It’s easy to look back on a year and see all the negatives. All the times you messed up, the chances you didn’t take, the people that aren’t here anymore. But I don’t want to remember 2017 as a bad year. I can see all the ways that I’ve grown when I look back.
I started 2017 with a dead-end job that I didn’t hate, but didn’t necessarily enjoy anymore. That being said, the thought of leaving was terrifying. It was my first job out of college, it was in my field, and I was back in my hometown, basically everything I ever thought I wanted. Moving away was the first of many steps I took this year.
“Great, the sun’s gone.”
The Great American Solar Eclipse was my first time seeing an eclipse and dragging my parents along with me to Gaston, South Carolina for a glimpse of totality made it even that much more special. We sat in the parking lot of the public library in the hours before the eclipse, chatting with strangers from all over. It was breathtaking to see the moon cover the sun and hear the crowd go from “look, it’s starting!” to stunned silence and then to cheers. My dad, ever the comedian, simply said, “Great, the sun’s gone.” In those few moments of totality, we weren’t a group of strangers anymore; we had a shared, indescribable experience. I can’t explain why it was so emotional, but as I drove away with my family, I felt different inside.
“Do off the planet what you can’t do on the planet.”
In October, I made my first trip to John C. Stennis Space in Mississippi for a test run of a RS-25 rocket engine. Before the engine fired up, there were several activities to learn about what happens at Stennis; I learned about solid plastic rocket fuels, something I didn’t know about beforehand, and the history of the area. There was an astronaut panel with Butch Wilmore and Dr. Don Pettit and I was lucky enough to have my question, what they missed most about earth while in space, answered. The short answer is nothing. They talked about the limits that being in space removes and the freedom of zero gravity, with Butch Wilmore telling me, “do off the planet what you can’t do on the planet.” When the rocket engine fired off, I saw the exhaust rushing out and floating towards the sky, but more than that, I felt the rumble inside. It was a powerful experience that I recommend anyone, space fan or not, to check out.
“We are pleased to let you know that your application has been approved.”
By far the highlight of my year, the NASA Social in Maryland this past November was major moment that made me realize what I accomplished with SWMC and the potential I had. Getting that acceptance email changed my viewpoint on my blog; I told my friends and people I know about my website for the first time. It brought some really big firsts: First time traveling on my own, first airplane flight, first visit to Goddard, and first NASA Social (duh). Seeing ICE-2 and GEDI, the control room to the Hubble, and the Laser Ranging Facility is something I still can’t believe happened.
In the End
2017 was rough. My home state was rocked by Irma, I lost childhood heroes (Bruce McCandless, Dick Gordon, Gene Cernan), and I struggled with leaving the only town I’ve ever called home, but I took bigger risks than I ever have in 2017. I’d like to say I’m proud of what I’ve done, but in reality saying that leaves out a big part. I’m proud of what we have done. 181 posts. 11,565 likes. 1 unlikely blogger, 2 cats. None of it would be possible without all 723 of you. I can’t thank you enough for you likes, comments, and messages. I hope 2017 was what you wanted and I wish 2018 will be everything you hope for.
- Dani, Gideon, and Saturn