Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Bday USA - Our first Blast Off

Today, NASA put a tent up right outside the Moffet Air Base so that NASA employees and the public could watch the space shuttle launch. A friend who works at NASA told us about it. We got up today and wondered what to do. Hmmn. At 10 AM was a parade in Redwood City, 11:30 was the kid's parade in Menlo Park where you could ride your bike with the other kids, , and at ... lemme see ... 12:30 or so was the launch. This is what we did. We had breakfast and hung out at home. At noon, my husband got into the shower. I did not harm him. I snarled a bit, and mentioned, using my family's patented "waspy clenched jaw" approach, that the shuttle was blasting off in THIRTY DAMN MINUTES AND HE BETTER HURRY. He did. Shower finished at 12:15. My son and I were dressed, and we finally got dad out of there at about 12:20. I personally have lost years of my life because I married someone with this particular style of living life. Shall we say, on the edge? We drove out and get onto the freeway. Yes, it's a freeway drive. Got there at exactly 12:30. Did I mention that the shuttle blastoff was at 12:38? But we didn't know that, actually. I think our interaction was: "Doesn't the shuttle blast off at 12:30? Honey, it's a blast-off. Those happen on TIME. We need to be there!" [insert chart of wife's blood pressure rising here] Response: "Nope, it's not 12:30. It's some other number." Brilliant, huh? Aargh. The next forty years should be a real learning and growing experience. But I digress. We walked in, and ... it was perfect. It was a lovely tent. There were about 150 people there, maybe more. There was a curtained-off area that was full, where a real, live astronaut was talking with people, surrounded by three large screens. For the rest of us, there were about five more screens, all over the place. There was a really neato cool 10-foot long model of the space shuttle, which we pointed out to my squirmy son. There was a totally nifty real "insides area" of the space station, including the vaunted frog egg experiment which a profoundly didactic woman managed to explain to us at amazingly great length, considering the fact that we only had 7.5 minutes to blast off. My son interrupted her to tell her his version of reality, but I picked him up to go and look at mission control and the launch on TV. So different from when I was a kid, but so similar. I remember watching this stuff on little tiny TV sets and now here it is on a big, six-foot screen. It's not funky little module now, either. It's a sleek, beautiful little airplaney-looking thing, that looks a lot like one of the Star Wars robots, if you consider the finish. I looked at my son. He seemed a bit nonplussed. Aren't little boys supposed to get stars in their eyes and try to salute or something when they are exposed to things like this? Important things? Cool things? Positive things that the whole country is proud of (rare though they are in today's nasty climate?) Still, he fidgeted. Until suddenly he stopped and looked around him. "Twelve, Eleven, Ten ..." The whole building had begun to count down with the mission control man. This was little boy territory; why were the adults doing it? I pointed toward the screen, and we watched. It was a wonderful experience, being in a room with all of those people who were fans of our country and of what we'd made and what we were doing. And mommy's a bit of a softy. "Three, Two, One, and we have blast off." He watched while the giant rockets left the earth, taking the beautiful little shuttle with them. And he listened while the entire crowd broke into loud, enthusiastic applause. We live in the Silicon Valley, surrounded by "thing-makers." The space shuttle is one of the coolest, highest-profile engineering projects around, and we thank the entire team for making it work. Wonderful to see such a great project in action. Thank you for the tent, NASA. It was way cool. And happy birthday, America. May that shuttle of ours come down safely, and may our country traverse this difficult time and come out strong, and fair, good, and safe.

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