Wednesday, January 18, 2017

We Have Lift-Off

All it took was girl parts to finally get me interested in the history of the space program.

When a fellow music-lover suggested that it would be nice to have something scheduled soon, my first thought was a movie and he bit. I'd been wanting to see "Hidden Figures" since it opened (with nearly hourly shows, Movieland is making it easy) and here was someone I could discuss it with, albeit a man.

Worried about being late as we walked in, he was reassured when I said all we'd miss would be trailers to bad movies (really, do we need a new Smurf movie?), a promise fulfilled. I'm convinced the worst part of seeing award-worthy films is having to sit through mass market previews.

The film had interested me not only because it was based on a true story about brilliant women, but because of the long white-washed history books that made no mention of the black STEM superstars who calculated the country's way to John Glenn orbiting of earth.

How did they get away with leaving women out of the history books for so long anyway?

I stand in awe of mathematical and scientific minds because I have so little inclination that way. The idea of spending hours at a blackboard working out analytical geometry problems (like our heroine did) is so foreign, I can't even conceive of how they begin to figure. My brain doesn't work that way.

Because the movie was full of episodes a woman could easily relate to - being under-payed for the same work, seeking work/life balance with kids, looking for love, getting equal credit for shared work - even 50 years later, it occurred to me about halfway through that my date might think I'd dragged him to a chick flick (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Lo and behold, I couldn't have been more wrong. Turns out he's an avid student of the U.S. space program, yet despite extensive reading on its history, had not encountered the story of these black "computers" who figured out the projections that got NASA off the ground and eventually back to earth.

So he thought it was a fascinating story.

For those of us with far less space savvy, the movie was also a visual history lesson, complete with actual news footage from the '60s inter-cut to clarify each attempt and failure as the country raced to show Russia who was who when it came to the final frontier.

The astronauts came across less like the sanitized media portrayals of the day and more like who they must have actually been at the time: young, cocky adrenaline junkies eager to do something nobody had done before and become a new American hero.

Lots of testosterone.

Ultimately, the movie satisfied on many levels besides sharing history and telling a terrific story, because seeing these smart women go on to long, successful careers and lives seems to me affirmation for finding what you love and doing it.

Not that I needed history to reinforce that around here.

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