The year is 1978 and the U.S.A has just launched a team of astronauts into space. The United States was happy to see the launch on their color T.Vs in that month of May.
The NASA Houston Port receives a distress signal and a mid-level employee picks up the call.
“This is Houston Port, we hear your loud and clear Astronaut Goldman.”
“Hey guys, this is Astronaut Jim Goldman On Space Shuttle 602.”
“Yes Astronaut Godlman, we are aware”
“Please, just call me Jim.”
“You got it Astronaut Jim. Please inform us of your reason for a radio distress signal.”
“Oh right, um, well I don’t know how else to tell you this but…I am..
Astronaut Jim gulps. You know, one of those gulps that seem comically enhanced. Except this time it was real, and Houston Port was tuning in.
..afraid Houston Port. I’m afraid.”
“Afraid of what Astro Jim? Your shuttle seems to be cruising along nicely and all of our readings are perfect”
“ Yes, that’s good. But I am afraid of this. All This. Being an Astronaut, going in space. This whole situation terrifies me and I am now just realizing it.”
“Astro Jim, you do realize that you’re about 113,000 mile outside of the Earth’s atmosphere, right?”
Astro Jim checks his dashboard and sees his mileage from Earth constantly going up and fidgets in his seat nervously.
“Yes Houston Port, I can see that on my radar.”
“Where has the rest of your crew gone? Why haven’t they tried to assist you?”
Astronaut Jim gulped again.
..they made fun of me.”
“Sorry could you repeat that? We believe we heard you say that they made fun of you.”
“That’s correct Houston Port. Those guys can be real jerks, but they have good hearts. So please don’t tell on me”
The mid-level employee looked around looking for assistance, his team all shrugged.
“Don’t worry, we will omit it from our recordings. Is that what you’re afraid of? Being bullied in space?”
“Sort of but not completely. I mean, what if we blow up, you know? That’s scary to think about.”
The Houston Port crew all looked around at each other as if they didn’t have the answer. One entry-level scientist from Houston Port grabbed her personal radio.
“We have done several thousand tests to ensure you that you will not blow up.”
Astro Jim leaned back in his chair a bit.
“Phew, I knew that was true its just great to hear you guys say it.”
The entry-level employee gave a thumbs up to her crew, they smiled.
“No problem. Are you comfortable enough for radio silence?”
“Um. Yeah. I think I am good. Thanks Houston Port.”
“It’s what we are here for. Now go make the USA proud.”
“Copy that Houston. Over and out.”
(12 Minutes Later)
The distress signal at the Houston Port begins to ring and buzz again. Both sounds are equally annoying. A senior staff member answers on his personal radio.
“Yes Astronaut Goldman, how can we assist your distress signal?
“Please, just call me Jim.”
The senior level employee shakes his head disapprovingly.
“How can we assist you, Jim?”
“Ok, so I’ve been thinking.”
The entire Houston Port looks at each other and begins to get comfortable in their seats. The senior staff member clears his throat and continues with protocol.
“What have you been thinking about, Jim?”
“Well, what if we encounter something unknown?”
A mid- level scientist chimes in on his radio.
“Well, Astro Jim, that’s sort of the whole point to space exploration. To discover the unknown.”
The mid level employee smiles as if he always wanted to say that.
“Good point. But what if we discover something unknown that we really shouldn’t have discovered?”
The senior employee begins to reply but the mid level scientist stops him and puts his hand up like “I got this.” Which pisses off the senior employee but he realizes that it’s for the best because he doesn’t have an answer.
“Astro Jim, can you elaborate?”
“Well, say you’re in the woods and you discover a bear. I’ve never seen a bear in the woods but I know I shouldn’t get closer and poke it in the name of science. You follow me?”
Everyone at Houston Port begins to shake their heads and rub their temples, mostly because they saw all the senior employees do it and thought it was protocol. But everyone truly knows that this is the most action they have seen in a while so they all still listen in as the mid level scientist calms Astro Jim down.
“Yes, Astro Jim. We follow you. However, we sent you up there to explore the unknown and we wouldn’t have done it if you weren’t the best man for the job.”
“Thanks. I knew I was worrying too much.”
“Are you OK for radio silence? We have a lot of paperwork to do here down on Earth.”
