The Final Frontier

My wife and I are watching the NASA rocket launch on TV. And I am a nine-year-old boy again. I am cheering for the two-man space crew and it’s a wonderful day. This might be the first true entertainment I’ve enjoyed since this miserable quarantine began.

Thirty-six minutes until launch.

We sit before the television with popcorn, tortilla chips, and beer. I am giddy. Which is a welcome feeling. There hasn’t been much to be giddy about during a coronavirus pandemic.

“Go Crew Dragon,” says my wife, giving me a thumbs-up.

That’s official spacetalk, you understand. The crew is named Crew Dragon. We speak this way because this is a bona fide space party and we’re not thinking about sad things like infection-rate curves, death tolls, or cholesterol. Astronauts are launching into the cosmos for the first time in almost a decade. Pass the bacon cheese dip.

My phone dings. It’s a text from my old friend Billy. “ARE YOU WATCHING THIS?!”


We text in all caps the same way we might do during baseball games. Because that’s the kind of grown-up guys we are.

The Demo-2 mission is a big one, and it’s nice to finally have something to cheer for. God knows, we don’t have any sports right now.

The mission is being piloted by Douglas Hurley, former Marine fighter pilot, and commander for the last shuttle flight in 2011. His copilot is Robert Behnken, former test pilot with over 708 hours in space, and six spacewalks. These guys are the real deal. I think I’m going to pee my pants from sheer joy.

I don’t know about you, but I have needed a little good old-fashioned entertainment. The COVID-19 crisis has suspended every cherished American institution. Baseball, basketball, maybe even college football. Yellowstone is shut down, the Grand Canyon is a ghost town, live concerts are a thing of the past.

Not to mention that I’ve been stuck inside for 70 days. I can’t even remember the last time I had a simple pizza delivered. I just don’t feel comfortable eating takeout delivered by a guy wearing a surgical mask and hazmat suit. It spoils my appetite.

But never mind that. Today: Space, the final frontier.

Twenty minutes to launch.

In honor of this historic occasion I am holding a miniature toy rocket that my uncle gave me when I was a toddler. It is a replica of the Apollo 11 mission rocket, the Saturn V SA-506, which launched from Merritt Island, Florida, in 1969. The same mission that carried Neil Armstrong to the moon.

During each commercial break I fly my little rocket around the den, making thruster noises with my mouth. I’m also wearing a NASA T-shirt my wife bought me last Christmas.

Eighteen minutes to launch.

“I CAN’T WAIT!” texts my pal, Billy.

Billy and I go way back. I remember when Billy once stood up in class and loudly proclaimed to a teacher that he wanted to be an astronaut. The teacher wore a big smile. And, in her inspiring educational voice, she answered the Youth of Tomorrow by saying: “For crying out loud, be realistic, Billy.”

Guys like Billy and I need this space launch today because it’s kind of electrifying, and this is the first time in a few months that we’ve felt a hint of normalcy.

And here come the astronauts.

“Turn it up!” I tell my wife.

Out of the operations building walk two very cool hombres in NASA flight suits and space helmets, waving to admirers. Good God. These men will be flying in the Great Beyond in only a few minutes.

Cue commercial break. There is a brief pause. When the commercials are over, I can tell that something is wrong on TV.

Suddenly, there isn’t much enthusiasm coming from the news people like before. This is highly unusual. Normally, news persons stare into cameras and grin like they’ve just discovered teeth. But right now they are long-faced. They cut to another abrupt commercial break, almost like they’re stalling for time.

“Hey!” says my wife. “What happened to the launch?”

Yep. Something is definitely wrong here. The commercials roll again. We see an endless river of ads for TV shows, hardware stores, prescription medications, attorneys, and over-the-counter mucilloid laxatives.

My wife and I are trying to stay positive, but we can both feel something has shifted. So I am flying my tin spaceship to the kitchen on an intergalactic voyage to the refrigerator for more beer.

That’s when I hear the news on TV:

“Well, folks,” says the anchor in a low-pitched voice. “The Demo-2 mission SpaceX launch has been aborted due to inclement weather.”

My little toy rocket loses altitude fast. I am crestfallen.

