I rolled my eyes when I heard of Jeff Bezos’ journey into space this week. One more super rich guy with his vanity project. Meanwhile, there are too many problems here on earth. As my husband Randy followed the launch on cable news, I half-watched. Then I heard something that riveted my attention.
An 18-year-old boy was going up with them. My motherly instincts went on full alert.
Also on board were Bezos’ brother Mark, and Wally Funk, an 82-year-old NASA veteran. She’d been denied going into space earlier because of her gender.
My mind flashed to the Challenger tragedy in 1986. The smiling faces of those seven astronauts, including high school teacher Christa McAuliffe, as they boarded. And then the unthinkable. Once in space, the rocket blew apart before everyone’s eyes. I’ll never forget the stricken faces of Christa‘s parents in the stands.
Knowing that young boy was involved upped the ante for me. Him on this journey — along with elderly Wally, and brother Mark — had all the hallmarks of a made-for-television tragedy.
The last few seconds of lift-off were called. I held my breath.
Engines fired and the rocket ascended. I’m no expert, but compared to Richard Branson’s sleek, modern aircraft, Bezos’ looked like something out of the Jetson’s.
The rocket lumbered up and didn’t so much cut the air as shove it aside.
And yet watching, I found myself transfixed and surprisingly moved. Not only by the fragile life onboard, but (despite all the hubris) the great bravery and innovation it took to pull off.
“Please make it,” I found myself saying. I couldn’t stop thinking of that boy’s parents on the ground, watching as their young son soared so far away.
After a few minutes, the rocket reached an unfathomable 350,000 feet. We could hear the happy yips of the weightless people onboard. (Of course, Bezos had to go further than Branson. I can’t imagine what Elon Musk will do. Zero gravity tennis, anyone?).
Minutes later, it was time to return. Unlike the sleek landing of Branson’s craft, Bezos’ nubby capsule came down with an unceremonious thud. And that was that.
I’ll say one thing, these billionaires know how to put on a show.
On one hand, I understand their money is needed in practical, immediate ways – fighting hunger, disease, and poverty. And I want to believe these guys do give… a lot. We just don’t know it. (I really need to believe that. I won’t even go into their paying taxes).
On the other hand, there was something stirring about the sight. It must be akin to watching the Wright Brothers take that first flight from Kitty Hawk in 1903. I was especially happy to see that young man emerge, happy and unscathed.
Like it or not, we seem to be entering a new era. Who knows what all this means? And where it will lead for our grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and beyond?
All I know is it took my motherly instincts to tune in.
How do you feel about space explorations by billionaires? Comments are always welcome and if you’d like, please share.
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