Then and Now

I have very dim memories of the Apollo program, but the image that really sticks with me is of the engineers/technicians that manned positions in Mission Control. This poem is the result of contrasting my impression from 50 years ago with my impression while watching the first SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch last year.

Then and Now

The dawn of monster rockets
All steel plates, bolts, and wings
Patches and rivets and ridges
Thunder, ice, paint, and flame
Shaken off a Frankenstein’s
Monster that unfolds itself slow
So slow and stretches–rumble
And shake–before inching into
the sky.

Nerdy fellows bathed in pale light
Hundreds of flickering CRTs
Tracking every pop, crackle, boom
And groan–Orbit plotted
mile by straining downrange mile
Across a pasteboard world of
Blinking lights with crackling static.

Gives way to sleek and white
Madison Avenue logos
Branding and music and YouTube
A pinpoint, high definition ballet
Of missions countless
White gleaming rockets or
Burn-scarred, brawny cores
That tank up, go again, and
Then dance down to repeat
forever.

The engineers calmly track the
hundred LCDs, graphics and
voice-overs–“Falcon 9 is go
for flight”–hugs and cheers
Applause signs and high-def
A tight shot of the smooth skinned
Missile…youthful ascent.

© 2019 William Herndon, All Rights Reserved

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