A conspiracy of happy turns of events!
Mumblety-mumblety years ago, I attended a dinner meeting of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers with a guy I was dating. They served a dinner featuring lots of the newly trendy cracked pepper, which allowed me to discover my allergy to pepper. And also, sadly, made me have to step into the hallway and miss a good portion of the fascinating presentation on this thing they were seeking support for: a space station. To be built by, just imagine, international cooperation. I wished frantically for Gene Roddenberry to be sitting next to me so I could elbow him sharply. I made do with nudging my companion.
The hope of the thing! The audacity!
But we couldn’t be sure it would be built. The number of things which could go wrong, while not infinite, sure seemed like it. And Congress, unsurprisingly, was dragging its feet over funding the proposed U.S. portion. But still … that the thing could be imagined? Seriously considered among the scientific community, and at least discussed by world governments? Breathtaking.
Years later, I still have that guy sitting next to me for convenient nudging. (Reader, I married him.) And I still have the glossy 8 X 10 artwork NASA distributed to us: the artist’s conception of the structure, hanging against the blackness of space.
I am very fortunate to walk my wee dog almost daily with an amazing neighbor. She texted me yesterday to alert me to the International Space Station due to pass overhead close enough to see with the unassisted human eye. (The humor in this is that she did so at 6:45 a.m. The thing was due at 6:48. I was also fortunate in that I had, this time, closed my window curtains securely and so did not scandalize the neighborhood in my desperate flinging about of clothes and my sleep-draggled self.)
Good fortune indeed: the sky was clear enough in the necessary stretch so that we could see the ISS pass. Obliging clouds … we miss a great many astronomical events due to the South Florida weather.
And there it was. A marvel. A wonder. The product of so very many hours of human energy, ingenuity, labor, experiment, resources. And perhaps more astonishingly, cooperation of large groups of organized people. Good fortune smiling upon the enterprise? Or was it the power of belief? The commitment of so many to making an idealistic concept come into physical existence. How many times did that scientist stand in front of a small crowd, with his impassioned speech and his glossy prints? And he was one tiny fragment of the whole. How many more people dedicated their energy, the precious hours of their lives, into this dream? And look what they did. Humans. Tiny creatures on this speck of a planet, reaching out with our minds and our hands and saying yes.
Michelle and I craned our necks, saw the rising sun glinting off the solar arrays. We watched it until it faded into the clouds.
The sighting colored our walk with talk of technology, of the future, of things which were once wonders that are now every-day and taken for granted. Wouldn’t it be great if world cooperation to solving difficult problems were one of them?
I want to wave the International Space Station in front of people. People who have decided to care about things and processes that separate us from each other. “Look! Look what we can accomplish together!”