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Book Review: Words of a Feather

A cosmo for the Cosmos

As a young boy, I wanted to be a rocket scientist. But I never fantasized about being an astronaut, I'd like to think that even then I was somewhat sensible about "risk vs reward" equations. Given this childhood interest, which still has some emotional connection for me, I wasn't upset by the recent reports of astronauts having a drink or two the night before blasting off.

Today, Charles Krauthammer reports that his reaction was almost identical to mine. In So they're blasted at blastoff; Wouldn't you want to be too? he writes:

"Have you ever seen that beautiful and preposterous thing the astronauts ride? Imagine it's you sitting on top of a 12-story winged tube bolted to a gigantic canister filled with 2 million liters of liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. Then picture your own buddies -- the 'closeout crew' -- who met you at the pad, fastened your emergency chute, strapped you into your launch seat, sealed the hatch and waved, smiling to you through the window. Having left you lashed to what is the largest bomb on planet Earth, they then proceed 200 feet down the elevator and drive not one, not two, but three miles away to watch as the button is pressed that lights the candle that ignites the fuel that blows you into space."

They don't call alcohol "liquid courage" for nothing, but don't let that diminish the truly brave and remarkable feat of crudely escaping our own planet for the sake of science and learning. I'll drink to that, anytime.

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