Thursday, October 14, 2021

We're gonna go to space, kid

There, feat for quantum leap Because space is hot and deep And we follow giant footprints As we fall in, falling like the twins Through Saturn's holy rings And if they can't hold us, where it's gonna end up Anybody knows

Wasted, there's nothing gonna ace this

And we're gonna go to space, kid

'Cause I'm leaving with an astronaut

~~ “Astronaut” by Duran Duran

In a stroke of PR genius, Jeff Bezos asked 90-year-old William Shatner to join the latest flight of the Blue Origin spacecraft.

Millions watched “Captain Kirk” finally make a trip to space. He’s now an astronaut for real, although when asked about that, he demurred, saying, “Maybe with a small A. Followed by two S’s.” (I thought that was funny!)

What was truly remarkable was after they landed safely and he tried to articulate how it made him feel. Those of us with an introspective bent understood completely his awe, his difficulty at describing how profoundly it touched him. Who knew that Bill Shatner could be so philosophical? 

He related it to how precious and fragile our Earth is and how we need to take care of her. He wished everyone could have that experience in order to see that. As one tends to do as one gets older (and he’s got a good 30 years on me!), he looked at our atmosphere and saw light and lightness and LIFE, and then gazed into the blackness of space and wondered if that was what death was like. 

I’m not ashamed to admit that it made me cry and I know I’m not the only one. Seeing this typically cocky actor try to explain his profound feelings made so many of us feel his awe and joy. It was apparently a life-changing moment for him and we all experienced his epiphany vicariously. I’ve had the occasional epiphany myself and I know that it can be life-altering. I loved it that he felt that, even at the age of 90. 

It was also special for me because from the time I was in high school, watching “Star Trek” reruns when I got home from school, I loved the show. It still means a lot to me and I’m still a fan. We watch all the shows currently out, always go to see a new Trek movie in the theater, and even still watch an episode of the original series (it will always be my favorite). We’ve even gone to several Trek exhibits over the years.

I’ve written before that “Star Trek” taught me about inclusion and helped me realize that it was important to learn about other cultures. That we don’t always need to fear “the Other.” It also gave me a love of science because rather than the bombastic Captain Kirk, I was drawn to Spock and to Bones. (Although Kirk had his own interesting tactics, including breaking the rules. I liked that, too. Kobayashi Maru, anyone?)

Some talking heads and other science types have said that these flights are the beginning of commercial space travel. I think they’re right. How many people got to fly on airplanes when they first started? It was a rich person’s game. Now they’re accessible to almost everyone. While it probably won’t happen in my remaining lifetime, I think we’ll start seeing more of this. 

There are many critics of these billionaires and their “vanity flights.” I get it. The amount of money they have is obscene. But just as with the NASA flights, unexpected and important scientific findings will come from these. I’m not sure it’s an entirely bad thing that these are being privately funded. Obviously, NASA is still vital to our country and scientific development, but if these people have the money and the passion, I say, “go for it.” 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to pack my bags tonight pre-flight. 

1 comment:

  1. Instead of floating, he stayed glued to the window. His interview afterwards was profound!.


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?