Friday, June 10, 2011

The Old Man and the Sea of Tranquility

All I can hear is my breathing…a regular in and out, echoing inside my helmet.  I’m just trying to be in the moment, breathing to relax.  Here I am, in a closet sized room, waiting to go someplace I have been wanting to go my whole life.
As a child, my family would watch the Apollo moon landing footage on our super 8 projector.  I must have made my dad rewind that film a million times.  The shadowy footage of Armstrong stepping out into the blinding sun of Mare Tranquilitatis is burned into my childhood memory lie some sort of surreal afterimage.  How many models of the Lunar Module did I build?  The space shuttle?  My life has been spent looking up at the stars through telescopes and the cockpits of planes. 
How many times did I study the lunar surface from afar, dreaming of stepping out into its magnificent desolation?  I have sacrificed so much to get here.  Time and money sure, but also family and relationships; this is a one way trip.  There is no going back.
But I’m okay with that.  Most people are consigned to a hole in the ground, or a discarded urn on someone’s shelf. I’m here, now…as alive as I have ever been.  There is a voice in my headset, “Ten seconds to vacuum, confirm seals shut and locked.”  My suit is pressurized. It is so much lighter than when I tried it on Earth side.  The green light goes red.  The hatch unlocks.
I slide the gold visor down, my heart is racing now.  The hatch dilates, and suddenly I am awash in raw sunlight.  Brighter than the brightest day, I stumble out of the modest confines of my ship.  More like a balloon inside a tinker toy frame, with rockets bolted on, it was designed to bring me here.  Another larger balloon was sent up months ago, now buried under several feet of lunar regolith (dirt to most folks) it will be my last home in this life.
I’m not really thinking about that now.  I am alive, for the time being, and I will enjoy my time here.  For a man well into his 70’s in lunar gravity I’m quite spry.  I bounce out across the surface; in one sixth earth gravity, I can really move.  The old boy still has it. Hoddy Toddy, and away we go.
I am bounding across the surface, nothing I have ever done before has felt this good.  The arthritis is still there, but it doesn’t matter.  I move with a song in my heart and a spring in my step.   I have a mile to go to the shelter, but I am making good time.  I am moving like I did when I was a kid, I’m not even winded.
I’m having so much fun, that I begin to forget where I am.  I slow down and come to a stop, just shy of a small rise.  I turn around, hopping in place.  I see my ship, sitting in the distance.  It glistens like a gold wrapped candy in the sunlight.  It was my way here, and she’ll sit in the sun now forever, her job done.  Rest in Peace baby, and thank you.
I turn back toward the “base”…that’s a formal term; it’s more like a double wide, more like “rednecks in space”.  But it’ll be home.  I look up.  The Earth, rising above the horizon.  That was home; everything and everyone I have ever known and heard of is back there.  That blue and white orb is the representation of all of humanity.  Our cradle, our home, our trap - if we don’t get going.  It’s beautiful.  Standing in the stunning sunlight of lunar day, looking back at all that I have left behind, I consider the future, and my new home.

1 comment:

  1. Bowie's "Major Tom"--somehow this reminds me of that--the dream of space.