Launch view of the Columbia for the STS-1 mission, April 12, 1981
"trust your body - it needs to fly
your body knows what to do,
it is wind against wind
cloud over cloud,
sky beyond sky..."
- Peter Horn.
Turbines roar, their rush surges through us
lights dim, a hush descends
mid-deck silence: only ailerons creak
as they lean into the wind, shoulder us up:
our fuselage bumps & rolls on waves of air
winds tug with wings, high-minded.
Tail-flaps rudder us, awash with direction
speeding this ocean, so insubstantial & infinite:
we praise our cities, long-surviving
we gaze down in awe on galaxies of lights
their streets recede below, the great fields too;
all shrink into pixels.
Port pulses red, starboard's green
Moon's above, clouds below:
aluminium is lighter than air
as we slalom through snowscapes of sky
wings dance us past cloud-cornices. airy sastrugi
these névé of atmosphere, soaring.
Now rocketing power to leap up steps of air
ascend this stairway of sky, until horizon bends to a ball
heaven crackles indigo, & weight's only a memory
summit beyond summits, ascent above aurora
sound faster than sound, mach 25, orbit:
Now to begin.
pixel (US) - smallest bit into which picture can be broken
sastrugi (Rus) - polar explorers' term for wind-blown ridges of snow, hardened into ice
névé (Swiss Fr) - mountaineers' term for patch of snow on bare rock