Write, Teach, Laugh

Yesterday the Space Shuttle Program Ended

More of my life as a screenplay.

Last landing of a space shuttle.

Last landing of a space shuttle.

The following is 80% true and 20% story, + or – an unknown variable having to do with how well my memory works.

 

FADE IN

EXT. FOREST ROAD – DAY

SUPER:        Ft. Lewis, Washington – July 20, 1969

A line of young soldiers walks in tactical formation along the dirt road.  Older soldiers, lugging strange combinations of military and transistor radios, walk along in their midst.

Cadet BOB looks over shoulder to see if he’s being watched.

BOB
(In a hushed voice)
Hey, Leo, when we get back to Westwood I’m going to the Pizza Palace
and drink all their beer.

Cadet LEO, looks back at Bob and gives him a hard look.

One of the older solders, MAJOR CAMPBELL, raises a bull horn to his mouth.

CAMPBELL
Choppers and tac-air. Take action cadets.

Cadet leaders yell orders. Cadets scramble off the road into the trees and ditches next to the road. Amidst the kinetic cadets the older soldiers mosey over into a group in the center of the road where they talk. Leo and Bob plop down into the same ditch.

LEO
Shit! This isn’t fair.

BOB
Sure it is. They can call in simulated attacks anytime they want.

LEO
Not that!  Do you know what’s happening today.

BOB
Oh. The moon thing, huh?

LEO
Yeah. This is the most significant event since man learned to make fire and we’re missing it.

BOB
Maybe not that significant. Haven’t you been reading Heinlein.

LEO
You only read Heinlein because you share a first name with him.

BOB
I read him because he was assigned. In his future history stories people give up space flight.  That’s what’ll happen. At a certain point people are gonna say that spaceships are way too expensive. Voters will get bored. They’ll want beer and circuses.

LEO
That’s “bread and circuses”.

BOB
Maybe for you.

A cheer and whooping goes up from the group of older soldiers in the middle of the road.

CAMPBELL
(through bullhorn)
We’re calling an exercise time-out. Line up along the sides of the road.

The cadets crawl out of their tactical positions and line up on both sides of the road as the older soldiers continue to talk. Campbell steps out from the group and everyone quiets down.

CAMPBELL
A few minutes ago Commander Neil Armstrong successfully landed the Apollo  spacecraft.  Americans are on the moon.

A cheer goes up from the cadets.

CAMPBELL
Alright, quite down.

A distance from Campbell, one of the cadets holds up his hand.

LEO
Sir, question, Sir.

Campbell moves down the line and eyes the cadet.

CAMPBELL
Go ahead, So… Sopi…

LEO
Sopicki, Sir.

CAMPBELL
Get it out.

LEO
Sir, landing on the moon was important.  Why weren’t we allowed to watch. Sir?

CAMPBELL
Everybody hear that question?…OK, as far as I know only two groups of people in the country, maybe the world, weren’t watching the moon landing. Us and a group of West Point cadets and instructors on a training exercise near Louisville. The Army thought about this.  What’s most important is that you, as future leaders of men in battle, receive all the training you need. Not receiving this training would have unknowable consequences. The moon landing is already history. You all are the future.

(Yelling into the bullhorn)
Tactical formations. Move, move, move.

Cadet leaders yell orders and cadets rub back into their tactical formation, walking down the road.  Campbell walks near Leo.

CAMPBELL
Don’t worry about it Sopicki. This is just the beginning. You’ll be there for moon bases and men landing on Mars. This is the dream. It will never end.

LEO
Thank you, sir.

INT. HOME OFFICE – THE PRESENT – NIGHT

The office is dimly lit from the flat-screen monitor of a modern computer. An OLD MAN sits watching CNN in a window on the monitor. In the window a Space Shuttle lands safely.  Two COMMENTATORS turn to face viewers.

COMMENTATOR ONE
Well, that’s that. The end of an era.

COMMENTATOR TWO
We’ve just seen the landing of the last Space Shuttle mission and, practically speaking, the end of the US space program for the foreseeable future.

COMMENTATOR ONE
And so it should be. With inflation and gas prices what they are, any politician would be hard put to opt for spending money on these rickety old space ships. After all, the dollars could be going into expanded food stamp programs and green energy initiatives.

COMMENTATOR TWO
But don’t worry. American astronauts will probably be able hitch a ride with the Russians and Chinese.

The commentators laugh.  The Old Man grabs the computer mouse and closes the window.  He stares at the empty computer screen.  A tear runs down his cheek.

OLD MAN
Damn you, Bob.

FADE OUT

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