Cydney’s husband Buzz is the last rocket scientist left in our family. Naturally, we knew who to turn to with questions about the meteorite strikes in Russia and the larger asteroid that had done a fly-by of our beautiful blue home.
For a few days, he has been silent, unusual for him because he has established himself as being more diligent than our bloodline at being in contact. The Midwest work ethic of his youth has translated well into polite manners and a sound retirement portfolio as a grownup.
It is possible that he hadn’t proactively written because he was busy doing rocket scientist things. But in our family, that’s a sweet opportunity for imaginations to run rampant. Secret high-level meetings are easier to believe in than not emailing because of organizing receipts for a tax preparer. None of our imaginations are as fertile as the one resting beneath the fluffy silver asymmetrical bobbed coiffure that I recently gave to our tribe’s matriarch.
It was a bit chilly on the day of the haircut, so I wrapped Fuzz the rescue dog under the blanket with Mom as she sat in the chair on the back patio overlooking where the ‘Mary Frances’ is moored. Coots and ducks and seagulls came to watch the proceedings, but Fuzz held perfectly still throughout the process, knowing that he was playing an important role in creating the most enjoyable salon experience in the history of Southern California. And that says a lot.
After the tally was in, the style received a ‘YES’ vote from the family. My Mom’s scalp is a political minefield. Dad’s too, for that matter. All parties have a stated position in what happens up there, and my job is to meld all specific instructions into one cohesive fashion statement. This is why I pray before each haircut.
Happy with the results that night in the middle of the night, serial insomniac Mom wrote to Buzz to ask about the inside scoop regarding the heavens falling to earth and signed the email from ‘mommie’. The following is a partial excerpt of his response:
…about the meteorite over Russia…(Blogger’s note: He accurately called it ‘meteorite’ because it fell to earth. Asteroids – in space; meteors – in our atmosphere; meteorites – landed objects, fyi…) Unfortunately for objects this size that can still cause damage on Earth, we can’t detect them far enough away to have time to react. This object streaked towards Earth at 7 miles per second and was approaching during the day: no chance. Yes, we do have the technology to detect objects this size, but this will cost big money! This object was about the size of a two-story house (maybe larger). If it had entered directly from above instead of at a 20 degree angle, it would’ve caused lots more damage. This will probably be a wake-up call, but I don’t believe much will be done in the next 20 years. There is a new warning system that might be in place by 2015, but I’m not sure it would have detected an object this size. NASA’s budget for this type of detection system is minimal, so we’ll have to take our chances in the short term. If we do detect an Earth-ending asteroid (wow…that phrase exists in Buzz’s professional circle…), we currently don’t have the technology (yet) to deflect it without investing billions / trillions of dollars? Don’t worry, the odds are still pretty low that a meteorite will affect Earth over the next 100 years. However, the consequences of a direct hit from a big object (1/2 mile diameter or greater) are not good, so hopefully we’ll fund the technology required to detect these asteroids before they become meteorites!
“No, Buzz is not worried! It’s all in God’s hands…in the meantime, it’s time for another Coors Light (long-running family joke…). Can I get you a Coke with ice? How was that for a response from a senior rocket scientist…I know you really miss me now!
Buzz (to infinity and beyond)
Henny Penny once lost friends and reputation from calling out “The sky is falling!” after getting hit by a nut that fell from a tree. But her fall from social grace came not from her alarming cry but from her flawed conclusion of the present doom. Accurate perception is important, and character choices as a result are perhaps more so. Speaking out courageously while continuing to remain in the sweet spot of peace is a feat of strength that is worth spending a terrestrial life on trying to perfect. Unquestionably, we are vulnerable to catastrophes that we don’t see coming. But living with dread is living dead.
The beloved rocket scientist spun the updated proverb, “Live, drink Coors light, and be merry…for tomorrow we may die.” This isn’t resignation to ultimate failure. It is instead an accurate acknowledgement that our mortal lives are a blip in the galactic landscape. What we perceive as an epic footprint is viewed from our small patch of dirt where we sink down roots and squeak out a few seeds. There is a swirling conversation that cascades through the fields of grain that we are. It is of being Entitled. The most powerful among us carry the greatest expectation of being in control, expecting that life will go as they have planned and no other way. True, it’s a blessing when the harvest stretches into a long and warm Indian Summer. But being grateful for Brother Sun and Sister Moon is the most realistic position we can take.
We aren’t in charge of the cosmic dance. Neither are the heavenly bodies. It is the Conductor who rules the music. We all, however, have an opportunity to fill up our dance card.
Favorite Astronomy-Related Karaoke Selection Nominee: “Under the Milky Way” by The Church….
”…Sometimes when this place gets kind of empty,
sound of their breath fades with the light.
I think about
the loveless fascination
Under the Milky Way tonight…”
“Rocket Man” by Elton John
“A Space Oddity” by David Bowie
Other nominees…? Cast your vote NOW!
Image of rushing Russian meteorite, courtesy of www.universetoday.com.