9:30 PM local time, a beach on the Pacific; Summer time, completely dark, and I was on my way out when some commotion caught my attention. A group of people of all ages were gathered around some light source. Suddenly it rose up in the air, and everyone was cheering and clapping. I stopped, fascinated. A small fire was dancing around in the lantern’s bag while it was rising higher and higher. In just a few seconds it was too small for me to react and take a picture, but it looked exactly like the ones in the pictures posted here.
This is how this story started, and it’s been sitting in draft for a while because I didn’t know how it ends. Now I do. It’s all about sending things up.
A different beach, same planet, just today; Kids sending up a remote controlled helicopter. Go back in time, 15th century Italy: Leonardo Da Vinci working on his drawings for flying contraptions. A spin forward in the time machine: hot air balloons followed by the giant Zeppelins. Another spin, a small airport just around the corner: a dad and his two kids sitting on some rocks at the edge of the runway, eating sandwiches and watching aircraft taking off and landing. Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum: Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebook, containing drawings and notes about bird flight has arrived, for the second time, on loan.
NASA’s account on Twitter: a government institution communicating about sending things up. Ardusat Kickstarter: a tiny cubicle satellite, paid for by the crowd, launched into space and the crowd take turns controlling it, taking pictures and running experiments. Bruno Mars: talking to the moon.
People have always been busy trying to rise up and leave our nest. Those who can – do. Those who thought about it early on – carve the career path that takes them there. Those who obsessed early enough – work in related industries. Percent-wise, the number of people who care about it in a significant way and show any degree of interest and support is very small. If you ask people around you – colleagues, friends, family, neighbors, chances are they couldn’t care less, though they might show mild interest in significant news. But in numbers this tiny fraction does still translate to several million. A few million people ‘think the world’ of space exploration, aviation, and sending things up. Their support will ensure that progress doesn’t stop. I think to them Chris Hadfield dedicated his version of David Bowie’s words: “Ground Control to Major Tom!” This once-in-a-lifetime recording was published on May 12, 2013, on the eve of his last day as commander of the ISS, and last day on board.