My phone dings. “@#^$*&!!” texts Billy.

And just like that, it’s over. We turn off the television. My wife and I sit in silence for a few minutes.

This has been a tough spring for everyone. A lot of wonderful things have been postponed, aborted, and eliminated. I’m not complaining, but I miss regular life. Not only that, but I miss people, I miss hugs, and I miss the way things used to be. I miss having somewhere to go. I freely admit it, sometimes I wonder if our world will ever be the same again. Sometimes I wonder too much.

But my wife doesn’t look upset. She just smiles and says, “Cheer up, my little astronaut. Today was a good day. And isn’t today all that really matters?”

She’s right of course. She usually is. I guess I’d better put this silly rocket away.

Go Crew Dragon.


  1. Nancy - May 28, 2020 7:02 am

    Oh, you truly got this one right! I was a little kid with the loading of kerosene (can’t believe we still use it.). Then they were loading liquid oxygen. There were interviewing some very interesting people. And BAM! I don’t think my millennial daughter even knew there was a launch today. I must admit my favorite part was the return of the spacecraft and splashdown! The helicopters would head out to find them. Then my really favorite part: frogmen would jump out of the helicopters and into the water. The hatch of the capsule would open and they’d send the astronauts up to the helicopter.

  2. Joe Townsend - May 28, 2020 7:12 am

    I happened to be leading a Youth Group, from SC, to the area while a launch was going to go off. We were headed home, but stopped at a rest stop, near Daytona, to watch the launch. I’ve never seen such a majestic thing in my life. It took a while for the launch sound to hit us, but it was powerful.

    My parents woke me up to watch Neil Armstrong step on the moon. It was like 1 AM. I was 9. I still have that memory ingrained in my soul.

    Godspeed to the astronauts.

  3. Melody - May 28, 2020 7:52 am

    I know, it was a bummer. But they’ll try again Saturday. 🙂 Try watching it on the NASA tv channel if you get it. No commercials and better camera angles. Have a great weekend to the both of you.

  4. Dolores - May 28, 2020 7:53 am

    Yes, Sean, I can feel your excitement. My husband played a part in that Moon landing. He was working for Bell Laboratories in NJ, his responsibility was to plan the trajectory of the space craft to the Moon and back home. A part of history that my husband was a part of, and it is very exciting for me, too!

  5. Deborah Blount - May 28, 2020 7:56 am

    I’m hoping it will be a go on Saturday.

    I have two major memories of the Apollo missions. Both include my great grandmother, who was born in 1882. I had the privilege of watching man walk on the moon while watching it with her. She grew up when travel was by horse and wagon. Of course, there were trains, but that was travel the daughter of a Tennessee farmer and later the wife of another farmer would never experience until she was a very old woman. But, she saw the first cars and planes arrive in the area. Of course, my great grandfather had cars and tractors through the years. Her son even had a small plane which he took her up in. But the idea of man travelling to space and walking on the moon in her lifetime was amazing.

    Seeing it through her eyes made the experience even more amazing.

    The second experience was watching the Apollo 11 mission with her. She taught me the true meaning of prayer as we watched and prayed for their safe return.

    I am hoping this current space mission will allow me to form a similar bond with my grandsons. There hasn’t been one in their lifetime. But I intend to make sure they both understand the great leaps we have made in my lifetime. I also plan to make sure they appreciate the pictures of their great great great grandparents that I cherish so much. Because that is our history blended with our future.

  6. Cathi Russell - May 28, 2020 9:11 am

    I felt like I was 6 again…just giddy with the possibilities. I remember sneaking outside, climbing a tree & watching the sky for hours, hoping to catch a glimpse of it! Thanks for bringing back those memories little astronaut…we’ll see you next launch day!

  7. Mary Bales - May 28, 2020 11:22 am

    I didn’t appreciate the moon landing when I was 4. It’s taken me a long time to get excited about space travel, mostly because it was just for boys when I was growing up. I watched every second of the launch prep yesterday, secretly wondering if they’d take an old fat woman with arthritis and gimpy hips into the space program. Let’s go!

