Apparently it will take thirty years for anyone to reach Mars from the earth. I've always been fascinated by space and the Space Program, and I thought that going to investigate distant planets would be the perfect job for me.
I have changed my mind.
Today we got up at 4.30am to drive to Cape Canaveral. The chance to see the launch of the Orion, the beginnings of the long program to get people onto Mars, was too good an opportunity to miss. The launch 'window' was between 7.05 and 9.45am. At 6am we arrived at a perfect viewing spot. We chatted with people from all over the world, even a couple from the next town to us in the UK! Excitement filled the air. One person was in text contact with one of the space engineers at the launch pad (friends in high places, indeed) and another with an engineer in Houston. So we were well informed. I was so excited I felt sick!
Tripod. Camera. Correct lens. John had a camera too. I had my iPad ready to video the whole thing. (You can see where this is heading, I'm sure.) I had my binoculars, and I could clearly see the launch pad and the rusty rockets that would push Orion into space. I was there.
I remember watching on television with my dad the first moon landing in 1969. He was even more excited than I was. If he had been with me today, I think he would have been in danger of having what my brother delicately calls 'a trouser incident'!
It was all set to go on time. The fog had cleared. There was no wind. Everything was perfect. The countdown was set to start. Suddenly a helicopter swooped down towards the water. Suddenly everything stopped. There was a boat in the 'zone'. The launch had to be delayed. The countdown would start again in 25 minutes.
In all there were three starts and stops. The boat. Some valves. Then the 'window' closed. It was all over, but nothing had actually happened. Come back tomorrow.
Deflated but determined to get something out of the day, we decided to go home the long way, and take some time to walk along the Atlantic coast. We eventually got home nine and a half hours after we had left. That's the length of a flight from the UK. As I heard myself moaning about the journey, the smallness of the car (it isn't), why hadn't we brought more water with us, moan moan moan, I realised that I was never cut out to be an astronaut, shooting off to Mars in a capsule the size of my kitchen.
It's very disappointing.