My late father looked forward to welcoming the 21st century.
He didn’t make it, falling about 20 years short of his goal.
Accordingly, I have my own life goal. It is to welcome the launch of the first manned mission to Mars — or to wherever the Orion spacecraft is going to take human beings.
NASA launched an unmanned Orion craft from Florida the other day. It flew two orbits around Earth and then splashed down successfully in the Pacific Ocean. I found myself holding my breath as the Delta rocket lifted off in that agonizingly slow climb off the launch pad — reminiscent of the Saturn V rockets that took Apollo astronauts to the moon.
So, the first launch was a success.
What now? NASA will continue its research and will eventually send humans into Earth orbit aboard the Orion, perhaps within the next three years or so.
They’ll perform various tests on Orion to ensure that its gadgets work correctly. Once they’ve made that determination, they’ll prepare to send astronauts into deep space.
I’m not talking a mere quarter-million miles, the distance to the moon.
Oh no. I’m talking several tens of millions of miles to Mars, or perhaps to Jupiter to explore one of the giant planet’s moons. The missions will last many months.
I so badly want to be around to watch those missions blast off. I want to relive the thrill that the Mercury and Gemini missions would bring to my mother and me as we’d awake in the wee hours and wait through interminable delays and mission “scrubs.” Technical glitches would develop. Then it would be the weather. Then more glitches. But they’d launch eventually and Mom and I would cheer the astronauts as they soared into orbit.
The Orion launch the other morning whetted my appetite.
After all, exploration is what human beings do.