  8. Debra Bures - May 28, 2020 11:36 am

    Many years go, my mom was in ICU, ready for _her_ final frontier. My kids were small, and I didn’t know where to be: I was a mom, a wife, a sister, a daughter. It was hard to get information about my mom’s prognosis. I asked one of the nurses, knowing that he’d give me accurate information. Brian had moved to Ohio from TN, because he could get a better job here. His wife was home, expecting their first child. He looked at me, took a deep breath, and said, “Well, if she were my Mama, I’d say ‘We’re here today, and this is a good day.’ ” Those words made a world of difference for me that day, and I remember them still.

  9. Robert Chiles - May 28, 2020 12:16 pm

    Jamie is spot on. “Today was a good day. And isn’t today all that really matters?” Truer words were never spoken. You both married so very well.

  10. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - May 28, 2020 12:22 pm

    Just think. Wednesday was a good day (mostly). But now we have Saturday to look forward to and Crew Dragon is safe. Go Crew Dragon!

  11. Karen Good - May 28, 2020 12:29 pm

    Crew Dragon Party rain date – Saturday ! Hope you saved a couple of beers 😀🚀

  12. Connie Ryland - May 28, 2020 12:54 pm

    I know it’s not the same, but I’m sending you a big hug. You give the best hugs, and I feel privileged to have gotten a couple of them at various venues. Stay positive. We are going to be okay. Love to you both.

  13. Susan A. Royal - May 28, 2020 12:58 pm

    I’ll never forget sitting in front of a portable black and white television with my fiance, watching Neil Armstrong taking “one small step for mankind, one giant leap for mankind”. I wasn’t all that impressed. Just happy to be spending time with my sweetheart…until he said those words. And then, I cried. What a moment.

  14. Barbara Pope - May 28, 2020 1:11 pm

    Sorry Billy’s career was nipped in the bud–he clearly had spaceman potential.

  15. Heidi - May 28, 2020 1:18 pm

    I was actually excited with anticipation yesterday….the first time in months. Dang this has been a slog. Like Jamie said, it was a good day and Saturday will be also. Now we just need a safe mission. And sports.

  16. Johnnie Tayloe - May 28, 2020 1:33 pm

    Sean this brings back a lot of memories about space travel and flight in general. Don’t know if you remember us, but we drove from North Carolina to see you in Dothan. Wife was so excited!!! Before we arrived in Dothan, we visited the Tuskegee Airman’s museum. The last part of our travel took us to Huntsville to visit NASA museum. As we were entering the building, I noticed a gentleman wearing a leather jacket and on the back was “Red Tail” Tuskegee Airman. I got to him as fast as I could, and thanked him for his service. Men and woman like him prepared the path for space travel today

  17. LindaD. - May 28, 2020 2:16 pm

    I’m looking at it this way: Wednesday’s broadcast was the dry run for the big show on Saturday. After watching Tiger, Phil, Peyton & Tom playing golf together on Sunday in the pouring rain, I’m in a much mellower and more forgiving mood about things like this delay. It’s really exciting having the launch to look forward to, whenever it happens. Best wishes to the Dragons. We’re all cheering for them!

  18. Mark Pollish - May 28, 2020 3:03 pm

    Yes Sean, I felt the same way when it was cancelled. 1969 landing on the moon was a good year and I remember it well. It was especially good because it followed the very sad year 1968. (Bobby Kennedy/ Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations, race riots, Chicago convention, etc.) I sure hope America gets back on track and back into space.

  19. BC - May 28, 2020 3:28 pm

    Very entertaining article. Echoes my thoughts about this terrible time. Just wish it was over.

  20. S. M. Mills - May 28, 2020 3:33 pm

    I so relate to your disappointment…thanks for giving words to my own thoughts and feelings.

  21. Linda Everett - May 28, 2020 3:45 pm

    Sean, great post today! I feel your pain, been isolated from family and friends far too long. The last time I was out for a pleasant evening was to finally see you in person, in Fairhope, Al. In March, just before they sent us home to isolation. I have your show and the great hugs you gave to help see me through this virus. I too, wonder if we will ever be “normal” again! Hope you are preparing for Saturday’s big launch. America, greatest country in the entire world!

