The Rocket’s Red Glare

“Mom. Mom. Mother! LOIS!”

The last one always gets my attention. Yes, I know it’s not my name, but if I’m in a crowd and hear someone shout Mom, a thousand women turn around. This is the pattern of words/bird calls that my kids find necessary to stimulate my consciousness—my awareness of their presence (read demand for attention).

“Yes?” I raised my head to see my daughter standing beside my desk, her face a mixture of annoyance and impatience.

“Let’s go. Hurry up.” She held her iPhone in her hand and beckoned me. A man’s voice chattered through the speakers.

“Who’s on the phone?” I whispered.

She rolled her eyes. “NASA. We’re waitin’ on you now.”

GNC systems are nominal, another iPhone voice chirped.

I looked at my computer’s clock. 11:10 pm. Finally, I was awake for some big aerospace worthy event and not simply going to hear about it the next morning because it took place at 3:52 am and I chose sandman over spacemen.

I leapt from my chair and followed my daughter to the mudroom where we popped on our boots and jackets. Outside, the air nipped at any spots of exposed skin, so I did a little running in place to warm myself. I got shushed for bouncing too loudly and interfering with the crackling sound of our NASA Wallops men. They were ticking off boxes on a long checklist of things that could easily make a team of scientists fall to their knees and weep like children who lost a game of checkers if one of them didn’t get a ‘Thumbs up and go for it.’

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SMA is Go.


SMD is Go.


NASA Advisor Team is ready.

Copy that.

My daughter ran in the house to shut off the kitchen lights, which gave me ten seconds of bouncing to myself. Kinetic energy converts to thermal energy, right? I was trying to think like a scientist. Then I heard her and the Wallops men float down the back porch steps in the dark.

I looked up into the inky black. The stars were crisply sharp tonight. It was as if NASA had done a last minute vacuuming of the sky, ridding it of any dusty bits that might interfere with seeing the rocket launch.

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“What’s our rocket called?” I asked.


LADEE is Go for launch.

“Ladee?” I nearly shouted. “As in Bruichladdich? Wahoo!”


T minus 90 seconds.

I was thrilled. They named the rocket after my favorite distillery in Scotland. And suddenly I was in desperate need of a dram to celebrate—if not just to warm up.

“I can’t believe they named the rocket after a whisky.”

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Even though it was too dark to see my daughter roll her eyes, I knew it accompanied the tsk sound that came from her mouth. “Mother … *sigh* … the rocket is not named for an alcoholic beverage. LADEE stands for ‘Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.’ Now be quiet.”



T minus 35 seconds.

RCO report range go for launch?

Range is Go.

SSC hydraulics internal?

Hydraulics Go.

“Where do we look?” I whispered.

She thrust a sharp finger eastward to the tree line. Even her fingers were shushing me.

I stood on tiptoe to see Wallops Flight Center. It was about one hundred miles away as the crow flies (or the rocket hurls). It turns out that I cannot see one hundred miles away. At that moment, Haggis, my hairy hound, hurled himself out of the house and—keenly aware of the heart-palpitating excitement and the need for speed—ran circles around us while barking.


I grabbed at his collar and pulled him nose to nose. “Be. Quiet.” I pointed at my daughter. “Can’t you hear that her god is speaking?”

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T minus 20 seconds and counting … T minus 15 … T minus 10, 9, 8,

A rocket was hopefully going to the moon. It was so exciting.

5, 4, 3,

I held my breath. I really wanted to bounce.

2, 1, 0, ignition and liftoff of the Minotaur V with LADEE, pursuing a mission about moondust and the lunar atmosphere …

We saw nothing.

Six (static) naught copy (static) mach four … pressure is nominal.

“Where is it?” I whispered, fingers crossed. I really wanted to see my rotgut rocket. My Bruichladdich LADEE. My moonshine heading to the moon.

Pressure is nominal.

What the heck is “nominal?” I don’t want nominal … I WANT VISUAL!

An orange ball rose from beyond the tree line, and I grabbed my daughter’s hand. “There it is! There it is!”

We watched the fire from this tiny toy rocket blaze through the sky, like a slow moving falling star going the wrong way. It was breathtaking.

Our NASA men kept us informed how all the flight instruments and power systems were performing, how the attitudes and flight paths were spot on, to watch for a separation, ignition and burnout because they were all part of the show. It was marvelous.

“How long will it take to get there?” I asked, thinking we might see pictures of its successful arrival online in the morning.

“October 6th.”

“Wha??” I balked at the thought of it. “But the moon is right there.” I pointed to the area I saw it hovering the night before. “It’s like … spitting distance. Are you sure?”

“I’m sure,” was her answer.

“When are they going to learn that unmanned missions are a waste of fuel? They should have just asked Tom Hanks to drive. He knows the way.”

My daughter turned to face me and sighed. “Goodnight, Lois.”

I blew a kiss at the tiny orange dot. “Good luck, laddie.”

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Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery (here) and what we all talked about down in the pub (here). And to see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone–click here.

17 thoughts on “The Rocket’s Red Glare

  1. Very entertaining, as usual! My ‘Lois’ is ‘Mama bear’, uttered for the first time in frustration when my young daughter was trying to find me in a department store change room… ‘Mama bear? It’s Baby bear’. I recognised her voice and called out which room I was in. Enjoyed Rob’s illustrations too… And is that a new WordPress award I see? 😉

  2. I hope my daughters find something to be so passionate about someday! Lord, let it be science and sports, not boys. Please not boys.

    • I like this quote from Stephen Hawking, “Science is not only a disciple of reason but, also, one of romance and passion.”
      I hope the same thing too for your girls, but maybe with a sprinkling of boys? A rich life from end to end. 😉

    • Thank you so much for reading – and of course the lovely compliment. The little blue badge is a lovely addition, but I have to say, the true reward is connecting with other folks who come to share their thoughts and say HI. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do? Cheers to you!

  3. Dear Lois,

    Cleo cracks me up! Again, such rich description made me feel as if I was standing right there. I know that spot well and could also see Haggis finally showing his eyes, large as ever bulging out from beneath his hair scared sh…tless from the flames coming from Cleo’s nostrils demanding he cease his noise or be sent to the moon.

    I am so happy that you had that experience; to be witness to human kind sending off a rocket to outer space. For science, for progress, for education. As Doc says, “Good on you” Cleo for dragging your mother out to see this. If not, she most likely would have just continued staring at a screen filled with recipes, new distilleries to visit and her collection of corks from years (or days) past. 🙂

    Congrats on yet another blue milk jug cap. Do you get a discount at Starbucks now?
    Love your writing as always,

    Stoshu 🙂

    • Do you mean to say that you didn’t head out onto the back porch to watch the show? Don’t you have vision that equates to that of an eagle anyway, with all your years of sighting creatures down the shaft of an arrow? Surely 500 miles or so isn’t too much of a stretch for your eyes, right?
      Thanks for reading, buddly. And no, no discount for the new sticker, although as a penniless writer, I’m hoping it may one day help qualify me for an upgrade in food stamps. Coffee? A dream. I just stew up some of the old livestock grain at the bottom of the barrel. What a treat.

  4. Its the first post of yours I read, and I am sure I won’t stop. It was hilarious and I had no idea it was not fiction.
    And who draws those cartoons? Fabulous. Send my appreciation to whoever did those. 🙂

    • Our gratitude abounds! Thank you for reading, and for the blush-worthy applause. Robin Gott is the master sketch artist. You can see more if his work and visit his blog page by clicking one of the links at the bottom of each post.
      I will most definitely pass on your praise. He’ll be chuffed to hear it.
      Nice work on your own posts as well. 😉

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