I must have been about eight at the time, maybe nine. I had never left the city farther than some of closer in ‘burbs, and here we were camping in the open in the middle of Montana. I was so mesmerized by the stars that I couldn’t sleep. I just lay on my back, staring straight up.
I watched those same stars, eyes wide open. Only this time they were brighter. Although I knew the small differences that could be created by position of the planets was totally insignificant compared to the light years that lay between my and those stars, they seemed closer, infinitely closer.
With my first real taste of space from the big sky of Montana’s thin air, I knew that I couldn’t stay in the city forever. And even the mountains out West were too confined. I had to explore. I had to go out There.
And I did.
As I watched the glorious stars, I thought back on how I had pushed myself. I followed the standard path set up so many years before I was born. I studied mechanical engineering but got a Masters Degree in Physics. I went into the Air Force and flew fighter jets. I became a test pilot. Finally I was chosen to be an astronaut.
My third trip up was to explore the “dark side” of the Moon. Of course there is plenty of light, it is just facing away from Earth.
Or there should have been light.
We crashed in the shadows just shy of our destination. There was no Earth in our sky and no sun, just stars.
I say “our”, but I was the only one to survive. And that, just barely.
But I am content to wait out these last few hours, unable to move, laying flat on my back, staring at my beautiful stars.