Space cow

I’m totally jealous of Eva the cow.

Eva is a soft toy mascot for Tauranga internet company EOL. They won a competition to have Eva shot into the edge of space on a NASA expedition. That’s my dream, mine. Not the dream of a stuffed cow. What cow wants to go into space anyway?

I’ve wanted to go into space ever since I can remember. Shoot me into space instead; I’ll take your meteor photos.

As a kid I modelled my aspirations on a movie called The Last Starfighter. In The Last Starfighter a boy plays space invaders so well that people from another planet recruit him as a starfighter pilot. That was my dream, to be visited by aliens and go zooming around the universe in my own little spaceship.

My other dream as a kid was to suffer a traumatic accident and be rebuilt as the Bionic Man. I’ve since lost enthusiasm for that one.

In order to replace Eva on NASA’s expedition I would have to lose quite a lot of weight. Samoa Air has nothing on NASA; Eva needs to weigh less than a block of butter. She will be floated up to the edge of space in a balloon capsule. About two or three hours into the journey the balloon will pop and Eva will plummet back to earth.

The words pop and plummet rather kill the fantasy for me. Maybe I’m not so jealous after all.  Safe travels little cow.

But I’d still love to visit space. It intimidates and fascinates me. It is immense, deadly and uncaring. It will outlast us all. We are so intent on our little lives here in the Bay, quibbling over our little problems, sneering at each other on blogs, each one of us thinking ours is the most significant opinion in the universe.

I am jealous of those few men in history who have been privileged enough to stand on the moon, to look back at Earth and see it from an outside perspective, just a single pea in the big soup of nothing.

Sometimes on clear nights I look up at the stars and dare myself to inhale the quiet terror of how large it all is.

If Earth was the size of a pea then the sun would be the size of a beach ball. If you were to shrink the sun to the size of a single grain of sand then relative to that, the nearest star would be more than seven kilometres away. Seven kilometres!

There are somewhere between 200 and 400 billion stars in our own galaxy and there are 200 billion other galaxies in the universe. These numbers hurt my head.

At a certain point in this kind of contemplation, quite often conducted while bringing in the evening washing, I can feel giddy with insignificance. Modern humans have been hunting, gathering and grizzling over their power bills for around 50,000 years. That’s a lot of lives like yours and mine, living and dying and trying to be more right than their neighbours. For what?

But then I wander back inside and carefully shift our middle child back into his top bunk from our bed where he starts most nights safely away from his cheeky younger brother.

Across the ridiculous vastness of those 200 billion galaxies there’s a little spot right here in Tauranga, New Zealand, Planet Earth, where, at this infinitesimal blip of a moment in the thirteen billion year history of the universe, I am holding my sleeping son in my arms and he is beautiful. No one else will care and no one else will know, and time rolls on regardless. But the universe suddenly seems pretty worth it to me right now.

It makes me think we should probably all be a lot nicer to each other if we can.

Wow. All that from a space cow.

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 12 April 2013. Reproduced with permission.