I am pretty sure every kid who grows up around Houston dreams of being an Astronaut at least once. The broad horizon that space travel provides not only fuels STEM skills, but the creative possibility of new frontiers. Space exploration at first glance is exciting and wondrous, especially by comparison to routine of civilian life on earth. The older I become, the more I recognize that space exploration is as much ingenuity and problem solving to stay alive as it is testing and collecting results of uncharted territories. Hollywood can glamorize the experience of rigorous testing, both physical and mental that Astronauts require to prepare themselves for their intergalactic missions, but I don’t know that it’s so easily summarized with a well placed video montage.
Space Center Houston has a wealth of information about what exactly is sacrificed to chase the dream of completing a mission in the great beyond. Assignments can be long stays at an International Space Station as well as other explorations. The makeup of tools and components in outer space is such that you can’t just “run to the store” for that cup of sugar you forgot. There is no “the dog ate my homework” approach to space travel or repair of elements. Other than the larger than life recreations, you can find the actual tools that skilled teams used in their missions. Tours of the facility along with guides through The Johnson Space Center and opportunities to meet Astronauts are available 7 days a week with exception of a few specific holidays. The Apollo 11 (lunar landing) 50th anniversary is arriving this July, and if interested, it might be a good idea to look at tickets sooner rather than later. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)
The track this week, Elton John’s “Rocketman”, not only addresses the glamor of a celestial existence. Instead, it hints at the the melancholy of leaving a family behind and a specific torture of pursuing a dream that defies a societal expectation. Carrying the hopes of the teams that are back home yet feeling alone in the process. It’s the kind of introspective twist that adds depth to an already catchy chorus.
The song was a minor plot theme in one of my favorite 90’s movies; “The Rock” with Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery. It combines the threat of chemical warfare with a prison break backstory. I don’t know if the film gets great reviews from others, but it is a hidden treasure in my mind. You have the many faces of Nicholas Cage’s character (a pencil pushing FBI desk jockey) freaking out about everything going on. Then you have Sean Connery (alleged expert former spy) smoothly adapting to the situations thrown their way and maneuvering for the both of them. It’s cinema gold, and the kind of juxtaposition that makes for a great Netflix night in.
I never grew up to be an Astronaut, but I am pretty sure to be a good one you need a little of both overwhelming excitement and that calm demeanor to handle whatever comes your way. I’m still working on that. And it may be a long, long time until I find that balance but I am still wondrously exploring.