By Brenda Clough
One of the reasons the American space program is so cool, is that everybody loves it. Everybody may not want to PAY for it, but everybody loves it. And this can be easily proven every time the public gets to participate in or view something like the last flight of the Discovery space shuttle from Florida to its new home at the Air and Space Annex in northern Virginia.
This happened yesterday, April 17, 2012, a work day. It was all over the news that the shuttle, perched on its 747 jet, would be flying over the region, so we all kept an eye on the news coverage and online updates. The flight from Florida took less time that planned, and so there was time for a good few circuits of the metro area. Everyone in our building piled out into the parking lot and waited to see it pass. I could see people up on the roofs of nearby buildings, and there was much anxious amateur discussion about cloud cover and flight approaches.
And then there it was! Huge and low and not terribly fast. We in the parking lot up set up a howl. Latecomers scurried out and cell phone cameras were hastily deployed. People with news feeds reported that it was going to go around, back downtown, and then come back again. So everyone continued to hang out, and traffic came to a dead halt on all the neighboring highways. Traffic reporters begged motorists to pull over, and not to bomb down the highway with their heads sticking out the side windows. My husband reports that everyone in his office tower in Ballston, VA, galloped back and forth to various windows, to glimpse it — they’re lucky the skyscraper didn’t start rocking. When it came around the second time we were able to watch it pass and turn, slowly making its final circuit to the landing approach. It was a partly cloudy day, but it flew into a shaft of sunshine and glittered, a manmade star.
But the incident that inspired this post? After the first pass, when we were standing outside in the spring sunshine waiting to see it a second time, one of the women from another office was chanting, “Come on, one more time! Please!” You understand? She was praying, aloud, to the space shuttle.
Human beings are a strange, illogical race –I did mention, about how we won’t pay for what we adore. But a lot of the time we recognize history when we see it.
My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out exclusively from Book View Press. I also have stories in Book View Cafe’s two steampunk anthologies, The Shadow Conspiracy and The Shadow Conspiracy II, as well as in BVC’s many other anthologies, including our latest, Beyond Grimm.