shoot for the moon

Image via the NASA Goddard Photo and Video Flickr stream under a Creative Commons license.

“Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

OK, it’s a lame quote. And it doesn’t make any real sense, because the moon is like, millions of miles closer to us than the nearest star, the sun, so, if we shot for the moon and missed we’d be…somewhere between the earth and the moon, and nowhere near a star.

Still, it reminded me of when I literally wanted to shoot for the moon. For a few years of my childhood, I really wanted to be an astronaut. REALLY. I read all kinds of books about space. I even read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time over and over again, until it stopped feeling like it was melting my brain and I started understanding it (I was in middle school). I begged my parents to let me go to NASA Space Camp.

But it turns out real space camp is friggin’ expensive.

Instead, one summer, I got sent to some science daycamp at a local elementary school. We made space suits out of tinfoil and Saran Wrap and learned about planets and space shuttles.

But we did not get to pull any G forces or play in any simulators. There was no freeze-dried astronaut ice cream. They might have served us TANG.

What a letdown.

Next time my science-loving dad gives me grief about being a grad student in English Literature, I’m going to say: “Maybe if you let me go to real space camp, I’d be an astrophysicist or something right about now.”

shoot me to the moon, dad!

Image via Flickr user Irargerich.
Image via Flickr user Irargerich.

So apparently we bombed the moon.  I’m not sure how I feel about interplanetary acts of aggression (though I imagine Marvin the Martian is PISSED), and I’m pretty sure this scheme was cooked up by a bunch of bored nerdy pyromaniacs at NASA, perhaps late one night when they were all a little delirious.  OMGZ, I GOT IT GUYZ, LET’S EFFING BOMB THE MOON! IT WOULD BE SWEET!

All of this reminded me of another nerdy pyromaniac I know and love.

When I was a very small child, we lived in a house on Mulberry Street, a fact I have always loved because I have a soft spot for the Dr. Seuss classic To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street!  The house on Mulberry Street had a tire swing in the back yard.  I don’t have a lot of memories from those years, since we moved from that house when I was five, but I do remember the tire swing.  And I remember my dad pushing me on it.  And I remember squealing, SHOOT ME TO THE MOON, DAD!  And he’d push me sooooooooo high.  In retrospect, it was probably not all that high, but when you’re five, there seems to be a very real possibility that a tire swing really COULD launch you to the moon.  I’d hang on and squeal and giggle and close my eyes tight, waiting for the big push that might one day really launch me into space.  It was obviously a much sweeter shooting of the moon than the one that happened yesterday.

These days, I don’t spend much time on tire swings, but thanks to my dad, I do spend quite a bit of time looking at the moon.  And the stars.  My dad is a bit of an amateur astronomer, and is always calling me to tell me to go outside, IMMEDIATELY, and look at the moon.  Or Jupiter.  Or a meteor shower.  Sometimes I’m the one calling him, like I did just the other day, because the harvest moon was just too big not to get excited with someone about it.

And even though I’m far away from my family, every time I look at the moon, I remember my little sister’s favorite nursery rhyme, which she said so often my mom eventually embroidered it on a quilt for her:

I see the moon and the moon sees me,

God bless the moon and God bless me.

I recently learned another verse:

I see the moon and the moon sees me,

The moon sees the ones that I wish to see.

God bless the moon and God bless me.

God bless the ones that I wish to see.

I’m pretty sure my tire swinging, moon blessing childhood self would have been pretty freaked out that we were bombing the moon. But I’m also pretty sure that my nerdy pyromaniac dad, who loves to make me squeal, would have said, BLOW IT UP! And I would have squealed, NO, DADDY NO! DON’T BLOW UP THE MOON! And then we’d have quite a giggle.