A curious feeling came over me this morning as I watched the television screen.
A rocket took off from a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla. It was carrying — on its maiden flight — the Orion spacecraft. The Delta rocket roared to life, spewing flame and roaring like a thousand freight trains, and then it lifted off slowwwwly into the sky.
I began muttering under my breath: Come on, come one, come on.
Then I realized something. I was smiling broadly, ear to ear. I was feeling a thrill similar to what I had watching astronauts blasting into space aboard their Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and space shuttle craft.
Hey, this was a big launch today.
Orion is being developed as the United States’s long-range vehicle that eventually will carry astronauts into deep space. I’m talking about Mars. Or perhaps to one of Jupiter’s moons. Or maybe to an asteroid.
It flew two orbits around Earth this morning, then splashed safely and on target into the Pacific Ocean.
I’ll admit to being a sap when it comes to space flight. I’ve wept at the sight of rockets launching and at the sight of spacecraft re-entering the atmosphere. Heck, I’ve watched the film “Apollo 13” about, oh, 20 or 30 times and I still get misty when Jim Lovell tells NASA ground controllers that the spacecraft is coming home safely after that harrowing rescue mission in April 1970.
Orion’s first manned flight is years away. Its maiden voyage to the great beyond is even farther into the future.
I hope to be around to watch it take humans into our solar system. Yes, I’ll be crying.