An Iowahawk Techno-pinion
by David Burge
It hardly seems possible that 40 years have now passed since Neil Armstrong put that puffy moon boot in the dusty surface of the Sea of Tranquility and uttered those immortal words — “joke’s over Aldrin, unlock the friggin’ door.” I was only 8 at the time but I remember it as if it were yesterday. My parents let my brother and me stay up late into the night to witness that historic Moon walk on our new Quasar console TV, and we watched in bleary eyed wonder at the sight of those brave astronauts and our parents passed out on the floor after one too many “Apollo 11 cocktails.” It was also the summer we discovered where Dad hid the liquor cabinet key and his Playboys.
For weeks after, we reenacted that “one small step for man” from our backyard tree house, descending the steps in Super-Slo-Mo onto the lunar crabgrass. Then we bounded out in search of our dog Buster’s steaming “moon rocks” for “moon rock fights.” Eventually Dad would yell at us to get out the moon-mower, but it did little to dent our enthusiasm for space exploration. Maybe it was just the model airplane glue talking, but for that brief moment we actually believed we were Armstrong and Aldrin and Collins. But did I ever get to be Armstrong? No-o-o-o, Dave, you stupid baby, you have to be Collins. Shut up and orbit in the tree house while we drive around in the moon buggy. Sometimes if my brother had his stupid 5th grade friends over they would make me be Walter Cronkite or Jules Bergman and do the news report with Mom’s hairbrush.
Our moonwalk fever lasted for several weeks, until Dad took us to see the Joie Chitwood Auto Thrill Show at the Woodbury County Fair in Moville. Afterwards we got out our Stingrays and re-enacted those historic ramp jumps and T-bone crashes with our brave friends, like the late legendary 4th grade daredevil Marty Snitker. But nothing would ever again stoke our fantasies and imaginations like Apollo 11. Okay, maybe Lori Culbertson showing up to school in a halter top in ’74.
Today, America still has a space effort, but sadly it just doesn’t inspire like it once did in the heady days of Apollo and Gemini. Unmanned probes and orbiting space labs are fine, I guess, but where is the glamor? Where are the crewcut astronaut he-men with names like ‘Deke’ and ‘Buzz’ and ‘Gus,’ driving around Houston in matching big block Corvettes and Ray-Bans? Nowhere, that’s where. They’ve all been outsourced by space computers and floaty-haired National Junior High Science Teacher of the Year nerds. You tell me — do we really want dorks like these as Earth’s first line of defense against invading intergalactic aliens? No wonder my brother and I have to be half-blotto before we play pretend astronauts anymore.
If America wants to get back on the right track, scientific space mission-wise, we need to once again pick an inspiring, audacious goal, and man it with the kind of inspirational crew to make it happen. At long last, let us realize mankind’s most cherished dream — sending the entire United States Congress to the Moon by 2010.
When I mention this proposal to my space engineering friends at Meier’s Tap, they are often skeptical. They’ll argue it’s impossible, that even NASA’s most powerful booster rockets never anticipated a payload of 535 people including Charlie Rangel and Jerrold Nadler. Look man, I’m just the idea guy, and I’m sure those details can be worked out. When John F. Kennedy first proposed going to the Moon in 1961, did you people expect him to already have a formula for Tang? The beauty of my proposal is that our Astro-Congress is already on payroll — and chock full of crisis tested problem-solving engineers. If they can take over the entire US auto industry and re-engineer the American heath care system in two weeks, surviving a Moon mission will be a snap!
Yes, there are potential risks. Especially with Chief Flight Engineer Ted Kennedy at the controls. But did fear of the unknown stop Lewis and Clark? Did a couple of minor impalings scare us away from playing Lawn Darts? If Congress is going to be a bunch of sissies about it, I guess we could start out with a test flight of Astro-Congress test chimpanzees. When they splash down safely, we can then send up the real Congress, while their replacement chimpanzees debate pressing national legislative issues. As for Congressmen who still refuse to join the mission, I have one word: chloroform.
Make no mistake, my proposal is not some crazy pie-in-the-sky “because it is there” stunt. Just as the Apollo mission resulted in Teflon and freeze-dried ice cream and finding my dad’s stash of Playboys, my Moon Congress project will result in scientific knowledge and concrete benefits for all mankind. For example, we will learn how high-mass continuing resolutions and earmarks react to extreme low-G conditions, and whether the Moon Congress will use seniority to decide seats on the cannibalization subcommittee. Who knows? Our brave Astro-Representatives and Senators may even encounter friendly Moon creatures who will help them adapt to the harsh lunar fundraising environment.
If this mission is successful — and I am confident it will be — it will pave the way for further bold manned missions to the stars. It will be important that our marooned Moon Congress gets the press coverage it needs, so we should begin working immediately for a follow-up launch of the one-way Moon Media Shuttle by mid-2010. This will result in improved chloroform technology that will help us in planning the 2011 Executive Branch on Mars mission, and the 2012 Supreme Court Venus probe. By 2013, we will be ready for our most audacious space goal yet — sending the entire Internal Revenue Service rocketing to the Black Hole of Antaraes.
Go ahead and accuse me of living in a utopian sci-fi dream world, but I believe that if we act now America’s families and its elected chimpanzees will soon gather around the Quasar console TV and cheer our triumphant return to the Final Frontier, once again inspiring a new generation of our kids to bold backyard space adventures. Just to be safe, I would probably change the locks on your liquor cabinets.