Now that you know how much I wanted to be an astronaut as a child, you can imagine how excited I was when I read this in our local newspaper: “Former astronaut Rusty Schweickart (the Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 9 – YES!) will speak about his NASA experiences, the future of space travel […] and other topics.”
I immediately got on the horn (that’s a phone for those of you too young to know) and talked my daughter into coming along. I could not talk her into taking a picture with Rusty and me though. Too weird, for her taste.
I honed in on two seats as far up front as possible and
shoved pointed Elyse toward them. A charge of great expectations coursed through my veins. This was a man who had actually fulfilled my dream of being shot far out into the universe – a man who had experienced space travel firsthand – a man who had seen our beautiful little spinning blue planet suspended as if by a thread in a galaxy rife with black holes, colorful nebulae, and billions and billions of red-shifting and blue-shifting stars.
I sat on the edge of my seat practically foaming at the mouth in anticipation of his wild adventure.
BUTT but ten minutes later, the presentation took an unexpected turn….
What about your real live experience in space? I thought. Did I miss something? Is someone staring you in a re-make of ASTEROIDS? I ran my fingers through my hair to reclaim some form of clarity. By the time my hands were back in my lap he had addressed the foundation he helped set up to detect careening asteroids with earth-bound trajectories!
Elyse told me to stop grumbling, someone might hear. She scanned the room. Observing the expression on people’s faces, she frowned. Sadly, most were not as disappointed as we were at the direction this presentation was taking. I searched the audience for a familiar face – one that could say, “Been there. Done that. Talk about your own experience Rusty!”
Alas, Bruce was not present.
And as the ten-year old still living inside me would say,
after that, his speech took the turn of a fart in a spacesuit.
It had all boiled down to donating to a project that would only become viable in about ten years time. That’s 2023 people! And at that point, this specialized camera-thingy would only be able to detect an asteroid should it be earth-bound from the direction of the sun. It could not divert it – and in the case of an actual asteroid hurtling towards us, diversion only means preventing it from hitting a populated area, not stopping it from hitting the planet altogether. He went on to say, that hitting the ocean would wreak even more havoc…
“Any Questions?” he asked at the end.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t fast enough. By the time my heart stopped racing with shock and outrage, it was too late. So, I’ll ask now –
At the rate we are going, will there even be a planet Earth worth saving in ten years? Take China’s Pearl River as one example, where blue jean dye has not only turned the water indigo, but has killed off and mutated the river’s fish and fauna, as well as people living nearby. Or the impact cutting down the Amazon Rainforest has on rainfall, not only locally, but all over the world. The overall amount of water on our planet has remained the same for two billion years. How much of it, today, in 2013, is still clean, potable, and life supporting? Are we using our knowledge wisely? Are we effectively reducing CO2 emissions? How much more plastic do our fish and wildlife need to ingest until they are driven to extinction – thereby putting us on the same path?
Oh, I could go on and on, but standing on a soapbox gets tiresome for everyone at some point. I will take this opportunity to say that I do still deeply appreciate, respect, and honor Rusty Schweickart – for his courage and determination – past and present. And I Thank You, Rusty Schweickart, for fortifying my resolve to plant my feet firmly in this world so that I may seek out new ways to do my part in cleaning up this beautiful and fragile planet. At least then, if an asteroid should come along and blow this place to smithereens, it will be an act of God, not humanity.
“Enjoy life’s journey, but leave no tracks,” is a long-standing indigenous principal. For me, when I am made aware of the consequences of my actions, it makes it easier to change my way of living: