I’m sitting at my computer wearing a SPACE GEEK t-shirt my wife bought for me a couple of years ago. I wear it proudly because I’ve always been a space geek and I always will be whether it pertains to the real-world or the realm of science fiction and fantasy.
Today I was in full geek mode as Angela and I watched the return of the Crew Dragon spacecraft from the International Space Station. I’d never watched an ‘old-fashioned’ splashdown live before, just in old film from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions. It was fun and exciting to watch.
I was also in geek mode yesterday when we watched the undocking of the Crew Dragon from the ISS and 64 days ago when the Dragon launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Whenever a space-related event occurs I go into geek mode, ready to answer any questions my family (okay, Angela, the kids weren’t all that interested) has or just blurt out facts when no one has spoken for a while.
I’m probably quite a pain in the neck at these times. Oh, well, nothing new for me. A couple of years ago my family and I visited the Cosmosphere, a space museum in Kansas. According to my wife, I completely geeked out looking at the exhibits. Angela made it a point to get a few exhibits ahead of my son and me. Can’t imagine why.
I should probably mention that this is where Angela bought the SPACE GEEK shirt.
Now, let me share some of my space geek moments.
In 1982 John Glenn, and if you don’t know who he is I will deny you before the lords of space geekdom, came to my hometown of Springfield, Illinois, to campaign for a young congressional candidate by the name of Dick Durbin. I didn’t know it at the time, but the former astronaut and then-U.S. Senator was laying the groundwork for his ultimately unsuccessful run for the presidency in 1984.
My dad, a newspaperman, found out about the event and was able to use his press connections to get the family into the area where Glenn would arrive. I got to meet him, shake his hand, and get an autograph. You may rest assured that my geek-out was captured on film, though I’m not sure where the actual photos are. Really ought to dig those out sometime.
Another happy geek-out moment was seventeen years later when, on a trip to Kennedy Space Center, I was surprised to find former astronaut Scott Carpenter holding a book signing. I was likely as geeked out that day as I had been meeting Glenn as a kid. That’s another photo I’ll have to dig out.
There are also, of course, the tragic moments. Hearing the news of the Challenger explosion in 1986 and the destruction of Columbia in 2003. On both occasions I was glued to the TV news and the newspapers for days afterwards.
I have many more of these memories, too numerous to share. I’ve written school papers on the space program and done other academic projects. I’ve been to Sci-Fi conventions (not in costume, but only because that stuff’s expensive) and even got an autograph from William Shatner. I’ve collected mission patches, books, photos, and videos. I’d decorate a whole room with this stuff if we had the space for it. Maybe someday.
I’m perpetually jealous of people who were alive when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. They got to see it live, not knowing if the mission would be a success or a tragedy. How exciting and terrifying it must have been!
But I have hope to see live moon landings in my lifetime. I really want to be around long enough to see humans land on Mars.
You may ask…oh, who am I kidding? I’m going to tell you either way. Why didn’t I go into this as a career? Simple. I suck at math. Also, I’m kind of a chicken. I love watching and learning about space flight and its history, but I’m too cowardly to actually get up on a rocket. And some of the medical tests they put you through? No thank you.
But I will happily continue to embarrass my family and anyone else who knows me with my space geekdom. And I will continue to have tremendous respect for those brave enough to risk life and limb to further humankind’s push into the unknown.