  22. Anand Mishra - May 28, 2020 3:58 pm

    You captured my same level of pee-my-pants-inducing excitement. Thank you! I was born in February 1969. I talk about that year and space around our house so much so that my kids think I think I was in the space program at the time. I’d have been happy to have been launch into space with my Pampers securely in place. I mean, the grown-up astronauts would have been relieving themselves in the same way. Am I right? I watched all four+ hours of the coverage, which was awesome. I forced my nine-year old son and 11-year old daughter to watch with me. We counted it as the science part of their distance learning for the day. Throughout the day, we prepared ourselves for the possibility of the launch being scrubbed. It was still painful when the announcement came. But…it was also still one of the best pandemic days I’ve had. It may have been the best day if i had followed your mission protocol of beer, er fuel, intake like you. I’ll ensure that measure is in place for the second launch attempt. Godspeed, Doug and Bob. And go Team Worm!

  23. Linda Moon - May 28, 2020 4:02 pm

    Well, there ya’ were and it was a wonderful day. But not for long, unfortunately. I miss people, too. I miss Jamie’s optimism and I miss your bone-crushing hugs, Sean. Jamie’s usually right, ya’ know. Never stop wondering, Writer. There’s never too much wondering in this world. And 66,713 of us can’t be wrong…..we think you have some Right Stuff in you, too!

  24. Jenny Young - May 28, 2020 5:58 pm

    Did you see this picture?

    I don’t know but I think they could have made it through that! 🙂

  25. Ala Red Clay Girl - May 28, 2020 6:11 pm

    Yesterday was a disappointment but I guess it is better to err on the side of caution after Challenger & Columbia. I will never forget that July night staying up late watching a B&W TV as the first astronauts walked on the moon. And then to add to the excitement there was Woodstock the next month. Of course as a 10-year-old I didn’t understand what that was all about much to my parents’ relief I’m sure!

  26. Larry Wall - May 28, 2020 6:50 pm

    Well, I don’t remember listening to the Wright Brother’s flight broadcast, but my freshman science class did listen to the broadcast of John Glenn’s flight into earth orbit. Then the week that my wife and I married, Neal Armstrong made his moon walk. So I feel that space flight has had a place in most of my life. And I sat aside all of my intended chores yesterday and excitedly watched everything that was broadcast to see an historic event take place. Boys and girls, can you spell d-i-s-a-p-p-o-i-n-t-e-d? But I also learned long ago that disappointment only serves to sweeten the ultimate victory. So I am looking forward to Saturday. I think. Keep that typewriter working and we will keep reading.

  27. Martha - May 28, 2020 9:13 pm

    There’s Saturday !!!!!
    Lift off ………………………………..

  28. Jackie McClung - May 29, 2020 12:53 am

    We saw The Challenger land from its last successful mission. That was a treat for our daughter who is now 43. She said Saturday that was among the most memorable experiences of her life. She was in Kindergarten when it exploded on launch. Because there was a teacher on board the school set up tvs for the entire student body to watch. I rushed to the school to comfort her and stood in line with about 100 other parents with the same goal for their child. We were in Utah when the Columbia disintegrated on return and we could see the fireball and knew something was wrong.
    My wife’s brother worked with developing the fuel and our daughter was enamored with him because if it. Space was her biggie right after the dinosaur stage. We read everything we could find for her and took her to the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama. She wanted to be a fighter pilot and work her way to space flight. Due to an accident while in the Air Force she was unable to continue that pursuit.

  29. Chasity Davis Ritter - May 29, 2020 7:10 pm

    Finally read this today and now I know why you were sad and wanted to see dog pictures on your Facebook page sorry the day ended up being a let down but I hope the pictures helped.

  30. Margaret Jackson - June 1, 2020 12:04 pm

    The spaceflight did happen Saturday! I was at the wedding of a cousin and a friend. They’ve been dating for years!
    Calan is a tech geek. He noted that liftoff was the exact moment he & Eliza shared their wedding kiss!!
    I didn’t get to watch liftoff live, but did witness history the joining of two precious people!!!
    Yes, of course I watched the launched on you tube when I got home that night!!


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