Sunday, July 10, 2011

News Flash and Mini-Mini Review

Despite threatening weather, NASA's 135th and final shuttle launch took place at 11:26 am on Friday.

That's right.

Atlantis's lift-off marked the end of the shuttle program.

It's kind-of exciting and kind-of sad. I mean, it's time for space scientists and engineers to move on and develop better, more efficient means of space travel, and that's a good thing. But it's also the end of an chapter in space exploration, and change is often bittersweet. After this flight, until new means are developed, US astronauts will hitch rides to the space station on Russian capsules.*

I was at work on Friday, so I didn't get to view the launch, but over the years, I've watched many on TV. I still find them thrilling, moving even. The thought of astronauts, people, fellow human beings, boarding a shuttle and, by means of a controlled explosion, departing from our planet to explore beyond makes the hair on my arms stand up and chokes me up a little.

As we wished the crew of Atlantis "godspeed" on Friday, my mind wandered from real life to fiction and Beth Revis's Across the Universe, whose characters make an epic journey through time and space aboard the spaceship Godspeed. (How's that for an awkward and forced transition? But it really did make me think of the book.)

Across the Universe is a quick read with an intriguing concept, a good mystery, and a little romance too. It raises thought-provoking ethical questions, but manages to maintain a lightness at the same time. It'd make a great beach or poolside read for you this summer! Check it out.

As a child, I wanted to be an astronaut. Then I learned how much math was involved, and I revised those plans. I'd still love to go, though. To experience weightlessness. To be surrounded by starry brilliance. To stand on the moon and watch the earth rise.

Edgar Mitchell walked on the moon in 1971. His description of the experience has captured my imagination since I first came across it 10 years ago.

"Suddenly from behind the rim of the moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to fully realize this is Earth . . . home."

So...Did you watch the launch? What thrills you about space travel? Have you read Across the Universe?

*How ironic is that! And how far have we (Russia and USA) come since the space race of the 1950s that we can now work together!

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