8.30.2011

The Eagle Has Landed...In My Heart.

Now that I ride a bus for an hour and a half each way, I get to spend time reading.

But the past 3 weeks haven't felt like reading. They've felt like an afterschool job that I love. They've felt like intimate meetings with some of the most extraordinary minds who have ever developed themselves, for the greater good. They have felt like walking a mile in a great man's shoes.

I've been reading about SPACE.

More specifically, the U.S. space program, and not just the astronauts, whose stories are of course amazing but well known.  Instead, I've had the chance to read about the space program through the eyes of the directors, engineers, telemetry guys, guidance systems gurus, and even the security guard of the Mission Control Center.  Every single one of their stories makes it so real, and so powerful, and reading it has truly been a life changing experience. 

This morning, my 45 minutes on the bus corresponded perfectly with the 40 minutes that it took Mission Control to guide the Lunar Module from lunar orbit into descent, and onto the surface of the moon.  Reading each of the commands, hearing the voices of all 15 of the guys in Mission Control and the crew responding as they determine altitude and fuel quantity and the splendid but curt description of the surface of the moon as the astronauts seek out a landing site. You've just never read anything like it. 

This particular book, "Failure is Not an Option" is written by Gene Kranz, who was the flight director in Houston.  What I love about his writing style is that he writes to you as if you are intelligent, capable of keeping up with his descriptions of people and titles and timelines and unbelievably advanced engineering and physics.  He writes to the world as if just reading the book is a standing invitation to join his team. By the time you land on the moon with Apollo 11, you just get it. You see the extraordinary talent and courage it took not just to be the man on the moon, but the men and women who put him there. 

It is sad to me that I have had a hard time finding a friend who feels this way about the space program. Who doesn't see it as a waste of money and a trivial part of the political cold war game. I guess Gene Kranz is that friend, the guy who devoted his life to putting a man on the moon not for fun or for money or to beat the Russians, but because, as he so magnificently states, there is a draw to "accomplish some feat where the human factor makes it possible where technology, no matter how brilliant or advanced, cannot. We have slipped the surly bonds of Earth."  The moon landing, that moment, is one of the masterpieces of collective human genius and valor. 

I just can't recommend this book enough, and hope that someone will take me up on the offer to read it, just so I can have someone to talk to about one of the best bus rides of my life.


Another one of my favorite space moments: Ed White completing the first Extra Vehicular Activity in history.

2 comments:

Ball Lightning said...

wow what a surprise this was. i think this is the first time ive heard such an opinion. cool. =)

Karen said...

I'm supposed to keep this on the downlow (hence not writing this on your facebook page), but you know that Jordan wants to be an astronaut right? I'm totally down with the space program. :)

I might even have to read this book you speak of!

Did you see Neil Degrasse Tyson on Bill Maher? I think you'd enjoy this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKdaRcptVz8