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As Elton John might say, astronaut Scott Kelly is “packing his bags, pre-flight.” His “zero hour” comes March 1, at which time he will have spent almost a year on the space station Soyuz.
His descent will come quickly, depositing him near Kazahkstan in a mere 3-1/2 hours. Counting all six missions, Kelly has spent more time in space than any other American astronaut.
One thing Kelly learned during this last mission: “A year is a really, really long time.”
He was there to serve as a kind of lab rat for experiments on the effects of long-term space travel on the human body and mind, to gain a better idea of what a trip to Mars might do. Bone density, vision, inner ear, cognitive ability, mood — all can be affected.
Conveniently, Scott has a twin brother, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, so valuable comparison studies can be made. Scott Kelly likened his time in space to being on a submarine — in that you can’t really go anywhere — but found things to do to pass the time, like corresponding with his more than 900,000 Twitter followers and cavorting in a (wait for it) gorilla suit.
When he steps out of the craft and begins to adjust to the Earth’s gravity, he may be dizzy for a while. But what strikes me is the dizzying amount of change that can happen for the rest of us here on Earth while the space station orbits high above.
Imagine if you were taking off today to spend a year on the space station. When you returned, it would be almost March of 2017. It might be a different world.
We complain that things stay the same regardless of who wins elections, but that’s not true. Things that look bad now have the potential to become better or infinitely worse.
The government can turn on a dime as yet another freedom disappears. If Obama hadn’t won his two terms, we would have different Supreme Court Justices and arguably different decisions that affect millions of lives.
We wouldn’t be looking at a ruined healthcare system. We might even have a coherent foreign policy.
Think how many antiquities might still exist, how many people might still be alive, and how many fleeing migrants might not be fleeing. As crazy as this campaign season is, it does no good to drop out of the system or cast a poorly considered vote in anger and disgust. We must do what we can do.
So, here’s my message to any American about to be shot into space: Be sure to vote absentee!