Thursday, October 29, 2009


When i was in the third grade, I came in second place in the regional Young Authors' Contest with a story I titled "Rocket in Space." I was -- and remain -- a space geek, my geekery fueled by Carl Sagan's Cosmos and a lot of books borrowed repeatedly from the Idaho Falls Public Library and books I could sneak out of the library at school. Alas, my flailing in higher math (with the exception of geometry) led me to conclude that a career as an astronomer would be doomed to failure, or at least constant mathematical mockery by my peers and superiors.

But space still captivates. I say a jaunty (well, occasionally jaunty, it is typically at 4:45 am) hello to Orion when I see him every morning in winter as I'm heading to the bus. And when NASA launched its new Ares rocket this week, I was spellbound. I loved seeing that graceful, yet gourdly-bulging spacecraft lift off and soar into the blue sky. I wanted to be on it. I wanted it to be more than a mere test flight, but to be a flight to the Moon, to Mars. Stop spending money on bombs and wars and give more to the Rocket Men, I say.

I know the Apollo Program took place during a time of unprecedented civil unrest, and that, then as now, a lot of people were critical of spending all that money putting a man on the Moon. But what fun. To be up there on the Moon, dancing around on that grey regolith, plodding up the wall of a crater. Or to be on Mars and walking among the red dust and tumbled rocks, angled by the sandblasting winds. Sometimes, I confess, when I'm on walks at work -- I work in Idaho's Lost River Desert, where there's plenty of open space, dusty soil and lava rock -- I pretent I'm on the Moon, or on Mars. Mentally I erase all of the fauna and imagine trudging toward that red horizon, watching as the sun dips and turns the sky blue. I'd love to be on Mars right now, rather than sitting in this little cubicle in the desert.

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