NASA’s shuttle program is nearly as old as I am, but I’ve got about 4 years on it. Thirty years is a good run: 135 flights in all, and relatively few tragedies, though the ones that did occur are unforgettable.

An astrologer would say that major life changes happen around the 30-year mark, because that’s a full Saturn orbit, a Saturn return. So the dismantling of the program after its 135th and final launch on July 8th is, according to some, written in the stars.

Knowing that Saturn occupies the same coordinates it did when the program was born can’t be much comfort to the families, the communities, the employees, for whom shooting for the stars has become an identity, a way of life. Pink slips are coming; houses are on the market; schools will have lots of free space.

Drew Barrymore blamed the chaos of her 30th year on her Saturn return, but she came out renewed, more mature. Me? I got divorced, remarried, and pregnant—BOOM, like that—and emerged a more confident artist. But the shuttle program? Is there hope for something brighter on the other side? Regarding this, I’m a moon-half-dark kind of gal.

Nevertheless, let’s do what we do best at Atticus Review: celebrate through literature. Celebrate, not the end of NASA’s manned shuttle era, but the mystery and wonder that space brings us. How it seems like a prearranged premise of human existence that when we look up at night, we wonder; we feel small. But we tap at our keyboards anyway, hoping our voices will find a way.

If “Zeno’s Shotgun Paradox” had a director, it would be Terrence Malick. The story is about, or not about, the vastness, or the tininess, of everything. Or nothing. What is horrible is also benign; what is preventable is inevitable. You get the idea. Or not. This story strikes me because Andrew Farkas proficiently wrote this narrative like a philosophical technical manual, and yet throughout, the narrative retains the qualities that make it compelling from the beginning—the images, the tangible details, the short sentences that ring like a shot, so that I’m unsure what I’m reading and what thoughts I’m supplying myself. And by the end, I feel smarter and also like I never knew anything.

It’s July 1969. You are nine. There are men on the moon right this minute, and your life will never be the same. You are reading “Everyone’s Gone To the Moon” by Gregg Hubbard. I first heard this story in a workshop in 2003, and I was Gregg’s immediate fan. The nostalgia—which in any story has the potential to turn precious—is deftly kept in check with the genuine Southern sensibility of the narrator and the author’s pacing and peppering of concrete details. But the heart of this story is this: the trivial elements of a child’s immediate world feel as heavy to the narrator as men walking on the moon, leaving impressions with equal weight.

J.P. Dancing Bear’s “Inner Voyeur and Moon” is a blooming moonflower of a poem, the kind best savored repeatedly and without explanation. But I will say: Lovers, reflecting. Shadows, pools in eyes, body attracting body. Celestial.

Matt Mullins’s “What So Proudly We Hail (This Is the Space Age)” is a mixed-media mashup of William S. Burroughs and Jimi Hendrix, squealing guitar edging out gravelly voice. What did the space race really mean? What made it worth it? And what now, after this week’s falling action, the country’s sensible decision overriding our quest for…something?

Three decades of exploration, and we have more questions than answers. There’s something about that that comforts me. We are curious, and I like curious people. And the thing about curious people is that the answers sometimes make the questions more boring anyway. The possibilities are still there. Saturn has to return again, and space doesn’t stop being space just because we’re not in it.




Photo Source: Astronomy Picture of the Day
Credit: NASA, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Voyager Project