I admit it; I’m one of those space nuts. Now, notice the word “nuts” has a modifier before it, so I’m not saying I’m completely nuts, though many would beg to differ.
What I’m saying is that I love space. Not cupboard space, closet space or even personal space, though I appreciate that kind of space as much as the next guy. What I mean is, I really love outer space. Not that I’ve personally been there, but I’m speaking vicariously. (I learned to speak Vicarious at Central School, it was part of French class.)
Ever since I heard about the little Russian 24 inch ball of metal called Sputnik, I’ve been hooked. That was way back in the Paleolithic 50s and just to further prove a point, Russia soon after launched Sputnik 2. OK, fellow space nuts, what was particularly momentous about this flight? You’re right, Jeff Bezos’ grandfather was on that flight!
Kidding of course, in 1957 Sputnik 2 carried the world’s first astronaut, albeit a non-human, four legged one. An astrodog, if you like. Her name was Laika (which means “barker” in Russian and Vicarious) and she was a random stray husky-spitz mix that was, basically, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Not to put too fine a point on it, let’s just say that the launch was a success for Russia, not so much for Laika, who was never expected to return in the first place.
But whilst trying not to think about the various intentional and unintentional sacrifices that have been made in mankind’s quest for space exploration, what really got me spaced out (sorry) was the momentous Moon landing courtesy of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, which as everybody knows was filmed in a hidden bunker somewhere in Los Angeles. (Kidding again.)
So I’ve been an avid follower of the fascinating ups and downs (sorry) of space exploration all through the years of the moon landings, deep space Voyagers, and the somewhat pedestrian shuttle program about which I was fully on board (sorry) with space genius Dr. Carl Sagan when he argued that shuttling stuff was “not space exploration” and that we should concentrate on “going to other worlds.” I mean, a space truck? Come on NASA nerds – there’s planets out there to visit!
And now, just this week, we have witnessed the next step in the race to space with the competitive blast-offs of two boasting billionaires. If you’ve been in a cave or a hidden bunker in L.A. lately you may not know that Richard “Virgin” Branson, and Jeff “Amazon” Bezos both made history by being richer than anybody else. Also, in separate flights just days apart, they both flew into space on their very own company’s rockets, each with several passengers that were neither dogs nor astronauts, but just regular type humans. Both the Billionauts are clearly space nuts who ecstatically proved that dreams can come true (if you have several billion dollars) but, really, the whole exercise was designed to do one thing: sell tickets for a ten minute yo-yo ride into “space.”
And apparently they already have a long wait list of paid deposits.
At around $250,000 per, your rowdy rocket romp gives you and your fellow astronuts a chance to briefly grunt through six times your own weight and giggle through two to four minutes floating weightless around the little cabin, presumably grinning like cats snacking on canaries.
Good on ‘em, I say. But even if it was 250 single Canadian dollars, I for one would keep the old size 9s planted firmly on Terra Ferma. I may be a space nut but I’m not that cracked. Yet.
Harley Hay is a Red Deer author and filmmaker. Send him a column idea at firstname.lastname@example.org.