Rockets and a lot of Red Glares (part 2)

I couldn’t sleep last night. In my head, all I could think about was that tomorrow was Launch Day—the culminating event of a two week, end of high school senior project my eighteen-year old daughter was tackling. The title of the adventure was Project SkyHAB (for Sky High Altitude Balloon). But I referred to it fondly as One Teenager’s Dream to Make it Rain in Space.

200714skyhab (646x800)

In order to fully understand the impossibility of success for this operation, you must catch up. Read this. It’s part one. The rest of us will wait while you’re gone. Hurry up.

Alrighty then, now that we’re all on the same page, it will not come as a surprise to find out I was assigned to be Head of Mission Control. That meant I would need to be glued to the monitor attached to my computer with no distractions like food or water, and maybe only the occasional gulp of air for the entire four-hour flight. I would need loose fitting clothing and a slickly greased swivel chair. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds. There is a bucketload of stress attached to the job, and I’m guessing at some point, someone may consider making a film about it.

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I heard my daughter leave for the launch site just before 5 am, and like most folks in charge of the less physical aspects of a job—particularly those in management—I went back to sleep for a couple of hours. She’d call if there was a snag. I was sure of it.

After a while, those of us who considered ourselves top brass rolled out of bed. The hound, the hellcat, and I all found some grub. One of us was supposed to purchase freeze dried astronaut food as a way of setting the mood and creating a scene, but didn’t. I glared at them both. This was going in the report.

We waited anxiously for the phone call that was to signal the start of the countdown, and bounced around from room to room keeping limber. We did laundry, washed some dishes, pulled a few weeds, and penned yet another lengthy epistle to Carl Sagan, who for some rude reason started ignoring my missives around 1996. I was hoping to Skype with him while the balloon was making its way spacebound.

Apparently, my personal Houston was not going to answer, so I’d have to go it solo. I wasn’t deterred. More donuts for me at the afterglow party once we’d achieved success.

Although I was told to hang tight for the T-minus 60 notification, my anxiety about the many hour delays compelled me to phone the launch site every 30 minutes for an update.

I heard explanations about faulty equipment, excuses that laid blame at the feet of a roll of duct tape, and a lot of foul language. It was a little like attending one of my daughter’s violin gigs.

Wanting to make sure I was totally up to date, I continually refreshed the website that broadcasted the GPS coordinates. It pinged the same longitude and latitude for hours on end. I decided I should be prepared with backups in case of an unforeseen local blackout and a complete loss of power, a massive equipment failure with my desktop, or a solar flare incident that wiped out the one satellite dedicated to me and Project SkyHAB for today.

I called my dad and a friend.

I told them science depended upon their willing participation and announced they would get credit in the report write up sent to NASA.

My dad bargained for a nap mid-afternoon.

I told him this would affect his performance evaluation in the report.

He told me that either he got the nap, or I could go fly a kite.

I reminded him that this was A BALLOON.

There was some terse language about a union, and a reminder that he knew people who worked at the local Pennysaver, so I finally gave in and agreed to the nap. Bad press is not gonna happen on my watch.

At precisely 12:43 pm—or something close to it—I received the much anticipated phone call. My head was in the fridge. I was cleaning chocolate milk off the shelves.

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“Wait—what?? Where’s the countdown? There was supposed to be a countdown. And I needed to have my people on standby. How could you have already launched when I—”


“Hold on a sec.” I raced to my super slickly greased wheelie chair and tried to get my computer to wake up from sleep mode. It was obviously over-tired from the taxing morning work of refreshing the GPS site and refused to be roused.


“Yep, yep … yep, hold on a sec, I’m checking.”


The computer screen flared to life. The coordinates flashed in front of me. My heart seized up and stopped beating. “Huh … how bout that.”


“It appears your balloon is still at the launch site.”


“Says so right here.”

I heard the phone drop and the distant voice of my daughter shouting, “Come back! Wait … come back, baby!”

You want to know what happened next? I’ll bet you do. Let me just say this: it involves a gun, a team of humiliated London policemen and Benedict Cumberbatch. No wait … that’s the contents of the next Sherlock episode I’m about to watch. Sorry.

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Come back next week for the next installment of Hopefully Not a Waste in Space.


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

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76 thoughts on “Rockets and a lot of Red Glares (part 2)

    • Boy, oh boy, Cindy, I’ve only now become aware of the mind-blowing level of pitch and volume the average teenage girl’s voice can project. There should be some award for reaching that achievement.
      I so appreciate you taking the time to read and join the adventure. Hope to see you next week as we move forward. Or upward. 😛

    • Thank you for your incredibly kind comments, but I can only accept the accolades for half of them. The other chunk goes to this blog’s marvelous illustrator extraordinaire: Robin Gott (and a very fine writer to boot!) You can check out more of Rob’s beautiful goofiness on his website
      We shall be on the scene bright and early first thing next week for further updates. Tune in!

