Who would’ve ever thunk it … Captain Kirk finally got blasted into outer space!
I was a teenager the summer we watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, eight years after President Kennedy had announced we were going to do that.
It seemed like a ridiculous, unattainable goal to a country still healing after 2 world wars and Korea and Vietnam and all the upheaval and social unrest that followed. I was just a kid and didn’t pay much attention to things like that, but looking backwards really gives another perspective …
When Star Trek came on the scene, it surely must have breathed some hope into our collective hearts, because it was such a contrast to our daily lives. Every day we lived with the Cold War and civil rights demonstrations and who might push the button first and what to do when the sirens sounded … yet here was this picture of what a possible future might look like. Forget the technology and space travel … men and women of different races living and working side-by-side for their common benefit … it was tantalizing to consider! The very problems we were tackling daily, solved for an hour every Friday night!
Of course this naïve teenage dreamer was mostly intrigued with the thought of space travel, ‘cause of course the people got along … isn’t that the way the we’re supposed to be? And what dreamer wouldn’t want to actually visit the stars instead of merely talking about them?
The final episode of the original Star Trek series aired just a month or so before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. And suddenly, even the most impossible things seemed possible. It was just the beginning for an intrigued public and we were all glued to our televisions for every rocket launch. Dreamers like me wanted to flip on the TV and savor the fruits of all the labor the space and science doers were pouring into the space program. But that kind of labor and research is slow and tedious and there are very long stretches when there’s nothing for them to show us.
So most of us just kind of quit watching, although we’ve certainly been enjoying the amazing technology that’s come out of it all. As long as those satellites keep beaming our internet and phone signals down, we don’t care how long the space and science doers take. Just keep us online so we can rag on the flat earthers and GPS our way around town to find that good eating spot.
When I heard the announcement that William Shatner was going up … well, hot dog! And, yeah, I know it’s just a publicity stunt … and I’ll admit it’s kind of hokey … but, hey, it’s James T. Kirk, for crying out loud! How cool is that?!
For all you younger ones out there reading this who have been surrounded by all this technology since birth, you might get a kick out of hearing how this experience was for an older lady who was using a slide rule in high school. Or you might just think I’m bonkers …
I hadn’t watched a rocket launch since probably the early 80’s. Still, I knew what to expect: load them all up into the capsule, launch the rocket, bring them back. It was the same as 40 years ago, but it was also very different ...
When the good captain and his crew boarded the capsule, I thought, Oh! I suppose they’ll put on their suits and helmets when they’re inside … they’re leaving the atmosphere … they have to have suits … right?
Nope. They never put on any bulky suits or helmets.
Then there was the capsule itself. My out-of-touch brain thinks, Oh … big, bulky, lots of gadgets all over, and – to view the most incredible sight that only a handful of humans have ever seen – a tiny little portal about the size of your face.
Nope. Each passenger sat in their own seat in front of what I can only describe as a picture window. I was so jealous!
My biggest surprise came when the booster separated from the capsule and came back down to earth. Well, those land and get retrieved in the ocean … right?
Nope. It came down out of the sky and parked itself on it’s own little landing pad, right out there in the desert. It was like watching Buck Rogers come to life! I have seen the same sight dozens of times in special effects in the movies. But this was real.
So now I was really looking forward to seeing how the capsule would land, because I knew it would be in the desert, too. But it had people on board … no problem … release the parachutes to slow it down … a bit of a thud when it hit the ground, but it’s upright and everyone inside is safe and comfortable. Personnel arrive on the scene, put a ramp in place, open the hatch and the crew disembarks … back home again! Like they’d just returned from a trip to the store!
I was awe struck.
Four dreamers in a small pod experiencing the dream of a lifetime.
And, back on the ground, making the dream come true, is who knows how many countless doers, creating and operating all of the technology and making the dream happen.
Magic happens when dreamers and doers stop separating and start collaborating! We’re created to compliment and assist one another. We’re created to do great things.
But reality rears its head even here. Reality that reminds us of our actual status in the order of things. Reality that keeps us from getting the big head and keeps us humble.
We launch our rockets and machines up into the air and say we’ve been to outer space. This is how Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson explains what we’re calling “outer space”:
If the earth was the size of a basketball, and we measured up from the surface of the ball, proportionately, the same distance we’re launching our machines, we’d be about an eighth of an inch off the surface!
So back to work, all you dreamers and doers … we’ve got a ways to go!