December 12, 2006

I watched from my porch as Discovery (STS-116) blasted off.

Sunday, December 10, 2006
I’m over one hundred miles south of Cape Kennedy. However, my neighbor Peter had told me that I would be able to see the launch easily, and sure enough, I watched from my porch as the horizon lit up and a line of light spread behind the many buildings to the northeast. The light got brighter and expanded into a rising slightly rounded and thick form then suddenly collapsed as a brilliant tiny white pencil like beam rose from behind. The Atlantic Ocean is directly behind those buildings though they block my view of it, and looking toward them, I was at the narrow base of a very acute triangle pointing at Cape Kennedy.

I had mistakenly expected to see Discovery climb above my head before fading. Instead, it slowly headed out over the Atlantic as it climbed, and the ascent became less and less apparent, it’s pencil shape concentrated to a brilliant splotch of light, the most intense object in the sky. Slowly, it lost all apparent motion and gradually faded, until a low scudding gray cumulous cloud covered it.

I had never thought much about the previous 115 launches - with the exception of the Columbia and Challenger disasters - because I wasn’t able to see them with my own eyes. This time, as I witnessed the heavenly ascent, I felt a connection to the seven members of the crew, a thread stretching thinner by the second as Discovery climbed toward its 250 mile high orbit at a peak speed of about 17, 000 miles per hour. I wondered how the seven crewmembers felt emotionally and physically as they ascended into the cosmos. Intellectually, I know that they were suffering the effects of multiple G forces as the shuttle rose through the troposphere and stratosphere, but how does that feel. I can only surmise, based on the subtle effect of accelerating motor vehicles and planes I have experienced. I know the astronauts are trained in accelerators so that they are use to the incredible force of 5, even 6 Gravities. However, more importantly I wondered if they felt any spiritual rush in addition to the physical pain and emotional charge of climbing toward the black velvet vacuum of space.

Is it possible that God might reach out to touch those of us who are able to physically transcend this wicked war torn planet, and what would that feel like?

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