even Don Knotts became an astronaut, albeit reluctantly, in The Reluctant Astronaut.

I calculate that in my 49 years on this earthship, I have logged 28, 616,988,722 miles through space. Considerably more than the space shuttle Endeavor, which flew a mere 122,883,151 miles before it was hangared last weekend.

But I ride under a protective bubble of atmosphere, while the shuttle was continuously pelted with space clods. So no, Buck, I'm not such an astronaut, really. Passing through space is not the same thing as being in the soup of it. I wish I could have been in L.A. when the shuttle rolled through the streets.

Pretty dang awesome!!

Officials urged LA residents to "stay inside until the shuttle passes", as if it were the Angel of Death, but who in their right mind would have missed a chance to see it? Knowing where it's been, I want to touch it. Seven figure crowds came out to see it, prompting the fire chief to say, "Today, everyone in Los Angeles is an astronaut".

While the shuttle was crawling home, 89 year-old Chuck Yeager was climbing into an F-15 (as a passenger) to re-enact to the minute his historic breaking of the sound barrier 65 years ago that very day, at 10:24 am.  Felix Baumgartner was poised to break the sound barrier too. With his body.

Felix fall down, go boom!

His jump from the edge of space sent him into a free fall that broke records, but thankfully, nothing else. 

"This wasn't just a mild penetration of the sound barrier," said Baumgartner's doctor, Jonathan Clark.
"It was Mach 1.24. Our ground recovery teams on four different locations heard the sonic boom."

 Sweet sonic human. Rockin' the space-love vibration! We space cadets have been waiting for this our whole lives.

Apparently, so has Felix. See what he drew at age 5: 

"I had a dream. And this was it!!!"

From The Telegraph


  1. this is one of your better posts, mone-sim. awesome.

  2. How can something named for nothing be so darn cool?
    I remember writing about space when I was a litte whipper. As I recall, it was more of a short analysis of the concept of "nothing". I must try to find it among my archives.
    Interesting that I, eventually, grew up to be a "spacer".
    ( I am referred to by the team. Apparently, in their mind, my contribution is to take up the space between the steering wheel and the back of the seat of my race car)

  3. H.B., would love to see what you wrote about space as a boy! Hope you can find it.

    I would like to know more about this "spacer" business. : )