Feb 2018 07

 

Some thoughts on SpaceX launching their Falcon Heavy rocket yesterday, culminating in sending a Tesla Roadster en route to an orbit around Mars.

Elon Musk brought fun back to space yesterday with the launch of Falcon Heavy.

Ya, fun. Remember when space was going to be fun? We were promised helpful robots, meals in a pill form, and tight white spandex onesies with a hip holster for your ray gun. Well it’s all back, baby. And yes, I wanted to wear a satin onesie.

For those of us old enough to remember, fun left space back in January of 1986 when the Space Shuttle ‘Challenger’ exploded. I remember being in school and our science teacher was walking the halls during the class change. Like bees buzzing, students were zipping all around Mr. Science Teacher was just staring straight ahead, stunned.

“Did you hear about the Space Shuttle?” he asked me.
Why me, when all these other students were around, I do not know. I think I got 40% in his class.

“No”, I said.
“It just exploded.”
And then he walked off, in a daze like that soldier at the beginning of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ who is carrying his own arm, unable to process the new reality.
This is how news travelled before the internet, btw. Actual talking to each other.

Later that day in that same teacher’s class, a TV on a 6 foot-high wheeled cart was brought into the room (yes, it was a colour TV you fucking ageists) and we watched the coverage the rest of the afternoon. Yes, the Space Shuttle had exploded. And yes, all the astronauts had died. Including one of the first civilians to go into space – a school teacher, Christa McAuliffe.

The fun of space exploration was over. From then on, space became what it should be regarded as – hostile to human existence. There’s a reason we’re on Earth. It’s because we can’t fucking exist in this solar system anywhere else for more than a minute, tops (supposedly you might live for about a an excruciating minute on Mars without a spacesuit before being put out of your misery).

Bye bye Captain Kirk and photon torpedoes. No more zipping over to the colony on the moon for an afternoon date with some green-skinned girl. Flash Gordon was relegated back to the pages of a comic book and that really bad movie with Topol but had the cool song by ‘Queen’ (‘Flash… AHHAHAHHAAAAAAA!) So long, Jawas – sending our regrets for not attending your space garage sale.

Anyhow, the point is that space and space exploration was suddenly dangerous. Yes, there have been many space accomplishments since then – more Space Shuttle missions and the launch of the International Space Station (conspiracy theories that it doesn’t exist, aside), the Hubble Space Telescope, and probes to other planets and moons in the solar system.

But none of it was regarded with the same wonder for my generation since that day. I don’t recall ever watching the launch of another rocket with the same optimism. I think anyone who saw the shuttle blow up was always afraid something could and would go wrong, as that downer Murphy said. I’m not sure I’ve ever looked up at the stars since then and thought ‘maybe someday… maybe anything is possible…’

Until now.

Elon Musk launched a fucking red convertible into space yesterday. With a Spaceman at the wheel. And blasting on the stereo? ‘Space Oddity’ by Bowie.

Now that…

is fun.

I’ll have a size ‘Small’ men’s onesie, please.