OPINION: A love letter to space and how it restored my faith

Mickey Hutchings, Managing Editor

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:30 a.m. EST on Jan. 19, 2020, carrying the Crew Dragon spacecraft on the company’s uncrewed In-Flight Abort Test (Courtesy of NASA)

On May 30 at 3:22 p.m., two astronauts launched off the Florida coast, ushering in a new generation of human space travel for the U.S. 

Tightly stowed atop SpaceX’s revolutionary Falcon 9 rocket were Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, amicably referred to as “the dads,” by their NASA Commercial Crew Program colleagues. 

As T-0 approached and billows of steam erupted on the launch pad, I realized that the payload being propelled into Earth’s orbit wasn’t just two dads reinvigorating American space flight. Traveling at supersonic speeds were the hearts and minds of 328 million people who were experiencing a challenging reality of confusion, turmoil and fear.

A lethal virus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, effectively shutting down cities across the country. Daily life was halted as Amercans isolated themselves in their homes, facing unemployment, uncertainty and death. 

An African American man was killed in police custody after being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill on May 25. Demonstrations erupted across the country, courageously saying “enough is enough,” and called upon a nation to confront injustice. 

About 12 minutes after liftoff, the Crew Dragon shuttle carrying Behnken and Hurley separated from its second stage, marking their successful entry into orbit and the beginning of their nearly 19-hour coast to the International Space Station. 

It seems like witnessing history should be a once-in-a-lifetime circumstance. None of us expected to witness history like we have in 2020, with one life-altering, insurgent moment falling like dominos in succession of one another. 

Waking up every day in isolation, seeing atrocities unfold against innocent people and peaceful protesters, not knowing what tomorrow has in store, has left me pretty pessimistic. 

However, amidst all the unpredictability, anxiety and unrest, witnessing the history of America taking flight in space again made me glad to be alive during this time of dread. 

That day, I fell in love with space.

Space gives me something to hold on to. Something to invest my time in. Something to turn to when my social media feed is overwhelming and the home page of The New York Times shows no sign of things looking up. 

I watched documentaries about the space shuttle program. I learned about the exciting Artemis program NASA is about to embark on. I discovered that Candanian astronaut Chris Hadfield has a playlist about space. I did an unnecessary amount of research on Elon Musk. And I watched, and rewatched, the launch of Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley a ridiculous amount of times. 

I love space for all that it represents in its limitlessness, its curiosity and its possibility. I felt hope again for the future as I learned about the past, present and future of space exploration. Elon Musk is trying to make humans a multiplanetary species, for crying out loud!

But it’s not just two men who blasted off on a shuttle or a billionaire who wants to send civilians to Mars that’s fostering my love affair – it’s the notion we can do better, and we can run into the future with high hopes and expectations.

Space shows us that we can dream big and see our dreams manifest into rocket fuel and space suits and telescopes and astronauts bobbing around at zero gravity in the ISS. 

Space shows us that we can literally reach for the stars, even when things feel hopeless.

I hope you can take some time out of your quarantine, your fixation on the news or social media to dream a little. I recommend you spend some time meditating on space. I think you’ll fall in love with it, too.

Mickey Hutchings