So The Boy’s big sixth grade field trip, which was canceled at the end of March, was supposed to be Space Camp. He looked forward to it since before he even began sixth grade. Literally the second he found out about the possibility of the field trip. It was going to be J’s first time as a field trip chaperone, and I honestly believe one of the reasons The Boy so anticipated that field trip was because he wanted to show off his dad. J is an engineer and he’s very bright and calm and brave and resourceful. He could have been an astronaut. But I think he’d have been STELLAR at mission control for NASA.
But the Space Camp mission got scrubbed.
So in lieu of Space Camp (which we’re so going to take The Boy to in the future, but it won’t be the same, because he won’t be able to show his friends his Could Have Worked For NASA For Sure Dad), we’ve been watching all the educational programming we can find about space.
Hidden Figures, The Right Stuff, every documentary we could find about NASA and the space program. And of course, Apollo 13.
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of this harrowing space flight that was supposed to be a moon walking mission but got changed due to unforeseen emergency. My brain connects weird things, but I don’t think it takes my weird brain to make connections here.
While watching this film, it amazed me the dedication and urgency and unity it took from so many people to get those three astronauts safely back to Earth. I’ve seen the film several times, and the first time I saw it, I didn’t know J, but every time I’ve seen it since we met, that scene (that really happened by the way…this is a nonfictional story about Americans listening to scientific experts and using science to solve complex unexpected problems and save lives) where the engineers have to figure out how to literally get a square peg into a round hole to scrub the carbon dioxide from the module to keep the astronauts alive always makes me imagine J doing that. He’s great at that. He’s great at looking at what he has and making decisions and being creative and resourceful but ACCURATE to get the best results he can and solve problems. He would have been that lead astronaut. He’d have made the square peg fit into the round hole.
But watching this movie with J and The Boy did more this time than make me get all starry eyed romantic about my husband and his quick wittedness and steadfastness in hard times and his advanced problem solving skills. It made me think about how rapidly and nearly completely my country has changed in 50 years.
50 years ago, all of NASA worked together from assembly line parts workers to high level engineers and fellow astronauts to get those three astronauts home safely. And all of America and nearly all if not all of the informed world was sending good energy to those astronauts and all the people who were working so hard to help them. Dedication. Urgency. Unity. They didn’t care about scrubbing the moon mission. They cared about the astronauts and their families and friends and the people at NASA tirelessly working to bring them home. They cared about saving lives. THREE lives. And that SHOULD have been their priority and focus. And I think ‘obviously’ after that sentence, but when I look at my country now, today, and I see people protesting and going against public health official advisory and arguing that millions of lost lives are worth it for a restored sense of normalcy…to complete some arbitrary missions…I think…wow. I’m glad we flew moon missions before my time. I wasn’t alive in 1970. Neither was J. The country and world we’ve always lived in has been one where 1. men walked on the moon and 2. men had to scrub a mission to walk on the moon after disaster and made it home safely because of cooperation and determination.
And the country we live in now wouldn’t care.
“It’s only three guys. Let them die. Especially since they didn’t make it to the moon like they were scheduled to and supposed to.”
I can hear that coming from public figures now in my head, as well as my neighbors and probably some folks I went to high school with and some of my family members.
Watching Apollo 13 as a replacement for Space Camp has been an emotional ride. The connections I’m drawing are sobering and sad. But that spark of optimism I have in me isn’t dead. I still have hope that my country can return to the place that united to accomplish great things and pull together to solve complicated, pressing problems and thwart and avert major disaster and loss of life. A country that VALUES *every* life. Three astronauts or millions of school kids and nurses and warehouse and grocery store workers and teachers and retirees and sports fans.
Please stay home if you can.
Wash your hands.
Please find any way you can to help someone else. Be inspired by Apollo 13, maybe. Be dedicated. Have urgency. Find unity. Listen to scientific experts and believe what they say. They want us all to make it back to our regular lives safely. We shouldn’t care about scrubbing some missions like field trips and hair appointments and baseball games. ❤
Take care of each other. Let’s stay safe.