My dad was in the Air Force and a pilot. He loved all things aeronautics including all things space. That meant that my sister and I watched every launch, even when it meant waking up at 2am. It also included the Blue Angels flying over our bellies on the roof of a base house at the end of the runway.
I can tell you exactly where I was the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded. In talking to my dad to understand why it was so much more devastating, he explained that unlike the Columbia, the Challenger exploded on take-off and that just doesn’t happen NASA engineers know what shape the rocket is in when it takes off. They have inspected literally every inch and tested all the systems. Take off is hard but it is not usually the scariest or hardest part.
That is re-entry.
Even though there are many systems designed to know what has happened to the spacecraft while in space, you simply can’t know. Is there a tile damaged? Is there a system that malfunctioned that you fixed but not well enough? What shape is the vessel in, and can it withstand the pressure of re-entry?
Remember how hard we all thought shifting to working from home and virtual learning and grocery curbside was? We adapted and then the mission continued.
As we begin life post-pandemic we have to acknowledge that re-entry will most likely be harder than take off. What shape is your vessel in? What about all the parts that affect your vessel: kids, work, spouse, social life, school….
We also must acknowledge that there are people in our community we will not see again. Some died from Covid and some just died. Grief and grief work should and will inform re-entry.
So, inspect your vessel and the vessels of those you love. Take a little more time to check in on those you love. Be gentle with yourself and others as you reenter the atmosphere. Remember that astronauts have to re-adapt and get their earth legs back after they re-enter. Seeing each other on a screen is so vastly different than in person but we must give space for everyone to adjust as needed.
We look forward to seeing you soon and want you to know how glad we are to be on the mission together.