The more I think about the space shuttle program ending, the sadder I am about it.
When I was little, I dreamed about going to space. I wanted to be an astronaut. I wanted to set foot on the moon. And if I couldn’t do that, I wanted to help and support those who did. The girl who gave up on being an astronaut so that she could, instead, be a writer, did so because she believed not just in the sky but in the fictions that compelled us upward and outward.
She thought she could get a PR internship with NASA, or maybe work at JPL for a summer (she didn’t have a car, but Pasadena wasn’t so far away). She wanted nothing quite so much as to be at the Cape one day to see a shuttle take off. She wanted to have been a teen in the sixties, to know the moon landing as memory rather than history, but barring that she wanted the chance to make memories like that one, only her own. She wanted to sit in a room crowded with friends and family, everyone’s eyes on the TV screen as some new pathmaker set foot on some new world.
She wanted—I wanted—to see these craft in use. A ship that can’t sail is just as sad as a violin that no one ever plays. I’ll go see the OV101 at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum, once it’s been installed there, but it won’t be the same. It won’t be in flight.
I wonder if the shuttle is sad, too. It won’t feel vacuum again, won’t delight in weightlessness, won’t scream through the sky on trails of fire, leaping right out of this world toward the next one. It won’t ever sail its personal sea again. It will lie, like a beached whale, or like a meteorite, a long way from home.