Since I was very young I would often think about the stars. The space program was not even all that exciting during the days of my youth. It certainly wasn’t in the media’s focus like the days of the Apollo missions, at the time the trend of the media was to turn away from the Space Program. When I just started getting into space it was not too far after the 1987 Challenger disaster. One of the space programs most tragic and disheartening of moments. The media then, in the aftermath, tending to downplay and not talk about space exploration much at all, that was the general consensus of the time, that space was just too risky and the heyday of exploration was behind us. So in those days there was not as much emphasis but as Robert Smith might say, I still found my way to Fascination Street.
I remember first getting really excited about space when I was about five years old in kindergarten. The catalyst to get me to look skyward, towards the heavens, was a fieldtrip to the local planetarium. I remember before getting on that big yellow bus for our journey wondering just what a planetarium even was, the word itself was new to me, so I was struggling to figure it out. The only word I could think of that even seemed remotely close to this new one was; Aquarium. So mental association being what it is, on the way there I was convinced that this field trip had something to do with fish.
I quickly discovered however as they darkened the room and turned on those stars, that fish was not on the menu that night. What was on display however was magnificent and majestic to me. It was mind opening and earth shattering. I’m not sure how much my peers took it all in, but I seriously remember that night at five years old, as a night of having the universe revealed to me as indeed a great revelation. It was the first time that I came to realize that every star that was being shown in that fake planetarium sky, just like the real sky, was a sun. The illustrations of the planetarium made it easy to understand, they could take what seemed like a pinpoint of light, (A star) and then zoom in on it, and boom, there it is, suddenly that star close up is revealed to be a sun just like our own. Meaning that every single seemingly tiny point of light we see in our nighttime sky is in reality a sun just like our own. We are only viewing them from so far away that they seem tiny, but in reality they are suns just like ours no different. And furthermore each of these stars in the sky has planets around them like our own. This was absolute revelation to me that night, and I will never forget my first trip to the stars.