Friday, October 28, 2016

what comes to mind

when ander learned that he was going on a field trip with his classmates to the kennedy center, his thoughts went immediately to the kennedy space center because, well, because space and because that's what he's been reading about and learning about and listening to for years.

he wasn't pleased when i informed him that it was actually the kennedy center for the performing arts. when we talked a little more about how it made more sense that he would be taking a day trip into washington, d.c., rather than a substantially longer trip to cape canaveral in florida, he was still disappointed, but he cheered up a bit when i told him it was certainly a good opportunity to dress in his business attire (i love to see him in his shirt and tie and sportcoat and great-grandfather's tie clip).

the students had apparently seen some kind of introductory video at school days beforehand because he mentioned an organ that needed a whole room built (i think he meant the rubenstein family organ which i would not have known about otherwise), and ander was especially pleased to learn that he was to be the first on our family to step foot inside the concert hall.

when he came home from school that day, ander was very excited to inform us that the national symphony orchestra had performed *star wars music* and that a woman on stage wielded a toy lightsaber. i couldn't get any more details out of him, but suffice it to say that it won't be his last trip.

now fast forward a few hours into the evening: after dinner, ander comfortably ensconced in his hooded astronaut union suit pajamas, when steve casually asks if anyone is interested in seeing a rocket launch. WHAT?!?

i knew that nasa was to launch an unmanned rocket to the international space station from wallops island the day before and i was sad to have missed it. it had been rescheduled, though, and steve saw an alert in his newsfeed and he identified a very local park nearby that afforded us a reasonable chance of seeing the flare from burning fuel.

so we headed out to the dark field, dimly lit by the store lights across the street, and directed our eyes towards the tree line over which we hoped to glimpse a burst of light. after setting an alarm for 1.5 minutes post-launch, steve and i sat on the ground while the kids played tag in huge crop circles. we saw a figure slowly approach our vantage point, inquiring if we were there for the launch. he had his smartphone displaying the livestream of the launchpad along with the chatter from mission control. ander was immediately interested and started telling the gentleman about the antares rocket. turns out that mr. jeff knew that already, probably because he works for nasa - he's an actual planetary scientist who works for nasa! he explained some jargon while we waited for the slightly delayed countdown to begin, then we watched the livestream launch, then, as predicted, a minute and a half later we saw a burst of red appear in the night sky. we saw it! we saw the rocket! ander spent the next minutes running and jumping and crashing into his sibling while the adults continued watching and listening to mission control until the glowing speck traveled far enough away that we could no longer see it over the tree line.

i got mr. jeff's contact information and reassured him that we would be in contact about the tour he offered of his facilities. his work sounds so interesting to me - involvement in the OSIRIS-REx mission to collect samples from asteroid bennu. he said he'd been at the atlas v launch in cape canaveral, florida and suggested that we try to visit the kennedy space center because it's just so great.

and so now i'm looking into planning an adventure to the place that first came to ander's mind.

funny how the universe works, isn't it?


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