Mr. Astronaut

Sudeep Pagedar

“Safety check complete”

“All systems are online and operational. Over to you, Control.”
“This is Mission Control. All stations are green-light, you are a go for flight.”
“Roger that, prepare for countdown to ignition.”
“Booster sequence initiated.”
“Launch will commence in T-minus 10 seconds…”

It wasn’t the first time he was going into space, but the exhilaration he felt each time he was about to blast off was the same, every single time. The nervousness, the anticipation coursing through every bit of his being, he’d experience all of it while setting off on a flight mission. But this time, it was different.

It was his first solo flight.

 Such a thing had never been done before, in all of human history. 

“T-minus 4…we have ignition”, the voice from Mission Control crackled in his earpiece, inside his securely fastened helmet. This was it. No support crew; he was the flight commander, pilot, science officer, medical officer, EVA specialist – all in one. Such a thing had never been done before, in all of human history.

A lot of people were against it; some said it was an act of sheer madness, but nothing could deter him from going ahead. Even the slightest possibility of things going wrong never once crossed his mind. He was determined to prove them all wrong. He would be a pioneer.

“Liftoff.”

Beneath him, the 3-stage Saturn V rocket thundered upward, furiously burning propellant, lifting 2,800,000 kg of its mass off the surface of the Earth, with 7,648,000 pounds-force. There was only one payload – an Apollo capsule with a lone space-farer, calling upon his training to stave off the unconsciousness that threatened to envelop him as his body pulled far more G’s than it ever was supposed to. The spacecraft streaked through the stratosphere, its path kept clear of airplanes or weather balloons via radio and radar.

The edge of space approached. In a few minutes, the atmosphere would be just another insignificant barrier. And then…the void. The beautiful, mystical, magical dark of space, where silence gains a new meaning altogether, and the stars and planets are no longer distant dreams.

“Mr. Astronaut.”

Mr. Astronaut

He heard the voice as though from a million miles away. He’d arrived in his place of power, his zone of Zen. Nothing could take this moment away from him.

He was completely unprepared, though, for something that would take him away from the moment.

A resounding slap across his face returned him to the mundane world of the double maths period in school. When the tears cleared, he saw Barve teacher towering above him, menacing as ever.She snatched ‘Space: An Exploration’ from his shaking hands and raised it above his head for the whole class to see.

“Class, look. Space. He will go to space, it seems,” she smirked. The other fifty eight students laughed, as was expected of them.

“Mr. Astronaut!” she mocked, bringing the book down on his head with a loud thud. The fifty eight winced, as was expected of them. “You can’t do simple maths and you want to go to space. Forget it, Mr. Astronaut. Come down to Earth and remain here. It’s all you’re good for.”

And as she walked back to the chalkboard, flinging ‘Space’ into the tall blue dustbin next to the door, the fourth standard boy – for that was all he was, now – knew, he would never fly again.

 

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8 thoughts on “Mr. Astronaut

  1. I must say Sudeep you’re an exceptional writer par excellence!
    Great story I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    • Thanks, Kirthy. As I’m sure you know, teachers are, more often than not, far from noble. Without realising it – and sometimes, knowing it all too well – they have the potential to encourage a child to achieve heights, or bring her/him crashing down in such a way that recovery is long and arduous, if at all possible. This needs to change. I hope that as more read my story, more will write of their experiences, encourage kids today to write about their experiences in the present, and begin the move towards inducing attitudinal change among teachers.. long way to go, of course, and I don’t think my story’s the sole thing to do it, but..well..cog in a wheel, you know..

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