Sometimes when you're trying to make a point, you exaggerate. You say, "I'm starving!" "It's so hot I could die," "My head's going to explode!" -- you travel through that triple-thick encyclopedia of hyperbole, looking for the right phrase: the one that will convince people you mean what you say.
Well guys, I've torn that encyclopedia apart -- twice -- and still can't find the right words to express how much I love outer space. Space is THE thing for me. It's where I spend most of my time. If my eyes are closed, there's a good chance I'm picturing the diamond seas of Neptune, or that bizarre hexagon at Saturn's North Pole.
Well, now there's a contest that wants to give me & my brain exactly what we want. Metro (that free newspaper you keep finding on the subway) is giving one lucky civilian the chance to blast off into outer space to live their dreams and maybe die of excitement. The contest, which opened on March 5, asks anyone who's interested in going to space (so, EVERYONE) to collect as many votes and Facebook "likes" as they can on the contest website (my page is here). Obviously, I have entered this contest. Obviously, I am going to win. Otherwise, I will implode and no one will be here to look after my cat.
My entire life has been marked by celestial events: The meteor showers of my childhood, the eclipses of my teens, the Cassini Probe parties of my "adult" life. I remember my first cosmic experience: seeing the northern lights. It was in my tiny hometown of Quirpon, Newfoundland. I was lying in a hammock in my uncle's backyard. All the adults were partying because my cousin was getting married, and I had snuck off to be alone. (Being alone was sort of my thing as a kid. Being alone and getting bullied.)
So, I was lying there, looking up at the sky, as I often did -- picking out constellations, making some up -- when these hazy bands of color appeared. They were aquamarine and chartreuse. They were colors that don't have names yet. I didn't know what I was seeing at first, and spent the next hour crying because I thought I was so special and so lucky and that God was telling me some secret about the universe.
I still feel that way every time I look at the night sky. I know the date of every eclipse for the next four years. I can tell you at exactly what time Mars will rise in the East in March. The first time I looked at the moon through a telescope, I wept like a baby and stayed outside till my fingers turned to ice. Space is a miracle. I could look at it forever.
But it's not just the visuals that excite me. The science keeps me awake at night. When I later learned what the Aurora really were, when I learned about our planet's magentosphere, well, I pretty much went into a coma.
I've spent years of my life dazed and amazed and gasping for breath, devouring everything I can lay my hands on that attempts to demystify the undemystifiable.
If you go into my iTunes and check my "most played" section, you'd see the thing I listen to most are these Voyager and Cassini probe recordings of the planet's electromagnetic waves. Obviously, there is no sound in space, as we know it, but there is boundless energy and that energy is transmitted in radio or electromagnetic waves, which we can compress and manipulate to make "music."
Each planet has its own unique sound. Saturn's rings are an ice-cold whisper. Jupiter, a ghost. They sound eerie and lifeless, but are beautiful in their desolation. Then you hear Earth, and you know -- you KNOW -- what a freakin' miracle this planet is. It makes real music. It makes the sound of a thousand fairies sitting on the same pink flower. It's beautiful.
I want to see that beauty from orbit. I want to look down on the Earth and say, "This is me. I am this thing. I am this thing and this thing is actually so small and fragile and its beauty makes my brain want to jump through a window."
There's still hope for me and no one can say I haven't tried my hardest to make this happen. This is the biggest most insane opportunity a lot of us will ever see. I don't know about you guys, but the odds of me ever possessing the $95,000 it takes to get to space is unlikely. This is my best shot at making what is legitimately my biggest dream (seeing the earth from space) come true.