I just spent the past few hours doing something I haven't done in . . . well, I can't remember how long: watching a live space launch. At this writing, Endeavour is safely on its way to orbit.
Of course I wasn't sitting cross-legged in front of a giant Zenith console, like I did when I was a kid. No, here in the 21st century I was able to keep working on my computer while NASA transmitted a live feed to a little window on my monitor. NASA cameras showed the astronauts suiting up in the "white room" just outside the shuttle hatch, joking with technicians, and hoisting themselves into their seats. Everybody in Mission Control being polled and barking back a "Go!" Knowledgeable commentators explaining what we were seeing. It was great!
It's impossible to look back at the Space Race without the taint of inevitability. Knowing how everything turns out drains a lot of the excitement, tension, and even fear that I remember feeling as I waited for the giant Saturn V rocket to ignite and blast my heroes into space (man, I wish I'd had the chance to see one of those go up). I got a little of that feeling back this afternoon, watching the clock count down to zero, hoping that all would go well. Not knowing how everything turns out.
That tingle in the spine--the feeling that makes you yell "Yeah!" even though there's no one in the house to hear you, and maybe think a momentary prayer even if you're not a praying man--is what Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow is about. It was good to be reminded why I wrote it.
P.S. The cat's doing all right.