Moon Pie

Like every little boy in the early 80s, I wanted to be an astronaut.

I was too young to remember the fire on Apollo 1 (and such negative news was rarely discussed amongst the rah-rah of children’s books on space exploration), and the Challenger disaster was yet to occur, so space travel was all bravery and adventure and excitement.

I had toy space shuttles (even before the first Columbia mission I had an accurate-looking toy), I read voraciously, and by fourth grade I could draw the launch sequence of a shuttle mission.  And did.  At great length and to the displeasure of several teachers.  Launch, solid-fuel rocket separation, external tank separation, orbit, mission, re-entry, landing.  All took place in #2 pencil within the confines of one wide-ruled sheet of looseleaf paper.

Nowadays, I can look back and see more than just bravery and adventure in the wild decades of space exploration.  The budgeting, the grim Cold War competitiveness, the dizzying hurdles of engineering.  It looks a little less romantic, perhaps, but it also looks a hell of a lot more impressive in hindsight.  Hell, I’m pretty sure I’ve got about as much computing power in my cell phone, nestled safely in my front pocket, as an Apollo command module…and as much on my desktop as they had in Mission Control.  (Not even counting ye olde internet.)  I can’t seem to use this to keep my calendar in order.  They got to the moon and back.  Sheesh.

Boys don’t seem as fascinated with space travel nowadays, judging from my own son and his friends.  Hell, we as a society seem less fascinated.  Perhaps it’s more blase now; perhaps a handful of tragedies have made us hesitant to push the envelope; perhaps we just lack the competition of another great power to fill us with fear and aggression to push through our obstacles.  Maybe we just can’t afford it.  But to me, not only were the myriad little expansions of our understanding – the feats of engineering, of computing, of communications; the discoveries concerning the upper atmosphere and beyond; the Hubble and the near-revolutions in astronomy it brought – worth the sacrifice.   Not only were they worthy goals.

There seems to me something in those heady days of the 50’s and 60’s in which both our nation and our species were unafraid to wildly leap the bounds of our ancestors.  Even while mired in ugly internal struggles for civil rights and a war that tested our sanity as a nation, a footprint on the moon could give us hope.  That we lived in a time when, truly, anything seemed possible.

I hope we can collectively get it back somehow.

The planetarium in town is having an anniversary event tonight for the moon landing and I’m planning to take Boy.  Launching model rockets, making moon craters, watching movies projected onto the domed roof, and all that kind of stuff.  I’m hoping it’ll capture his imagination, and fill his head with possibilities, the way it did mine.

(First 100 guests get free Moon Pies, damn it, so we gotta get there early!)

I’d be remiss if I didn’t link to one of my favorite Eddie Izzard bits.  And say with a wink:   “Congratulations, Mr. Gorsky.”

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5 Responses

  1. Even though I grew up about an hour away from the Kennedy Space Center, I’m ashamed to say we never saw a launch. But we did get to see (and feel!) a few space shuttles from where we lived take off anyway, including the Challenger in ’86, which was very morbid considering we could tell right away that something went wrong.
    I hope you guys have a great time at the planetarium (everytime I say or write that Metallica’s Sanitarium pops into my head) – I’m sure it’ll be a lot of fun.

    Feeling the launch sounds awesome.

    I think he’ll enjoy the planetarium, at least for a while. I’m not convinced he’ll have the patience to stay for the whole thing, but they ARE changing things around so hopefully that can stave off some boredom.

  2. What a lovely post. I never wanted to be an astronaut, unless it was very briefly, and yet I’m inspired by your words here. I think it’s great that you knew the whole sequence.

    The thing I think is amazing is that we know more about our little corner of outer space than we do about what’s under our own oceans. That’s exploration I could get my tax dollars behind, personally.

    Good point on the oceanography. Or are you just wanting to see Rapture in your lifetime? 😉

    Thanks for the compliments on the post. After writing it, my inclination was to say, “Hmm, I’m happy with it. [pause] Gawd, I’ve been writing the most vacant dreck lately, haven’t I?”

  3. I think what kills me is that they did all their calculations on a frickin’ SLIDE RULE.

    Ain’t that the truth?

  4. I just read something about why kids aren’t interested in space travel anymore. It said something to the effect of kids being more worried about the state of the earth rather than what could possibly be in space.

    That made me a little sad. Kids shouldn’t have to worry so much about the state of the earth. Yes, they should be taught to recycle and respect our planet. But I hate to think that they are worried, you know? I’d rather they be out and playing in it.

    You’re exactly right. Their minds should be onward and upward, not looking down and worrying about what they’re going to do with the mess we left them.

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