SUMMER 2017 FIRST PLACE
Ignition—3, 2, 1. We have a lift-off.
We have fuelled-weight 28.8 tonnes; there are two hundred seconds ‘til we escape Earth’s pull and there is a ladybird on my sleeve.
S-IVB is safe. Close the PRIMARY BACK PRESSURE valve.
Ahead are the white, burning nuclear furnaces of stars, I have notebooks full of their speculative mechanisms and the study of matters affecting the trajectory of their satellites and I would give my flight badge for a sample the size of a rivet from one of them. And now here is a ladybird and I am four years old. My mother’s hair smells of lilacs.
Pitch is tracking. Looking good.
This spacecraft weighs less than a yearling blue whale, I am blasting away from the green, swelling belly of Earth, I can no longer see how she ripples in the wind where she has cast off the white shroud of winter and here, here is a ladybird.
GLYCOL EVAP OUTLET temperature down around 58.
Gravity is not your friend, the thing that keeps you earthbound, tied to rock and dust and this coraline sunset you see here this ocean that aquamarines the bright planet, it is not a gift, and all my life I have worked to escape it and ahead, ahead are the stars and the black and the white, the blazing, blazing white that is my future. I have the data. I have it right here. There’s no protocol for turning back.
And yet. Here is a ladybird.