Yeah, I cried a little when the rocket launched today. When the SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted off, I was sitting 14 inches from my TV, watching the two-man crew blast into orbit. And my eyes got blurry.
I was a child again. Not because I felt excitement and awe, though I had plenty of that. I was feeling a nervous nausea.
The last time I saw a rocket liftoff I was a kid. I was seated in a classroom with 24 of my peers. We were a rowdy group of stinky freckled children whose noses were always running.
Our entire class sat Criss-Cross Applesauce on the carpet, surrounded by woodblocks, Tinkertoys, and picture books.
Miss Jeanne, our teacher, brought a Zenith portable TV to class to watch the Challenger Space Shuttle launch. The television was about the size and weight of a Plymouth Belvedere, only with worse reception.
On the screen, the Challenger astronaut crew was all smiles. We kids applauded when the screen showed an image of Christa McAuliffe, the vibrant New Hampshire school teacher
and civilian who had been selected to fly into space via NASA’s “teacher in space” program.
Christa McAuliffe was us. She was an ordinary American, just like our teachers who stood beside the TV set. She even looked like our teachers.
During launch preparations, Miss Jeanne explained everything. Whenever the TV reporter talked technical details, Miss Jeanne translated the big words using hand gestures. She even took questions from her audience.
We came up with some doozies. Our arms shot straight up.
“Yes, Tyler?” said Miss Jeanne. “You have a question?”
Tyler said, “How do the astronauts go NUMBER TWO?”
A rousing round of laughter from the class
“I don’t know, Tyler. Yes, Andrea?”
“Can people breathe in space?”
“That’s a good question, Andrea.”
And so it went. Miss Jeanne would answer every question. And she never broke her reverence for the occasion because…