“Space: the final frontier.”
How many were drawn here by this simple compelling sentiment? It’s amazing what a few words can do in terms of insinuating an idea into the culture. Even in the old reruns shown when I was a kid, the basic idea still resonated. Space was the place where one could be bold, brave, adventurous, legendary. And still, with the benefit of my seven weeks here in the heavens so far, the picture requires more detail:
Space is mystical. For as long as humans gazed upward, the stars have beckoned, a flickering beacon of destiny forever calling us forth. Or something like that! But hey, putting aside my mediocre poetry skills, it does feel a bit like a Middle Earth fantasy excursion. Everything here has meaning, poignancy, depth.
Space is queer. Seriously: people (mostly men, until recently) living in super close quarters, colorful flashing lights everywhere, the ballet of zero-gravity floating, the symphony of the cosmos. Space is queer like how war is queer, when you think about it: fabulous uniforms and excellent choreography.
Space is sustainable. Well, ideally at least. In this hermetically sealed environment, everything is utilized and nothing is ever wasted. Space travel is the ultimate recycling operation, a model of efficiency and systems thinking. And the design is all quite elegant (see above) in its simplicity and functionality alike.
Space is panoptic. Not only can you see everything from the vantage point of space, but you can be seen all the time as well by the pervasive bio-monitors, sensors and scanners, video logs, and more. The ship is like a massive reality show, surveilling and recording everything for analysis and posterity alike.
Space is anarchic. Despite these attempts to assert control and attain predictability, space itself is quite chaotic and the operations of our mission are very spontaneous. We have to feel our way through every task, working cooperatively as equals in a way that transcends rank. Mutual interdependence writ large.
Space is love. And this is where I get into trouble, but I don’t care. Space is quite literally universal, the medium which binds everything together. It draws us toward the source as only primal emotions can. From above the horizon, I realize that the only other time I’ve felt this way has been when falling in love.
I could say more, and probably will at some point, but my free time for such explorations is very limited. I simply wanted to get a few thoughts down while they were still fresh in my mind. I don’t write well enough to really give you a complete picture of how it feels up here, but maybe this is adequate to give you an idea anyway. Plus it’s kind of cool to send email from space … sort of a cosmic wi-fi connection!
On that note, I will amend my opening sentence. Space is not the final frontier — just a really expensive (and time-delayed) long-distance one. But it is like nothing else in terms of what it does to us and what it tells us about ourselves and our place in the vast cosmic expanse. Maybe we can say that space is just the “next frontier” and that it suggests in its uniqueness what subsequent ones might look like as well?
And to be clear, I actually wonder about whether space is even a frontier (a word I don’t really like, with all of its historical implications), or more so a stepping stone on a journey in which we travel far only to realize we were already at home, and to “discover” basic ideas that we once knew but somehow forgot. The frontier isn’t out there any more than the truth is, and meaning is all around us wherever we are…
Lemar Starland, glancing sidelong from port