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Melvill atop SS1
The success of SpaceShipOne touches us deep in our souls. (credit: J. Foust)

Space: what love’s got to do with it

On June 21, 2004, to the canticle SpaceShipOne, people straggled from all over to the Mojave Desert and camped and danced with the fervency of pilgrims about to witness an oracle. Mike Melville returned to Earth radiant. September 29, the launch was staged with grand epic music that was wan compared to the heroism actually taking place. Venus was fiery in the early morning sky, and bright again on October 4 when, straight as a needle, SS1 with Brian Binnie flying sewed up repeatable victory.

Four days later, at Space Frontier Conference 13, I was one of a banquet hall of people who Burt Rutan addressed at length with intimate detail about his technical choices in the creation of SS1. Witnessing genius, I was amazed it was just us here. And the beauty of all on the edge of time, our heartbeats pounding tomorrow into being, became acutely evident. We are the ancestors of those gardening the universe.

I believe Love is the most courageous act of which a human being is capable. The word courage even stems from the root word “heart” (coeur). Scientifically speaking, it is quantifiable only by recognition of its quality. When we love, we are courageous; and courage has nothing to do with being fearless, it’s about being willing to experience fear, even dread, to do what we must, without guarantee of outcome.

The success of SpaceShipOne was Justice Day for dreamers and pioneers past, present and future.

Love consults itself; it is synonymous with duty and with dreams, whether solo or shared, whether flying IFR or with visible horizon. It is synonymous with loyalty, its opposite is betrayal. It is synonymous with life, both physiologic and metaphoric. If you want to kill someone, take away his or her dreams.

Only Love reaches apices of human achievement. Only Love conceives something worthy enough to stand greater than individual accomplishment. Only Love seeks wherewithal to give instead of giving for pay. Love, seeking all resource, laboriously sees the ethereal through to nuts and bolts (or nitrous oxide and rubber) hard reality.

As kind, tender, generous, and true as Love is, it is as equally fierce, strong, frugal and ruthless. Love is what engages and transcends mundane limits toward accomplishment. What else would suffer through the per ardua for the (sometimes only glimmering) ad astra? (redundancy intended).

The success of SpaceShipOne was Justice Day for dreamers and pioneers past, present and future. Pilots and all, powered by passion, brought every one of us with them in that beeline—rolls, chugs, and all—to the sweet smack right on the kisser of space’s edge. We saw Earth’s breath.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a genius who created with the sheer simplicity that cannot be faked, said, “Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”

Pioneers of industry, of science, of art do what they must. Add money and rocket fuel, and the stars are not the limit.

Vast sectors of new industry yawn to be conquered. The impossible begins an idea, from love, ex nihilo—out of nothing. This quintessential power intrinsic to humankind is why the word “impossible” is not a scientific term.

Flight is an icon that embodies humankind’s best. Its wings unfurl toward infinite pinnacle. And Love is the most precious payload we will be sending out to Space.


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