  1. Shelley, you little sneak! While I was reading the last part of this post, I didn’t realize I was holding my breath, desperate to find out what happened to the balloon. (And you should know it ain’t easy for me to hold my breath that long!) You sure know how to build the suspense, my friend! I’m trying to be less of an Eeyore and more of a Tigger (though not nearly as hyper), and tell myself that the balloon is okay and all went well. (Or else I won’t be able to sleep tonight.) Your dad is a hoot! I can see you got your amazing sense of humor honestly! He and I sound like kindred spirits, because I adore my afternoon naps. And for what it’s worth, I think Carl Sagan would be incredibly impressed by this experiment. I can’t wait to read what happens next!

    • Holy cow, Miranda, you are so ahead of the game this week! Personally, I’d like a few tips, as I’m way behind. (Still hoping to finish off that beautiful corned beef and cabbage dish I made for Saint Paddy’s day. Fairly sure the gravy was green to begin with.)
      Regardless, my aim is to eventually make my readers pass out. There could be nothing finer in my morning mailbox than a fistful of doctor bills from angry folks who had to visit the ER for stitches after reading one of my posts. Splitting a gut would be preferable to the sewing up of a forehead hitting the sharp end of a keyboard. Still …
      And, I’m afraid ‘mums the word’ on the balloon until next week, although I might suggest a few breathing exercises as prep work.
      Thank you for all your lovely words, Miranda. What a total bonus to see you bright and early! 😀

      • I was so excited to see your new post pop up in my reader! Serendipity. 🙂 I promise I’ll remember to breathe when I read your next post, but I’m emotionally invested in SkyHAB now, and darn it, that balloon is going to make it! You just might make me pass out from laughing too hard one of these days, though–no guarantees that won’t happen! As for me being ahead of the game this week, that’s about to end in 53 minutes. Starting tomorrow, I’ll fall behind again, trudging along like Eeyore. (Or more like Pooh: “Oh, bother!”)

        • Umm… you’re more than emotionally invested, Miranda. You’re financially invested!
          And I am absolutely positive, that if polled, everyone who fell in love with Pooh Bear would secretly admit that they’ve been totally weak in the knees for Eeyore from the get go. Don’t go all Tigger on me for too long. I think you’re perfect just the way you are.

          • I promise I’ll only have Tigger’s outlook when it comes to SkyHAB. (Oh, and your upcoming book. I have a GREAT feeling about it. And I’ll be able to say, “I knew Shelley way back when…”) ❤

  2. Oh no, how can you leave us hanging like this!! Now I am dying to know if things turned out okay for the poor girl. It kind of brings back some childhood memories of my mom trying to aid as the assistant. . . the stories do not end so great. 🙂

    • Oh, Sasha, it pains me too! I’m telling you, PREPARE NOW, as those tiny, ruby-lipped cherubs of yours will saw you in half and stuff you back in a box a thousand time before bedtime shortly. Enjoy the innocence. And learn at the feet of your mother. She can help you map out a few escape routes.
      I hope you’ll make it through the week. 😛

  3. Ha, on the edge of the seat here! Nice building of suspense Mrs P. The sketch of the very sexy, ummm…fine classical actor Mr B Cumberbatch is spot on. If a little, well, chartreuse? (Carl Sagan doesn’t know what he is missing…)

    • I love that doodle! I’ve got to make it poster-sized. Can’t imagine where I’d find an appropriate place to put a picture of a briny Benedict, but I will find a wall. Next to the fridge maybe? 😛

  4. Well. Now that is a fine kettle of fish. Or something. This IS just like the old time movie serials. Just when you think that you are reaching the thrilling conclusion you are given a “..just wait a minute, not so fast” . Bummer. Some how I think there has to be some connection with portal projection, alien abduction and chocolate cake. I mean you must have chocolate cake. Oh, one last thing. That IS not B Cumberpatch. That is his ne’er do well cousin Mr Robert Rugala. A common mistake. But when it comes to our Space Program you must be ever vigilant. Until next time. As always Nanu Nanu.

    • Benson, you totally crack me up. Long ago, in my show business days, there was an old saying of Always leave them wanting more, which in my case meant it was best to stay off stage and not ruin the moment, but that’s the general principle I’m going with here. In truth, I kinda like your suggestion better. Just serve everyone chocolate cake. It’s brilliant. If everyone knew they were getting it at the end of each post, success would surely be mine!
      And I love your take on Mr. Cucumberpatch. I was streaming tears of laughter when that guy came across my desk.
      Over an out, Orson.

