herb

Astronaut Andrew Oliver was ready for Saturday's SpaceX launch.

I got tears. It’s dumb, I know. I ought to grow up, get a grip and realize how serious everything else is right now.

I do, I have and I will unless I time tunnel myself to the land of happy, good and plenty.

However, until then, wasn’t that SpaceX launch on Saturday thrilling? While not everybody may agree on its importance and relevance, we needed a win, something we as Americans could agree on. For a few minutes, anybody who watched it not only could forget their troubles but remember rockets and previous launches.

Mark, that means you. Mark is my oldest brother and it’s a wonder he didn’t end up in rocket prison or torch the Murfins' house across the street with one of his homemade rockets. Unlike SpaceX’s reusable, perfect landing rockets, Mark’s — gunpowder packed in straws — weren’t coming back as they whistled across the sky heading for a roof, a dry field or a munitions dump.

***

Think of everything to like about a rocket launch. If the minute-and-a-half countdown doesn’t whet your appetite and drive you onto your rocket-loving toes, then there is the 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, which sounds like poetry every time.

“Absolutely nail-biting,” the BBC reporter described. With her English accent, she could have been describing an Agatha Christie novel she’d just read.

The countdown is followed by the pleasure of the names and technical descriptions that abound in the absolute perfect play-by-play description.

“Falcon Nine (great name) is armed for launch.” Armed? This is serious and fun.

“What are these astronauts thinking?” Thinking? Maybe that they should have used the men’s room one more time because they’re half excited out of their minds.

“Ignition, liftoff. Go NASA. Go, Bob and Doug. Godspeed.” Chills, excitement and maybe sheer terror.

“America has launched.” Yes, we have. Not just Bob and Doug. All of us.

“Look at them go.” How could we not? There is no better TV and given what’s on Netflix and Hulu right now, that’s saying something.

“Throttling down to get ready for the period of maximum dynamic pressure.” Now, I know what’s wrong with us. We’ve never achieved maximum dynamic pressure. We may have come close, but at the last moment, we lost a booster rocket.

“Reports say all systems are a go.” When was the last time somebody described your life like that? How about never?

“We’ve exceeded Mach 1 on the Falcon 9.” Then, when you thought it couldn't get any better, the announcer says, “Throttling back up to full power through Max Q.”

“Bob and Doug are pulling about 2.3 Gs and they are going 1,500 mph.” Or about 1,000 faster mph than the United flight to Phoenix.

“They’ve achieved Mvac engine chill.” If they haven’t, we have.

“They are getting good call-outs.” You bet they are. We’re talking about Bob, Doug and Elon here, not three guys at the Chat & Chew.

“The ground is shaking all around,” said a BBC reporter.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. My whole body is vibrating. What an incredible privilege.”

“Incredible privilege.” That made me think about the total solar eclipse a few years ago. Two minutes that make you forget the million minutes before.

“We never tire of seeing the earth from that perspective,” said the BBC reporter.

No, we don’t. Everything looks peaceful and green and as if we are all in this together no matter how hard we are pulling apart.

Maybe that’s the attraction. The promise. We’ve made a mess here. Maybe we can do better up there.

***

“The night before the launch, Andrew slept in his space pajamas,” Katie wrote. “Andrew made sure his space suit was out for the next morning. He kept his space suit on all day, after the launch. The next morning, when they were to dock at the space station, Andrew put out my black PJs for me to wear instead of clothes since they were "dark like space."

“He wore his space suit. He had lots of questions. Thank goodness for that launch this weekend in the midst of all the negativity in the world right now.”

Nothing got solved except maybe for a moment, we had fun. We were sitting next to Bob and Doug. We were looking back at the earth that was so peaceful and green.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.

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