Saturday, December 3, 2016

Shinola's Running Buddy

I was in third grade, Mrs. Hilge's class (3B), when astronaut Alan Shepard was launched into (near) space. I was still a kid so adults and their nuances about sub-orbital flight were distinctions without difference in my book. Outer space was the place and it was black and dark from where I sat.

I do sort of remember my mom having a conversation with a nun at the school because when I was asked what I was most worried about as Shepard was blasting off, I offered 'how fast his heart must be beating.' Turns out, in Catholic school, the answer we were looking for, Jim, was 'his soul.' Two additional weeks in Purgatory for me and friend, assuming I had one.

I loved space flight-had a whole collection of the Tom Swift adventures and understood they weren't real, but really wanted to believe they were. For a long time (bear in mind I was in 3rd grade, right) I drank Tang because... well, because the astronauts, darn it!

I've since read where even the low-end of consumer smartphones today have more computing power than NASA had for most of the Space Race. Considering I have trouble getting my smartphone to even work as a phone, I'll treat the foreplay as read on the computational power currently being harnessed so I can send pictures of my breakfast to someone who sends me cat memes.

It never occurred to me space travel was dangerous, though in retrospect I should concede sitting atop an Atlas rocket crammed with some kind of fuel that someone basically set afire in the belief that the thrusting exhaust would push the whole kit and kaboodle skyward and away from the bounds of gravity is quaint and just a bit na├»ve. As long as somebody knew how to do it, I never lost any sleep about it.

Which means half a century later, I'm not qualified to address NASA's "Space Poop Challenge" (I think you should hear some echo when you read that; I did when I typed it, sort of like the Muppet Show's "Pigs in Space" (but without the pigs)).

And you thought I was making that Challenge stuff up. This is some serious shi---stuff that NASA is concerned about. And with good reason. If we're going to colonize the universe we need to have secure sources of input and output, so to speak, for every traveler. There are no sightings yet reported of gas stations with clean bathrooms between here and Mars.

I mean, we all know where a bear goes to answer the call of nature or if the Pope is Catholic. And at least one of us now knows better than to ever get those two confused. Ever.
-bill kenny  


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