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Editors’ Expressions: Take Me Away

Yesterday I got a chance to feel like a kid again. I spent the afternoon watching the splashdown of the SpaceX Dragon capsule, hooting and hollering, in awe of science. We all were rooting for the Space Dads, Bob and Doug, and for the success of the whole endeavor.

The good news of Bob's and Doug’s excellent adventure was a welcome pick-me-up from the typical news cycle.

I watched as the workers aboard the ship, the GO Searcher, donned their SCBAs and used their high-tech tools to “sniff” out any hazardous chemicals around the capsule, ensuring everyone’s safety.

And then the stretcher appeared in the frame, unmistakable in its shape. There was even a pillow. The crew was at the ready, prepping it for the astronauts whose feet hadn’t been on solid ground for two months. I looked closely at the grainy, pixelated video feed from the ship, thinking surely there had to be a few medics aboard, because who else knows how to operate a stretcher?

And the whole scenario got me thinking, what if? I dreamed of another reality, maybe a rewrite of the events…

FADE IN

ABOARD THE GO SEARCHER, SPACEX DRAGON RECOVERY SHIP

SUNDAY, AUG. 2, 2020, 15:30 HOURS EDT

OFF THE COAST OF PENSACOLA, FLA.

MEDIC 1, MEDIC 2, AND FLIGHT SURGEON on deck of GO Searcher, preparing to bring astronauts out of capsule.

MEDIC 1: [to MEDIC 2] Are all the pieces in place? Plan is a go?

MEDIC 2: Yep. My designated position is at the head of the stretcher, since no one else knows how to use it. I’ll give Bob and Doug the message as I’m securing the shoulder straps.

MEDIC 1: OK, good. If you aren’t able to talk to them, remember to wink at me when they’re being loaded into the helo, and we’ll go with Plan B.

MEDIC 2: You got it.

[Bob is extricated from the capsule and assisted onto the stretcher for transfer to the waiting helicopter.]

[MEDIC 2 carefully straightens shoulder straps over Bob’s torso, fumbles a bit with the buckle.]

MEDIC 2: [under his breath, placing pillow under Bob’s head] Bob, we’re ready for the plan to come together. Tell them your body isn’t ready yet for gravity, and they’ll send us all up there into weightlessness.

BOB: Oh, it’s you! I’m in. Let’s do this. Let’s get you to space.

[Bob feigns confusion, looks quizzically at MEDIC 2.]

BOB: Wait, what? [raises voice] Wow, I really don’t feel right.

MEDIC 2: [adjusting pillow, speaking quietly near Bob’s ear] Doing great, Bob. You’re going to help me escape the pandemic, just for a little while. Take me away from here! [louder to FLIGHT SURGEON] Patient is confused, answering inappropriately. On cursory physical exam, reports numbness and tingling. Says he can’t move his limbs properly. GCS is 12.

FLIGHT SURGEON: Copy, Medic 2. [speaks into radio] Mission Control, this is the SpaceX Flight Surgeon. We’re going to need to prep for launch #2. Bob and Doug need to go back up for a bit—doctor’s orders.

MISSION CONTROL: Copy, Flight Surgeon. Our pre-plan includes Bob and Doug getting one-on-one care for this scenario. Medic 1 and Medic 2 have examined them, so they’ll be accompanying Bob and Doug. Medic 1 and Medic 2, report to Cape Canaveral for launch.

FLIGHT SURGEON: Copy, Mission Control. Sending Medic 1 and Medic 2 with Bob and Doug to the launch pad now.

[MEDIC 1 and MEDIC 2 fist bump subtly and begin steering stretchers up the ramp to GO Searcher’s helicopter pad.]

FADE OUT

I like to think Bob and Doug conspired with their medics to go back up there. They know the pandemic is draining and difficult and these medics need a rest. No doubt Elon has another rocket waiting in the wings just for this purpose.

Watching the splashdown was really exciting. Even if it’s temporary, all humans right now could use the dose of positivity, the lifting of burdens, the escapism—the possibility, as poet John Gillespie Magee so eloquently put it, of “slipping the surly bonds of earth.”

 

High Flight, by John Gillespie Magee

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air…

 

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace

Where never lark, or ever eagle flew –

And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

 

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