On July 8th, 2011, exactly a week before Sonya’s 2nd birthday, NASA launched STS-135, the last mission of the American Space Shuttle Program. I cried when I watched the webcast in my living room that morning, whispering the countdown along with Cape Canaveral.
Since I grew up a mile away from Mission Control in Houston, the mystique of astronauts, shuttles, rockets, and space were such an integral part of my everyday life. As the Atlantis shuttle left the atmosphere, I felt a very important part of my childhood shrinking from view, something intangible and profound that I wouldn’t be able to share with my daughters.
But then I won a make-your-own space pod kit and a bit of that dream was stirred in my heart again. And in our living room, we began to build STS-136.
For awhile, the construction stalled after the first stage of the rocket had been built. But this weekend, we decided to make the final assembly push and get it launch-ready.
Sonya used a special saw-and-punch tool that comes with the kit from the genius Australian company makedo. You might think— well, I could just do that with a box cutter and duct tape. But you couldn’t— not so simply and not so quickly, and not if you’re as young as Sonya! She enjoyed putting in the special blue makedo connectors. And our finished hexagonal space pod was an amazing wonder to behold.
I can’t tell you how happy I am to see how happy Sonya is about her little space pod. She loves getting in, closing the door from the inside with a rubberband latch, and going on her space voyages with her Eeyores.
I think the truest expression of how much Sonya enjoys her space pod is the fact that she fell asleep in it. When all had gotten quiet in the early afternoon just after lunch, I tiptoed into the living room and peered into the pod.
When I look up at the night sky and I know that, yes, we are part of this Universe, we are in this Universe, but perhaps more important than most of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up — many people feel small, because they’re small, the Universe is big — but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There’s a level of connectivity — that’s really what you want in life. You want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant. You want to feel like you’re a participant in the goings on and activities and events around you. That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist
Because the connectors are reusable, I’m sure that when we have more time over the summer, we’ll rebuild or remodel the space pod. By then, Leena will be walking, and STS-137 will need to be large enough to house two astronauts.