      • “Always leave them wanting more.” That was my attitude when I owned restaurants. I can totally see you in show business. A classy torch singer in a little caberet. Wearing a flowing gown and a simple strand of pearls. With your only accompaniment an old piano player tickling the ivories. Wait a minute maybe that was Casablanca. I am confused.

  5. Love all the comments here Shelley— like obviously attracts like energies. Will also be waiting to see what happens to said rocket, and hope your daughter isn’t disappointed!

    • Well, I do have a bit of a receding hairline, but aside from that, physically we’re miles apart. We do however share the same steely-eyed mannerism that allows us to bark at anyone who shows the slightest bit of weakness. Sadly, my team is much smaller than his, and only a couple of them have opposable thumbs, so I end up doing a lot of the work myself. But I run a tight ship. It’s just that most of the time it’s not in the water. 😛

      • Trying to decide which of the slang meanings of “tight” best becomes your ship. Finally settled on “cool, awesome” after regretfully discarding “very drunk.” 😉

      • or the ed harris role in that underwater aliens film. or (the part I KNOW i’m eventually destined to play: the original HOST to the alien)… uh, no, not you. you’re (4t-u-nately) knot the type!

        • Oh, good heavens, no. I’m much more the behind the scenes type. Way behind the scenes, as in locked in the dressing room of a trailer that had been left behind on location. There is where I’d be safest and really shine in my role.

  6. I’d been looking forward to an update on the Great Balloon Adventure all week and now I’m still waiting. It’s almost enough to make me stamp my feet and shout ‘No fair!’ but fortunately your humour and Rob’s cartoons are keeping me occupied in the meantime. 🙂

    No spoilers, obvs, but GPS adrift from the payload? Dear lord, how your daughter’s heart must have sunk.

    That’s me speculating, by the way, I have no inside information.

    So, same time next week? Yes, I can see this as a film or a cooky sitcom with Cate Blanchett playing your part, perhaps. 😉

    • So sorry, Laura! Yes, stamp away. I fully understand the frustration. In fact, I have seen it displayed and heard it projected all around this house for weeks. There’s been a massive amount of feet stamping and shouting. But do come back! And good heavens, poor Ms. Blanchett would certainly have her work cut out for her in this role, but maybe meaty is what she gravitates toward.
      Same time, same channel. 🙂

  7. Brilliant part 2 Shelley! I’m most annoyed at WordPress for not letting me know until 12 hours late that your post had launched – even if the balloon hasn’t? Nail biting stuff – I agree with the nice gentleman who spoke of yesteryear TV serials except I was thinking of radio and the incomparable Paul Temple from the 50’s BBC archive. I can hear the Queen speaking the trailer for part 3 ‘Will that wretched balloon ever achieve lift-orf ?’ ‘How will one stand the frightful suspense?’ ‘ Fetch my GIn and Tonic Philip’ that sort of thing. Will definitely be back next week for the finale (or is it??,……)

    • Oh, thank you, Jane! For the lovely comments and also for coming back.
      And as far as who’s voice will speak on the trailers (the whole queen bit with the G&T gave me a great giggle), it’s actually, more like having an omniscient narrator fluttering about inside my head at every turn. Only I can hear her–a bit like Emma Thomson in Stranger than Fiction.
      Glad to hear you’re not giving up just yet. 🙂

  8. So much gold here.

    1, Benedict Cucumber Patch made my life.
    2. Nice job containing that possible negative press. Last thing this project needs is a PR nightmare.
    3. The sheer gall of Carl Sagan. How rude.

  9. This is sooo Calvin and Hobbes…

    Your ballon has actually launched, and oh, BTY, it’s not really a “ballon,” rather a TCVCSS, or Taktitos (Tactical) Child Vegetable Consumption Spy Satellite… not one from the animal conspiracy theory, rather one diligently created and operated from frustrated parents and your every-so keen MIT daughter. Cleo, you’ve gone to the dark side.

    (Seriously, you should have sent her to UW Tech Rice Lake for schooling and became a member of the FFA), so much less stress.

    This is what I’ve picked up on the monitors thus far…
    “A red spaceship on the monitor you vileness,” shouts one space grub.” It’s that infernal Spaceman Spiff! Open fire!”

    Spaceman Spiff is hit! He aims for planet Mok, hoping to find a reputable body shop. We join our hero after a crash landing on the hostile planet Mok. Ominous figures appear on the horizon! The daring Spaceman Spiff lays waste with his death ray Zorcher, but he is hopelessly outnumbered! Surround, our hero is taken prisoner, and carried to a subterranean dungeon!

