Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jammies and the Moon

Went to Chicago for the weekend. Here's what happened....

Straight to the Adler Planetarium first. Never been there before. But I'd go again in a second. Beautiful building with gorgeous deco-style architecture. Took my breath away, except for the too modern Office-Chic remodeling which has gone on inside to accommodate all of the new exhibits, cool as they are.

And one in particular was about as cool as anything ever gets for the 'monkey. First exhibit we went to was one designed for youngsters about the history of our manned space and moon explorations, but specifically based around the life and story of astronaut Jim Lovell. This was really, really, really, really incredible.

Why? Because though I knew it was there according to the brochure, knowing about something and experiencing it are very different things. After a few minutes of looking at the rather juvenile displays, I turned the corner to find something completely original Gemini space capsule.

Has your heart ever leapt into your mouth? Mine did when I proposed to my wife. And when I turned the corner on the Gemini capsule. "Wow" is probably the only word marginally sufficient to cover my emotions, because it expresses all of them at once. I walked around and around it, trying to shove my face through the glass. My heart was pounding. I was crying.

Last December I turned a corner at the Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis and almost touched my favorite piece of art on the planet. I didn't know it was there. I could have spent the entire day just standing there, staring staring staring. No reproduction I've seen has ever done it justice. The depth and vivacity of the colors are stunning. And it is huge!!! I didn't think I'd ever feel that way again until yesterday. standing within inches of a Gemini capsule trumped the Max Ernst a hundred-fold at least.

After walking in circles for a while, I sat with the family on the conveniently placed benches (for watching a short film about Lovell's Gemini flight which was surprisingly good). The whole time, though, I kept looking back at the capsule. Wow. Wow. Wow.

I've been in love with NASA and our space program my entire life. Memories of Apollo missions are among my earliest. I remember my mom making me take a nap in the middle of the afternoon, jammies and everything, but I would only do it after watching another Saturn V blast off from the Cape. My breath just caught writing about it. My eyes are watery. My heart is almost aching.

Why aren't we on the moon now? Why haven't we reached Mars? Why aren't we exploring the asteroids? For chrissakes, it's 2008!!! We need to move on, to explore, to leave this planet. It's a great place, a wonderful starting point, kids - but we gotta move! We're made for this. If we want to survive, space is the place. We're here to go. And we have to go now.

More on the weekend tomorrow...

Now playing: Tangerine Dream - Invisible Limits
via FoxyTunes

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