What in the world
Remember how, when we were little kids, many of us wanted to grow up to become astronauts? Then life happens and safer, earthborne options seem more obtainable: law school, nursing, teaching, engineering…stand-up comedy.
Let me tell you, I’ve never felt more envious of a career choice than when I watched veteran astronauts Bob Behnken and Commander Doug Hurley aboard Elon Musk’s 1st Crew Dragon Endeavour lifting off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week. Not just because it’s been 9 years since the U.S. Shuttle fleet closed up shop, and not just because the Endeavour slid successfully into a dock in the International Space Center 19 hours later, but because they managed to get the hell out of here for a while.
While the rest of us watch the news between our fingers and plead, ’Stop the earth, I want to get off,’ Behnken and Hurley actually did, taking us along with them, if you were watching, filming the curve of the planet (sorry, flat-earthers) and describing when they were passing over Saudi Arabia and later, Japan, as they flew at 17,500 mph.
38 years ago, we saw the first photo of the entire Earth, the famous ‘Blue Marble’ shot taken from space by astronaut Harrison Schmitt, part of the Apollo 17 crew on their way for NASA’s final mission to the moon. The sun being behind them made the photograph possible and it is indeed spectacular. Viewed from the distance in which they traveled, it’s difficult to believe anything chaotic or egregious could ever be happening upon such a serene sphere. The blue of the oceans are mesmerizing and surely crystal clear, the cap of ice which was Antarctica, massive. A perfectly balanced, suspended orb.
But the very first glimpse of our world was taken Christmas Eve, 1968, by Apollo 8 Astronaut Bill Anders as he and his crew orbited the moon. Aptly named ‘Earthrise,’ we see our home ascending on the far side of the moon in all her glory.
The late, great American Astronomer, Carl Sagan put it best: “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. Every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
I remain tremendously grateful to the men and women who, with enormous courage, take such risks to explore the heavens above and send us back the exquisite images to remind us all of the gift of our ‘fragile island home’ and our standing in the universe. Thank you for allowing many of us to once again embrace our childhood dreams as we long to join you…
‘Second star on the right and straight on till morning…’