Last week, the International Space Station passed over my house at 6:30 in the morning. It didn’t cause any loud sonic boom, or disrupt cable or cell phone service. It was just a tiny speck, looking unremarkably like all the other stars in the early morning sky. Only this star moved.
I dragged my kids out of bed to see the sight.
“Look how cool!”
“It’s the Space Station!”
I had also alerted my neighbors who stood on the street on their pajamas to watch this incredible cosmic event. I videotaped it. Shared it on Facebook. It was so cool.
But then I found out that it really wasn’t as cool as I had thought.
I had found out about the ISS viewing times through a friend of mine who signs up for NASA alerts. You can do this too, by the way, if you register at the Spot The Station website. You enter your location and NASA will send you an alert indicating where you can catch a glimpse of the Space Station.
So I signed up.
Since watching the Space Station pass overhead amid the fanfare and excitement on my little street, I have since received three notifications of viewing opportunities from my front lawn. Space Station sightings, it seems, are rather common. In fact, according to my friend-at-work-who-loves-science, they are a dime a dozen.
I was a bit crestfallen.
I mean, there I was, dragging my kids out of their beds to show them something that they can see any old time? And c’mon, it was just a moving star. Not that exciting anyway. What was I thinking? Especially when I found out how often one can actually witness this scintillating event?
NASA is making a huge mistake with this Spot the Station website. They should lie. Seriously. They should just say that witnessing this is a once in a very long time opportunity. Like an eclipse. Because with space shuttle launches a thing of the past, what do we have that can still put a sense of wonder in a kid’s mind? Or an adult’s for that matter? I watched the International Space Station pass by and felt like I was witnessing something amazing. I was a part of some global project! Me, on my little street, with my neighbors and my kids, just looking up in awe at a tiny dot that represented how far we have come as a society.
My disappointment after receiving the next two alerts reminded me of how easily jaded we have become.
So here’s what I hope. I hope NASA lies. I hope they stop sending out so many alerts and just keep some of that information secret. Let us plebeians here on the ground get a glimpse of a piece of magic and not have it tainted by overexposure.
Because I still want to be excited about Space Stations.