Fly Me to the Moon…

August 9, 2007 at 3:25 am (Uncategorized)

Or at least to the nearest US space station… How cool would it be to go into space? The successful launch this morning of Endeavour’s latest bid to get on up into the stars makes me glad in my heart. It’s never good when these things go wrong, as the Columbia mission did in 2002, and as Challenger did in… what was it? 1986? Space shuttle disasters linger in the collective imagination far longer than other losses, perhaps because the idea of space travel is still so completely incredible to most of us that every failure feels like a malevolent message from the universe. Get out of here. Go home. Stay back down there where you belong.

But human beings have never taken kindly to the notion of a limit to our endeavours. Boundaries are there to be crossed. Horizons are there to be pursued. Space is there to be traversed. I think it is so entirely awesome that people have figured out how to get other people into space. I would love to do it. If I had the wedge, I’d be doing a lot of legwork to try and get myself on that Virgin commercial space flight. It’s not going into deep space, but I think it will leave the earth’s atmosphere. Is that right? I might look it up and get back to you on that.* Trust Sir David Branson to be behind that one – he seems like a bit of a visionary to me. He’s got a seat on it, and who can blame him? I’d do exactly the same thing in his position. Seat 1A, thanks, by the window.

Oh man, imagine looking back at Earth. Just imagine it. As I get older, I am a less comfortable flyer. Awareness of mortality, September 11, flying in Papua New Guinea, having a flight from Washington to London turn around due to mechanical failure – all these things have made me a little clammy on board planes these days. I used to love it, and hope one day I will again. But not even that dread fear of the great unknown would stop me from signing up for a space shuttle ride if life dealt me that kind of hand. I’d elbow old ladies and small children out of the way to get there. “Me, me,” I’d shout, pushing my way obnoxiously to the front, hand thrust up for teacher, “pick me, please pick me!”

I hope they have a safe journey. It’s bound to be an incredible one, so I don’t need to hope for that.

* Okay, the Virgin Galactic flight will be what’s known as sub-orbital spaceflight, which means, very roughly, that it intersects rather than leaves the Earth’s atmosphere. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the matter in layman’s terms.

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