Preparing for the launch

I think that our house had the book, “You Will Go to the Moon” by Mae and Ira Freeman and illustrated by Robert Patterson, as soon as it was available in our town. I think it might have been part of a young readers book club to which our parents subscribed. At any rate, I can remember pouring over that book again and again. This was a decade before the first Apollo moon landing. As I remember it, the book was written for children the age of my younger brothers and I read it out loud to them several times. It was the illustrations that really got to me. There was a later edition published after the moon landing that had pictures that were more like the Apollo moon lander, but the version we had showed a remarkable amount of accuracy before the fact. In the book, the travelers ride in a 3-stage rocket to an orbiting space station where they board a lunar lander for the trip to the moon.

I thought that the book was a pretty good description of my future. I believed that there would be opportunities for regular citizens to visit the moon and perhaps other planets within my lifetime.

I got the timeline wrong. Even a trip to the edge of space is well beyond my mens and space tourism hasn’t started to take off yet. Today, however, I’ll be paying attention as two astronauts are launched toward the International Space Station aboard a SpaceX rocket. It will be the first launch of astronauts from US soil since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are experienced astronauts. Both have made two previous space flights. It is also the first launch of a private spacecraft carrying humans to the space station and marks the beginning of what may be the opening of space travel to more people.

SpaceX has already proven their mettle in the rocket business, successfully launching reusable rockets that return intact to landing sites instead of being destroyed by use as is the case with previous rocket designs. There have ben some spectacular failures of SpaceX equipment, but the system is now well tested. Probably the thing which has the biggest chance of changing the planned trip is the weather. There are some thunder storms closing in on Florida and they may be a factor for this afternoon’s scheduled launch.

The worldwide coronavirus pandemic has meant that extra precautions had to be taken to make sure that the virus didn’t hitch a ride into space. The astronauts have been quarantined longer than any previous space team. The stringent procedures are all part of the many details that are a part of this revolutionary mission.

There is plenty of human interest in he story. Of course there is the story of Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX. He has previously started the company that became PayPal and the electric car company Tesla. He makes no bones about the fact that he believes that human colonization of other planets is one of his goals. The sometimes controversial figure has garnered a lot of press over the years.

Then there is the fact that both of the astronauts are married to astronauts. Perhaps no previous space mission has had families who better understand the mission their partners are undertaking.

Everything is innovative about the launch. Even the space suits that the astronauts will wear are unique in their design. NASA by partnering with a private company is signaling the opening of a new chapter in space exploration.

The Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon spacecraft will lift off from Pad 39A, where the Apollo 11 started its journey back in 1969.

Thinking back I remember how important books were to me when I was a child growing up. I was fascinated by the US space program and followed it closely. The children’s book about travel to the moon soon gave way to adult literature. I have two copies of “We Seven” the story of the first US Astronauts on my bookshelf because I owned a copy before my father’s copy was passed down to me. Those books are in a short section of my library that is just to the left of my desk and starts with books about Lindbergh and continues through the books on space travel. I’m trying to sort my books and pass on many of them. Weeding out duplicates is a simple part of the process, but I keep hesitating when it comes to We Seven. I know it makes no sense to keep both copies and my father’s copy is the one to keep, still I’m not sure what will happen when it comes time to slip the books into boxes. There are a few extravagances in my life that are irrational. This might be one of them.

It makes me wish we had kept our copy of “You Will Go to the Moon.” I don’t know what became of that book.

Commercial aviation opened up flight to the general public and it seems quite possible that commercial space travel will one day open up space flight to more and more everyday people. Though it now seems that it is unlikely that I will ever travel into space, it seems quite possible that my grandchildren will one day make trips into space. I hope that part of their learning activities and home schooling today will include a look at the SpaceX launch. It may be a pivotal event in the story of human travel.

For now, the opportunity to lift our eyes to the sky and think about the future is a genuine gift in times when we have been so preoccupied with all of the concerns of the pandemic. We need a bit of a diversion. We need a good book to pour over.

Godspeed Bob and Doug. May your journey be safe. Thank you for making history. Thank you for helping us all stretch our imaginations and turn our eyes towards the sky.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!