Rocketry Club

From BIUL II.

Kidding and perversity aside, we used to have “rocketry club” at school. Well, I didn’t; it was all done away with by the time I reached seventh grade. Kids could care less about the excitement of space and walking on the moon now.

Next time you see the moon, think; men have walked on it. Guys like me used to dream about looking up from the surface of the moon and seeing Earth, far away, like a glass ball in the void. In second grade, I gazed for so long at a poster of the solar system, the teacher had it taken down. I would look at Jupiter or Saturn, and daydream about the experience of approaching such a massive celestial body. How would that feel?

Every so often, Hasbro releases a Transformer that looks like a space shuttle, or rocket. Generally, the toy is comprised of the same white plastic used for models of the shuttle, during the “space exploration boom” that was violently ended by the Challenger explosion. The people who claim conspiracies in Stanley Kubrick films related to the space program don’t realize that America in the 1970s had space fever. The idea that a child would have a hand-knitted “Apollo 11” sweater at the time is completely believable for the period.

If there is a conspiracy, it’s the one to reduce America’s love for space travel systematically, over three decades. Movies about space travel in the 21st century inevitably end in tragedy and equipment failure. The imagination of the concept is subsumed by dramatic emotional manipulation. Sandra Bullock plays an astronaut, as a panicked woman who would never pass muster for the job in a million years. Have you ever noticed the way the public treats Buzz Aldrin?

Not only has he walked on the moon, he’s met Optimus Prime.

Take the rarest, most impossible feat you’ve accomplished in your lifetime. You feel superior to those who can’t or haven’t done it, right? Well, Buzz Aldrin is one of a handful of men who has walked on soil not of this earth. He went off-world and came back to tell the tale. That’s an indisputable legend. That’s why he cold-cocks guys who tease him. He is an ascended being. 

Oh, he was a jerk to you? He’s walked on the moon. You disagree with an opinion of his? He’s walked on the moon. We look like protoplasm to the likes of Buzz Aldrin.

Remember that woman astronaut who put on a diaper and drove cross-country to do a kidnapping? She once operated the robotic arms on the space shuttle Discovery and the International Space Station. She cracked, which is exactly what happens when you aren’t completely prepared for space. This is why almost nobody makes it to launch. Space is death in literally all directions. Russia’s lunar program involved shoving people or dogs into Sputniks and chucking them into the great black beyond. They all died, in agony, alone. These realities make it easy to lose your mind riding a rocket.

I’m legally blind with corrective lenses, and I have crippling panic attacks. I can only dream about going into space. Maybe that’s better. The general public attitude towards NASA breaks my heart. A man drove a remote-control vehicle on Mars, and the media drove him to tears because his shirt had a collage of 1960s Playboy covers on it. That’s disgusting in its ignorance. Simply put; everyone who was envious of that man did whatever possible to break him down. So they had to harp that his shirt was covered with now-elderly women in modest bathing attire.

But women screaming in the streets, dressed up like giant vaginas; that’s okay, right? That behavior has a purpose in our lives, doesn’t it? Shrieking about pussies is a terrific way to inspire children to reach for the stars.

There’s your problem. Nothing inspires children to reach for the stars. Not even Star Wars, and believe me, it used to, until about five years ago. Attack of the Clones had an incredible asteroid belt scene. I’ve been fantasizing about the rocky belt between Mars and Jupiter since my pre-teens. I’ve watched that scene a hundred times. In IMAX, it was nonpareil. The sound made the seats vibrate.

The most inspirational film about space travel since The Right Stuff in 1983 is 2011’s Dark of the Moon. In the first eight minutes, you can actually feel the joy and excitement we used to experience, dreaming of rockets to the moon.

I have many fond memories of summers in the Florida Keys with my cousins, launching Estes rockets in the driveway. They would fly to incredible heights, then deploy a small parachute and float to the ground. I didn’t like the fact that the rocket would be destroyed and smelly on re-entry. It seemed like a lot of wasted effort, to paint and apply decals to a rocket that would then be useless after one launch.

But this was the point. We’d go back to the hobby store, gaze at the endless racks of rocketry kits, and select another one. Next afternoon we’d launch again. It was just like the beginning of Davey & Goliath, without as much Lutheran symbology. It was magical, wonderful and pure.

It hurts me deep inside to see that light leave the eyes of this world.

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