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LET THE F.O.M.O. TRAVEL SHOW TAKE YOU INTO SPACE …

By Achola Rosario

(Posted 31st May 2020)

SPACE X: The way I marvelously shot into space with my skittles.

So I missed the flight. Typical me. I had over-estimated the time I had spent dashing to the Duty Free shop looking for Skittles. If I was going to space, I had to take my little earthly rainbows with me. Then I can compare them with the stars as I suck on a sour green apple. I believe, then, my search for a sensory supernova would be complete.

As a “young” African female journalist, I applied to get on one of the Space X Mars tours back in 2020, when the charismatic Elon Musk, despite the constant snickers at his revolutionary thinking, and cars, brought the world together in the middle of the most apocalyptic years on record, to watch his first tourist space vehicle, the Crew Dragon powered by the Falcon 9 rocket, launch into space at the Kennedy Center on May30th.

Watching the way the launch proceeded like clockwork on Youtube, I missed the live launch (typical me), I was amazed at the way the Falcon 9 rocket landed precisely where it had taken off from. The stripped down sleek lines, the paper-cutout buttresses on the rocket to reduce the drag upon liftoff, and the arrow-head nose were all revolutionary stuff that allowed the cost of this ship to become more affordable and thus usher in the future of space tourism. But the cockpit, for all its elegant touch-screen efficiency, was so uninspiringly bland. Nothing like the pulsating lights of my Jules Verne dreams. So when they finally opened up bookings for ordinary tourists, I was determined not to miss out.

I finally reach the ticketing desk and sheepishly hand over my now useless ticket. But the pleasant lady at the counter lets me know that there is space on the next shuttle leaving the next day, as they had a cancellation. Apparently quite a few people lose courage when the date of departure approaches. Being shot into the universe is not for the faint hearted.

The view:

Walking across the tarmac to the ship was a visceral experience of tarmac smells and propane blasts and this HUGE rocket we had to ride in an elevator to get to. Each ascending meter felt like a rollercoaster ride in reverse order. The flight to the heavens had begun. I squeezed my pocket to make sure my packet of skittles was in place. Reassured, I mentally prepared myself to see the ship’s interior. I wonder if they would let me sit in the Captain’s chair, just for a little, if I asked nicely and was a good girl.

Thankfully Elon Musk had finally paid attention to his PR firm and remodeled the interior to be a little more breathless inducing. They used the technology Boeing had been experimenting with to create glass-ceiling planes, and reinforced it to make larger porthole windows for your viewing pleasure. The also made liberal use of LED pin-point lighting and ethnic embossed engravings on the fiberglass interior trim. Cream adjustable calf-leather seats had personal LED screens so you can chart your journey and access facts on the heavenly bodies you encounter along the way. Social distancing is observed, only 20 seats are available on this flight. You will need your space for what comes next when you leave Earth’s orbit.

Backflips in zero gravity:

This is what I have been waiting for. Weightlessness, zero gravity, the sensation of being of the same matter as the universe and subject to the same laws of physics: none.

Nothing works the same way as you are used to. Anyone who has been on one of the banana-boat rides in a local carnival in East Africa, who can recall the feeling when you had hit the maximum height of one pendulum swing and were just about to swing back into the other, your bum detaching from your seat from the force of the pull, and the weak bar holding your thighs down worryingly loose, will understand the first feeling of zero gravity. Pure terror.

But sure enough, my internal organs re-arranged themselves enough for me to actually relax and learn how to swim through the air. My neighbor and I had just mastered the art of plucking bubbles of juice out of the air and plopping them in our mouths in time to the hiss pop of the spaceship display system, when I got a *brilliant* idea. No, it was not alcohol; you do not want to puke in this environment.

Method to my madness:

Remember my packet of Skittles? Here is where their import becomes obvious. I swam back to my seat and rummaged under it, ignoring my box of dried food rations, I found where I had stashed my skittles and palmed a few. I called my neighbor over who squealed in delight and we proceeded to play Space Pacman. It was a lot of fun until we almost got injured when the captain turned off zero gravity so we could dock at the International Space Station.

Throughout my 3 day stay at the space station, my skittles came in very handy, much as a packet of cigarettes does in a jail cell. Would you be mean to someone who hands you a rainbow? And if you shove many different colors in your mouth at the same time, I can imagine that is what a star would taste like, shining the way it does with all the colors and none at the same time.

Back to reality:

So I am back on Earth now. No I did not go to Mars. The ticket is still a little too rich for my taste and I am not sure I am ready to encounter Dune-style conditions, what with all that “spice” and eye-exploding antics… nope. Not quite ready for that yet. That is an adventure for another day. For now, I am content to know that I am part of the intrepid explorers, who took the first step, to Infinity and Beyond.

Nanu Nanu! (Mork and Mindy).

Catch previous episodes of the F.O.M.O. Travel show:

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