Thursday, March 27, 2008

Alignment

Every so often, the cosmic tumblers fall into place, and you end up in a position to see something pretty nifty.

Last night, at 2027, I happened to be outside, facing south. There were few if any clouds. I looked up and saw a bright light streaking across the night sky.

Was it a bird? Was it a plane? Was it Superman?

Nope. The dot in question was the International Space Station. The local evening news had earlier mentioned it would be visible, but I had completely forgotten about it. There it was, a mere 185 miles away, plugging along at about 17,000 miles per hour. Since it had not yet crossed the terminator, it was still in daylight while we were well past sunset, thus illuminating it for us to see easily. Even the wife, who is not easily awed by things scientific, was duly impressed. All this on Leonard Nimoy's birthday, no less. He's sort of the patron saint of geeks and nerds, so it seemed fitting. For a brief fleeting moment, I thought about getting The Kid out of bed to see it. Unlike most ideas that seem good at the time but later turn out to be bad ones, this one seemed bad from the start. The kid will have her fill of science museums and a pilgrimage to the Kennedy Space Center later.

When was the last time I saw something like that? Glad you asked. Musta been sometime in the mid 80's. Dad and I were doing a spot of trout fishing on Douthat Lake in the mountains of Virginia. Evening had fallen (or maybe it was really early morning) and again, a bright dot hurtled from horizon to horizon in about 2 minutes. Must have been either Mir or the shuttle. I seem to recall thinking that they were both up at the time. When I think about that now, I realize that I really did have my whole life in front of me. I could have been an astronaut if I had wanted it bad enough, but I didn't. Catching dinner was my immediate task at hand, and other pursuits would distract me from becoming a star voyager. Heck, we were raised believing that pretty much anyone could go into space by 2001. I'd be an old man of 31 by then. Why go through the hassle?

Now here I am, earth-bound and not regretting a thing. The sensation that would accompany one's ability to cover the entire earth with an outstretched thumb would pale in comparison to the smile on my daughter's face when she sees me coming home through the front door.

Bah. Space-schmace. Keep it.* I have love, and sometimes trout for dinner.


*Of course, if some of you feel the urge to pony up a few hundred grand for me to take a Virgin Galactic sub-orbital flight, I'm all for it.

1 comment:

lilliboo said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this essay. Even laughed at the end. Upon reflection, I would be willing to donate toward your Virgin-ity trip, tho it seems a bit futile.

I apologize. It was funny.