I was 7 years old when the astronauts landed on the moon for the first time. I didn't care about space or world events or modern technology and so forth. I was seven.
The oldest boy from across the street was nine, I think. He loved the idea of space and everything that came with it. He would ask his mom to buy tang and space food sticks and whatever other promotions that might be related to space. He owned a telescope and spent time at the planetarium (he probably had a regular membership) and was absolutely intrigued with any current space-related discovery. He was obsessed. Still might be, I don't know.
Space and astrology never did much for me. I did like the star shows at the planetarium, but for the most part I found the whole space obsession somewhat boring and hated having to learn about space in school and studying the names and forms of each planet. There were nine at that time, because Pluto was considered a planet at that time - the coldest and smallest planet. Today I think it's just a rock may or may not be circling the solar system. Whatever. I don't care.
Yesterday we went to the big city of Roseburg as that is where the county's only cinema is located. It was Roland's birthday and he wanted to see "The Martian" which I really did enjoy, and it got me to thinking about the attitude I have always carried with me about the space program - which I don't actually view as uninteresting anymore. The adjectives I use now are: "scary", "crazy", and "mind-boggling". I used to say I was "scared FOR astronauts" which Jenna misinterpreted and would often tell others: "My mommy's scared OF astronauts" which isn't true. I'm afraid for them - for the unknown.
I've seen "Mission to Mars", "Gravity", "Space Cowboys", "Planet of the Apes" and some that really were based on actual events - like "Apollo 13". But it always leaves me with shaking my head not disbelieving any of "what could be" and basically the unknown - unknown to me anyway. Why would anybody willingly risk their lives like that? Why would anyone willingly go up into space?
In 1986 NASA would send a civilian in addition to the trained astronauts. The program was intense. Christa McAuliffe was not the only the only candidate in training. There were several who tried out for that coveted position. And as her students cheered, there were others who had been in camp with her who had wondered "Well why didn't I get picked?"
Space movie disasters always take place several years away from planet earth and not so close to take off. I was on my mission when the Challenger Shuttle was launched. How would the investigation have been different if the explosion had taken place two days later or the following week? Would we know what happened or would we think the communicators had gone faulty or what?
As we sat through "the Martian", for the first time ever, I saw the entire space program with new eyes. Certainly in 1957 or 1963 - the concept was so new, the idea was so unreal to most, that it was a dream to some to be the first to travel in space. It was exciting! Conquer the impossible.
From the late 50's to late 60's - what a turn of events. I'm now actually impressed with what was accomplished. To think we actually had that kind of technology half a century ago. That's actually quite amazing!
I still think those who enter the space program and willingly leave their friends and family for an adventure in space are nuts. But I seriously do have a better appreciation - though I still don't understand all the reasoning involved and why it's important. But I do use a GPS and am very grateful for the satellites that help guide me on the roads. So thank you NASA and for all of you dreamers that contributed to making space travel a reality and are willing to explore the unknown so that perhaps we may enjoy other benefits that I personally may have never thought of (like the GPS)