    “Still won’t talk, eh Spiff? We’ll see about that!” You’ll never get anything from me Space Squid!”

    “You had your chance Earthing! Take him to the interrogation room and wash his hair!”

    Weirdos From Another Planet! – by Bill Watterson, pg 22

    Much love from your Polish NASA tracking centre north of Toronto Canada,

    Stoshu 🙂

    • A compliment of the highest kind, buddy. I cannot thank you enough. Mr. Watterson might not thank you for the comparison, but he’s mostly underground anyway. (Although news last month was that he’s coming back into cartooning!)
      Regardless, thanks for the enjoyable excerpt too.
      And when did you finally decide to ditch the states and move northward, eh?
      Hugs to you, Stosh. ❤ Hope you're well.

  10. Shelley, the suspense is killing me. You are making me wait a whole week! Sounds like your job was tougher than air traffic control. 🙂 Please give my regards to Robin, who has outdone himself capturing everyone’s favourite vegetable detective. And all the best to your daughter! Crossing my fingers now…

    • I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I keep saying this to everyone, and maybe with enough practice I’ll truly start to feel it. Yes, there’s a little piece of wicked inside me–but just a sliver. Nuff said. I’m in therapy.
      And I will most certainly pass on the praise to our person of parody. He’ll be delighted to hear your compliments, Sue.
      I’ll also tell Chloe to keep her chin up from all the folks rooting for her and the experiment. I’m crossing a lot as well. I’m always crossing everything when she’s around. *sigh*

  11. Shelley,

    Your post needs the backround of the following melody: Gabriel Fauré’s, Clair de lune, Op. 46 No. 2. It offers a tinge of melancholy comfort with a fairy’s dust of hope and inspiration for that ballon, sailing into the cold and dark space beyond our atmosphere.

    Oh the joys of rain and exploration. What would Thoreau say about this?

    Stoshu 🙂

    • Oops. Sorry, my Midwestern friend–the tale is long, and if you’re going to eat an elephant, it’s best to do it one bite at a time. Hold tight. Big breaths. Remember I’m sorry. And do come back.

  12. Omg, i await with baited breath, dont keep us hanging too long i fear my liquor cabinet and chocolate cake may not survive the tension :-)))

    • I’m sorry, Janice, you may hate me for this, but might I suggest you stock up just a teensy bit? And really, when it comes down to it, why would anyone really be upset about having to stock up on hard liquor and squidgy cake, right? I’m actually doing you a favor. Maybe? Kinda? :/

  13. So glad I’ve been away for three weeks and could at least read the first two instalments back to back this morning… anxiously awaiting the rest of the story. xx

    • Hurray! You’ve returned! And might I just say your most recent blog post is a worthy and important read. I loved it, Ardys. I hope many, many folks head over to give it a glance.
      Cheers to you and welcome home. ❤

  14. YOU WILL under(or OVER_stand), i think, when i respond in some lingua other than amerikin as i’ve become a repetitive YES-man here: this was brilliant! Robb helped grately! and we await part III, THE RETURN OF THE … uh, balloon remnants?
    — from the tracking post in the high desert ~

    • I think you have won the golden keyboard award this week, Lance. A more involved and solicitous commentator surely does not exist. My huge thanks for all your words–the wise, the witty and waggish. Cheers to you my friend! 😀

    • “Golden Keyboard Award?”
      Now that is waaaayyy too cool.
      I am gonna clean all the empty wine bottles from my mantel just to make a spot of honor.
      Thanks Shelley! Your comments on comments on comments always make me smile.
      Have a wonderful Day!

  15. My head is spinning wildly with the excitement and adventure of Project SkyHAB…will said rocket/balloon TRIUMPH in the end?!

    Sending my best and strongest aeronautical karma all the way over!! 😀

    • Oh, thank you, Lee_Anne! This project is definitely in need of favorable winds. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that some “zen” is in store rather than our typical “zany”, and hope we see you with the next installment. Cheers!

  16. Sounds like it was quite the episode! Haha. As always, Rob’s art really gives your posts that perfect spice. Also, pretty new banner! 🙂

    • Ugh, there should be some sort of recovery program for parents who are up to their elbows in “helping” to educationally grow their kids. I think if an outline was presented to folks before they decide to hatch a brood, the world’s population might be significantly smaller. That said, I’d have nearly nothing to write about so I’m going to keep my weary grumbles to myself. Sort of.
      And thanks for spotting the makeover. Work in progress, but a fun one.
      Congrats again on the brand new collection coming out! I hope anyone reading this will pop on over and take a look at your post all about the effort going into Cover Design and Book Trailers
      It was a terrific read, Alex!

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