It all started innocently enough. I was on tap to take both Elena and Ian to daycare/school this morning. Jeff was home, so he helped load us all in the car and off we went. I had the radio tuned to NPR, which perhaps was my first mistake because there was a story on about the last flight of the space shuttle.
I recall that we were about halfway into the 10 minute drive to St. Andrews when the first question came from the back seat. Mommy? Yes. Why don’t they wear helmets in space? Well, because I guess they don’t need them. (Brilliant answer, I know.) Oh. Then, silence, except for Elena’s usual vocal inflections and exclamations of wonder at some unknown object she’s passionately pointing at out the window. Suddenly: Mommy? Yes. Does the space shuttle have a name? Yes. What is its name? Well, I believe there are two space shuttles and they both have different names: one is Atlantis, which is the one that is about to come home for the final time, and the other was Endeavour. Oh. And from Elena: Oooohhhhh….ha! So they only have two space shuttles? Why? Yes, I’m pretty sure there are only two space shuttles right now and that’s probably because they are very expensive to build and take care of, so they can’t afford to have too many of them at once.
As you can see, I’m already getting into murky territory given that I’m not 100% sure there are only currently two shuttles. And there’s something else I’m interested in hearing on the radio, so I’m crossing my fingers that this is the end of our space program discussion because it’s also about to get real dicey. But no such luck.
Did you know that when they go to space they go to the International Space Station? Um, yes, of course I know that. What do they do there? They learn things about space. What do they learn? Suddenly this drive is seeming longer than normal. At this point, I thought about informing him that while my college degrees do including Spanish and communications, astronautology is definitely not on the list. In fact, I’m not sure it’s on anyone’s list…but that’s how far removed my brain actually is from intimate knowledge of space exploration. Elena has turned quiet, as if she’s listening in. Well, they see if there’s water there or things living there that might help us here. Oh. Is there water in space?
At this point, I notice in the rear view mirror that Elena actually leans forward and looks left at Ian when he’s asking a question. Then leans back and looks at me, as if waiting expectantly to see what I’m going to come up with this time. Ian, did I mention that I’m going to be writing some talking points at work today? Daddy told me that they count backwards from four, but they don’t. And they don’t actually say “blast off!,” either. They say, “10! 9! 8! 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! 2! 1! Lift Offfff….!” Did you know that? Um yes, I think I’ve heard that before.
After the longest car ride since the space shuttle program started in 1981 (betcha didn’t think I knew that, huh?), we rounded the final corner toward school. At this point, I felt comfortable wrapping it up with a question myself. So Ian, do you like learning things about space? Yes! Are you going to work in space when you grow up? No, I can’t. Why not? Well, I was going to…I mean, I was going to be a space ranger. But now I can’t because we’re not going to space anymore. Oh, we’ll be going to space again soon. Just not right now.
“Eeeeee Ooohhhhh!,” added Elena.