CHATTING WITH THE GUYS FROM NASA

When I worked with NASA — a long time ago now — I had to do a large, complicated study on what kind of unit they should design to retrieve satellites in space. The NASA guys believed anything with fewer than three arms would be worthless. It turns out satellites do interesting things. Not just rolling, but doing a sort of shimmy — like a spit ball in space. Despite more than 700-pages of diagrams and explanations, the financial wizards decided on only two arms. Which, as their own scientists had noted, didn’t work.

Neptune from 1989 Voyager

They were still putting all the space travel stuff on television, so when the “satellite catching” event came up, I had to watch it. “Hey,” I told Garry, “I was the lead writer on the study for this device.” I was, too.

The multi-million dollar satellite catcher did not work. Eventually, the astronaut grabbed the satellite with his arms and pulled it in. It turned out, they didn’t need any kind of special catcher because even very big things are weightless in space. So much for a lot of scientists, artists, writers, and editors working on this monumental study. I worked 7-days a week for five weeks. Which was seriously good overtime money, even if the study was a bust.

1989 shot of earth’s arctic ice

The really interesting thing — other than the complete waste of time that the project represented — was I got to talking with my NASA scientist. It was 1988. They already knew about things like anti matter — something I thought was a science fiction thing.

My guy said “Oh, no. We know it’s there. We just have to figure out how to get some.”

I said “Well, what would you do with it?”

Yes, we CAN!

He laughed. “Oh, I don’t know. Destroy the world. Maybe the universe.” And he wasn’t kidding. A very little bit of that could go a very long way towards un-glueing our universe.

Soon thereafter, I quit that job. It had begun to make my brain do barrel rolls in my head. I had nightmares. Every now and again, I still have those nightmares. Because sooner or later, those scientists will find a way to get their hands on some anti-matter. A slip of the finger later …