Sometimes, in the midst of the terror of bureaucracy and Los Angeles parking permit fiascos, a minuscule glimmer of hope shoots by, nearly undetected. You have to be alert. A Hope Neutrino, if you will.
You see, I’m afraid you either get it or you don’t. Some of us are chosen, and we know we are chosen. If you are reading this, you’re probably one of us.
It usually happens with youth. We all have the story. Just, one night, you heard your name being whispered. Mine was in the Mojave desert, next to Edwards Air Force Base where my grandparents lived. Late one night, far away from light pollution and close to the actual breathing spirit of jetflight itself, Old Muroc, I looked up one night and saw the Milky Way and – I think I must have been about 6 years old – suddenly realized that the sky wasn’t a solid ceiling, but a falling away of infinity. I remember physically losing my balance. It was no longer “up,” it was out. New neurological links fused into permanent brain patterns. The stars did not move across the Earth, the Earth was moving amongst the stars. Each new piece of information was like punching my brain in the stomach: each star was a sun, each sun could have planets circling it, the universe had no known boundary, and suddenly, amongst the static download of data, the understanding of what it meant that we had been out there. We had been out there!
… Sunday ... it said. … Sunday …
… Come home …
I want to. I’m trying.
It’s hard for me to admit, but I understand faith. I know what it feels like to have that one thing you don’t need to question, that one thing that doesn’t waver in front of being tired, being sick, being bored and frustrated. It’s just that, instead of believing in a magical, bearded cloud-man, I believe that mankind isn’t as terrestrial as we think we are. Oh, I don’t know that the specific species came from space or anything, but I do know that each atom of our DNA is literally stardust. That everything we are, everything we touch and eat and breathe is stardust, particles travelling billions of lightyears from where they started, particles that saw the beginning of time itself. We are each space. Some of us know we should go back. Earth is a fun diversion, but you can only stay at Disneyland so long.
Yesterday it was brought to my attention that SpaceX, the privately held company that put the first civilian-designed and launched rocket into orbit on September 28th (without a damn hitch, I should add), is headquartered in Hawthorne, California. Which is literally within walking distance of where I am typing this right now. As I excitedly perused their site to see if they offered tours of the facility, I absentmindedly clicked on the “careers” page, where I happened to notice they were hiring for a position I am qualified for.
The SpaceX Merlin rocket engine (no relation, I assume, to the other famous Merlin engine). Photo ©Space Exploration Technologies.
It feels dramatic, but it is true: it was like being back in the desert again, the gossamer rip of the Milky Way forever obliterating my view of the universe. I could work for a company that puts rockets into space? Oh. Oh my. All this moving horror, the complex series of phone calls it takes to get one’s gas service turned on (it’s a long story, but suffice to say that even customer service was confused), all that flotsam was slammed back into place.
All of these companies, and there are more every day it seems, are staffed by people, private, educated, passionate people – regular people – who want nothing more than to get us home. It is their job. SpaceX has no government coffer (hell, our government doesn’t have a government coffer), no politcal agenda. It’s pure science, every day. It is a moon landing, every day. And I intend to participate.
I just hope they’re okay with me having a tattoo of SpaceShipOne in my left armpit.