Who needs Space Camp, anyway?

Published 10:36 pm Thursday, July 9, 2009

I’m not certain about this, but I’m pretty sure that it’s bad form for a 44-year-old man to be jealous of his 9-year-old goddaughter. If that’s true, then I’ve lost my shot at this year’s Godfather of the Year Award. I suppose Marlon Brando can rest in peace.

This is another in a long line of awards that I’ve not really come close to winning in recent years. Employee of the Year, World’s Greatest Husband, the Happiest Man in America, the Nobel Peace Prize — they’ve all escaped my clutches. For now, my World’s Greatest Grandpa trophy stands alone on the shelf reserved for accolades and commendations.

Losing the Godfather Award, however, is a bitter disappointment, as it would have made such a nice accompaniment to the Grandpa Trophy. Alas, when I first heard that my goddaughter was headed to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., I knew in my heart that I’d soon become a victim of my own nature. Sure, there were congratulations and wishes that she’d have a wonderful trip. But deep inside, my heart cried out: “Why does SHE get to go, and not ME?!”

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Space Camp. A place where people don’t make fun of you for dressing up like an astronaut, a place where an otherwise disconcerting habit of counting backwards actually becomes the foundation of a valuable skillset. Space Camp didn’t exist when I was an appropriate age to attend, but if it had, I would have eaten a pile of rutabagas the size of Olympus Mons for the chance to be there. It’s just not FAIR, my mind cries as I think about it again.

She’s back now, and my goddaughter is full of stories and memories from Alabama. There are photos of her wearing a headset and sitting at a monitor as she plays the role of flight director for a shuttle launch, photos of her sitting at the helm of a mockup of the Endeavor orbiter, photos of her sitting in various simulators and other contraptions that only people who went to Space Camp would really understand.

Now, she has dreams of being the first woman to walk on Mars, and I really couldn’t be more proud of her — or happier that she had such a great time there.

None of that, however, gets us past the fact that my heart keeps saying, “Hey, it should have been ME counting down that simulated launch!” A 9-year-old has brought me face to face with my own character, and what I’m seeing ain’t pretty.

The only cure that I can find is a quick trip to Florida to watch a real shuttle launch. If all goes well and God blesses me despite my character flaws, that will happen on Saturday. It’s not Space Camp, but it will do.

If you’re interested in seeing photos from the launch (fingers crossed), follow me on Twitter. I’ll post them there and on my Facebook account when I get back to the hotel Saturday night.

Twitter: twitter.com/ReSpears3

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