Monday, November 19, 2007

Trajectories for Re-Entry

Back in the days of the Apollo space program, we, the common people on the ground, were continually amazed, if not perplexed, by the engineering marvels that allowed us to send human beings to the moon and then back again.

NASA's finest hour, indeed.

It was one minor miracle followed by the next - each needing to happen in succession. As controlled as everything was on the spacecraft, mission control, and the procedures that governed them, the variability of space created an angst, even in the face of confidence, that this thing they were doing was no walk in the park, and was quite dangerous.

Just ask the crew of Apollo 13.

The thing I recall today is the angle of re-entry that the space craft had to take to come home. If they didn't hit the atmosphere just right, they would bounce off and out into space.

Man, is that ever a loaded thought!

The angle is so severe, one commentator noted (and this news footage is actually in the movie, Apollo 13), that as he held up a ball representing the Earth, the angle necessary to successfully get the crew home has the thickness of a single sheet of paper.

Although I've been home from my trip a couple of days, today is the real first day of re-entry to the ordinariness of my life - its schedule, pace, cadence.

And, quite frankly, its a bit of a jolt. No jet lag, mind you. But there is a whiplash of considering where I've been in recent days, and where I am now.

Make no mistake, though. I'd far rather hit the mark and get back to my life than bounce off into some unknown existence.

I feel certain that episodes of being in the UK again will bubble up and find expression here over time. And yes, my enchantment with that country, especially the Midlands, is as great as ever.

But for now, while thankful I've been there, I'm even more thankful I'm back here. Back to my life. For better and worse - here it is to be lived.

And if I ever "disappear" in some mid-life crisis moment - you'll probably find me in Gloucester in the middle of the pedestrian mall singing with the musicians who set up shop there -

Just in case you need me.

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