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Fill up the Truck or Travel to Space?
Like most people, I occasionally wish I were rich. Such occasions include Mortgage Is Due Day, Insurance Premium Eve and, of course, Halloween, also known as the day I buy an entire tank of gas for the truck (assuming I can get a loan).
But I wish I were rich right this minute so I could get a ride on Sir Richard Branson's space jitney. From what I read, it's getting closer and closer to the time when we humans (well, those of us with the dough) will be able to visit space without having to become astronauts.
For only $200,000 - A pittance! A mere bag of shells! - You'll get a two-hour flight that includes five, count 'em five, minutes of weightlessness as the flight pattern peaks, 62 miles above the planet.
Speaking of wishes, you have no idea how many times I've wished to do that.
Part of it, I suppose, comes from the fact that I was in early elementary school when the United States' space program was, so to speak, getting off the ground. Every kid I knew was space crazy. We followed the exploits of the Mercury astronauts like they were ball players. I even got into raging argument once with a kid named Roger who said it was wrong for John Glenn to be my favorite astronaut because we were from Indiana, which meant my favorite astronaut had to be Gus Grissom. To think otherwise was disloyal, he said. I told him he was full of what we might politely call manure. My mother overheard and took great pains - mine, in the buttockular region - to make sure I did not use the word again, and I didn't. Well, not as long as she was in earshot.
Shortly afterward, Roger moved to Oakland, CA.
I assume he got a new astronaut.
Now, about this time, my dad was covering the space race for The Indianapolis News. He covered the Gemini series of launches, the one with the two-man capsule, and even took part in an impress-the-press version of astronaut training including a ride on the weightlessness-training plane, the fabled Vomit Comet.
I still have photos of him floating around the cabin, arms and feet splayed out, Rolleiflex camera trying to drift away, with a look on his face that says maybe this wasn't such a hot idea after all. That photo ran on the cover of The Chicago Tribune magazine, giving the greater Chicagoland area a very clear idea of what Pat Redmond looked like just before he hurled.
Well, ever since then, I've wanted to experience weightlessness for longer than the half-second you get when cresting a hill at 20 mph over the speed limit.
So there are two good reasons to ride Sir Richard’s space jitney. Which, as I mentioned before, requires a certain amount of richness that my bank account seems not to exhibit.
Wishing is not going to make it happen, though. I need to get busy. I need to be earning and saving so that one day I'll have the $200,000 to ride into space with the rich folks. I'll take my place among the few who have seen our Earth as it really is - a place without borders and politics, just a beautiful blue planet spinning in space. Two hundred grand? I can raise that.
I'll just have to make sure I don't spend everything on Fill Up The Truck Day.
© 2008 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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