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THINKING ABOUT ORBITING

by Patricia Beurteaux


So astronauts like to get plastered before take-off, eh?

A lot of people wouldn't fly any other way.

Don't those shocked and horrified NASA officials ever fly commercial?

Now, I've never been drunk in my life.  Honestly.  If I were about to be blasted into space, however, I expect doing it blotto would beat doing it sober.

Who, in their right mind (a speculative remark), would really consider it?

Sure, the suits are sort of neat, although lock-rings and real moon boots sound a little bit uncomfortable.  But that's just me.  I'm at the elastic waistband and comfy shoes stage of life.

The food could turn you off unless you're too lazy to chew.  Personally, I don't like pureed anything.  About the only squishy stuff I'll eat is mashed potatoes and ice cream — not together — but not the soft ice cream that comes out of a machine.  Being a pet owner, you know.  Peanut butter has to be the crunchy kind.

The lack of privacy and the on- the-screen-all-the-time life would bring out my barely-contained diva.  Ask anyone.

And what to do if you really can't stand any or all of your crew mates?  I have read that potential crew members go through a battery of tests but there's nothing like 24/7, in a confined space, to really test compatibility.  If you've just returned from camping or cottaging or RVing, you will know what I mean.

How do you cope with the irritations?  Do you keep notes and get even later?

The culture is very `guy'.  Very jock.  Very locker room.  Of course.  They're very drunk.

To my mind, it would be perfectly reasonable to place yourself into a de-sensitised mindspace.

I mean, really — think about it. You're going to be imprisoned in a small space; strapped into your seat; possibly shot into space if you aren't blown to bits or incinerated; whipped into orbit at a squillion miles an hour; and hopefully make a successful docking and transfer in space where you will remain for long periods of time.

Once you're 'up there', you would have lots of opportunity to think about missing solar shields, computers crashing, losing radio communication with base, and the possibility of sabotage and/or poor quality equipment due to unrealistic deadlines and egos.  No amount of research or note- keeping or whatever could keep these thoughts at bay for the entire trip.

Then there are the things that haven't happened yet to the American astronauts, as far as we know; such as a glitch that leaves you literally lost in space. The Robinsons had each other and they could land on other planets and have adventures.  They may have been lost but they weren't bored.

An added frisson is the inclusion of the paying passenger.  Who gets to handle the enthusiastic amateur?

I can imagine it:

'Don't touch that!'

'OK.  Who forgot how to use the personal evacuation system?'

'Sorry, you finished all the tubes of pate de fois the first day, remember?  The day you had a case of indigestion?'

'No, you may not steer.'

'And we're not there yet.'

Give the astronauts a break.  Being an astronaut would sound like fun until the day came — and then maybe not so much.

All they have to do is get dressed by someone else and get loaded in.  It hardly matters if they remember.  The part they need to know about is all on the news.  They can watch it later.

I say, 'Go for it, astronauts.  Party hearty!  And I raise a glass myself to you, for being human.'

Born and raised in a small Ontario town that became a large bedroom community post-war, Pat Beurteaux began her career as a primary school teacher, a career that permitted her to travel to Australia as a `working holidayer' in the mid-60s.  At that time any British Commonwealth citizen could travel and work in any other Commonwealth country under certain conditions; a good deal of fun was had by all. You may reach Pat by emailing zenimation (at) sympatico.ca

 

©2007 Patricia Beurteaux for Seniorwomen.com
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