“You got it, gang. Radio silence from here on out.”
The mid level scientist smiles and looks around for compliments but everyone seems to have started their paperwork.
(4 Hours Later)
Astro Jim clicks on a radio recorder from the dispatch control panel. The device was designed to record the last radio signal from Shuttle 602 in case of a deathly emergency.
“Ok, I know I am not supposed to use this device for any other reason other than certain death, I’m sorry.”
Astro Jim looks around the shuttle and crawls under the control panel so no one hears or sees him. Even though he is quite loud and bulging out from under the control panel.
Astro Jim clicks the red button he was trained to press.
“It’s just that I feel a little guilty out here. I am pretty sure I agreed to be an astronaut just because I went through all of the steps.
One day I am an upper level scientist working in the lab and I get the opportunity to be trained by NASA, what scientist wouldn’t want that? I would be a dick to say no.
Only now I am afraid and isolated in space I am starting to realize that maybe someone else would enjoy this more.
I’m a steak and eggs, simple scientist from Tucson, Arizona. I don’t need the unknown to be amazed. I just need my wife Darlene and my son Junior. Heck, I’d even add that ol’ smelly Chihuahua of ours. I just hope I make them proud. That’s all I think anyone should ever do. Make their family proud.”
Just then, Astro Jim’s entire consol begins to light up. It’s a beautiful glow, not exactly blue but that’s the best way he can register it. The glow was growing bigger and more fantastic just outside his window.
Astro Jim looked at his monitors and sees the rest of the crew messing around in the kitchen making space burritos. He doesn’t feel the need to radio them.
Astro Jim stares at the Unknown Glow and feels that he shouldn’t be recording it. He got the feeling that if he recorded his findings, it wouldn’t be as unique. He felt that he should only be feeling it. Perhaps Astro Jim was the one who was supposed to experience The Unkown Glow on that entire Shuttle 602 all along?
After a few more seconds of heavenly glow, Astro Jim had to say something.
“I just want to say on record. That life itself is better than The Unkown It’s important to recognize what’s in front of you, rather than what’s out there.”
Astro Jim didn’t really know what that exact moment meant, he sort of felt like he was supposed to say something, anything. So that’s what he said. And just as he said it, the heavenly glow was gone. Nothing was left but Jim and the recorder.
Only he didn’t record the message into the control panel last-words device like he thought. No, Astro Jim recorded his sentiment to Houston Port radio. Had he known that all along? Fortunately a lower intern who was hired to work the night shift, wrote down Astro Jim’s words and put them in a desk because at this point, everyone had grown tired of Astro Jim’s voice.
(3 minutes later)
Shuttle 602 was blown to pieces by an unknown glow.
(30 Years Later)
NASA decided to clear the Houston Port unit for lack of funding and discovery. The desk was offered to the lead janitor on call and he gladly took it.
The lead janitor took it home and quickly realized it wouldn’t fit in his studio apartment. So he decided to list it on Ebay. It sold for a modest amount of money to an eager buyer.
The buyer was excited when his “Official NASA High Level Desk” arrived on the front porch. He knew exactly what it was when he saw it online. It took two deliverymen to take it out of the truck and drop it on the front steps of:
“Junior Goldman 157 Echo Creek, Tucson AZ”
Junior Goldman set the desk up near the window where he could get proper sunlight and feng shui. Junior Goldman wasn’t an astronaut like his dad, but he enjoyed space.
Curiosity ran in the Goldman family, so Junior explored every crease to the desk to see if any etchings or info from his father’s time at Houston Port were still left in the over sized desk.
After kicking away some old pencils and a red NASA visitor’s button, Junior snagged a corner of something in the way back of the drawer, the area where things get lost and no one remembers, or cares if they find it.
Junior pulled out the crumpled piece of paper that was stuck between the drawers. It was his father’s last words scribbled down by an intern. It’s like Junior had known it was there the whole time. He framed the note and let it sit in the glow of the sun for years
NASA never figured out the Unknown Glow that took the life of Astro Jim and the crew. Mainly because after that phenomenon, may of the entry to mid-level employees quit their jobs to spend more time with their families. The case was quickly closed and never opened. Perhaps the exploration and words of one man- meant the world to another?