I recently finished reading Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars, a humorous look at what’s involved in getting and sustaining several humans in space. This book ponders several weighty (k, I couldn’t resist this) questions, such as: How does one go to the bathroom in zero-G? And, how long can a person wear the same pair of underpants before it falls to shreds? Also, why is a bad idea to take a deli sandwich into space?
All questions that I’m sure keep you awake at night. This is the private life of astronauts–all the non-glamorous, sometimes funny, often embarrassing stuff that makes me glad to spend the rest of my days feet firmly on Planet Earth.
Today I read the kids a picture book about zooming off into space. Then we put the book down and watched a real shuttle launch on YouTube (can I say I love YouTube?). Here’s Atlantis launching from the Kennedy Space Center. It’s a long video, but worth a look. Every time they mentioned the velocity of the shuttle (which just kept increasing and increasing till it hit 11, 000 miles an hour(!)), Sir I’s eyes grew rounder and rounder. “Wow!”
I confess–I get all tingly and teary-eyed over shuttle launches. There’s such a huge barrier to getting into space and living in it for even a few months. That we’ve launched shuttles at all is a testament to human ingenuity, courage and persistence. And those astronauts? They’ve got guts. You won’t catch me going anywhere strapped to tons and tons of burning rocket fuel, going a zillion miles an hour, with no way to bail out–or survive even if you could.
And besides, rockets and shuttles tickle the same part of my brain that loves dragons, spaceships, and other ginormous fast fiery things. The part that goes squee! over cool technology, fantastic beasts and awesome magic. The part that loves adventurers and frontiersmen, and desperate missions and doing the impossible (or merely the highly improbable).
The part that’s still a kid and breathes “wow” when shuttles break the sound barrier.