The Real Reason Behind the Fall of Icarus

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Let me get this straight, Icarus — we’re to believe that you were smart enough to design a way to fly of your own volition, but stupid enough to fly “too close” to the sun?

Uh-uh. I’m not buying that story. Something else went down. A mistake so foolish and easily avoided that you decided to blame the sun.

Do you know how far away the sun is, Icarus? Well, I don’t either, but I do know it’s far enough that you would die of old age long before its heat melted your fake wings. And that’s provided you’re wearing a space suit. If not, you would die of myriad other causes first, such as lack of oxygen, freezing temperatures, and all those other factors human bodies don’t like.

Hold up — you flew nude? Weren’t you concerned about your nether regions? You should have worn armor. Shorts and a t-shirt. A toga at the very least. You could have crashed into a tree and broken your ding-a-ling.

No risk mitigation was considered at all, clearly. If you had earned your Project Management Professional certification, you would have thought ahead and made accommodations to correct for anticipated risks.

Even if you’re not good at math or physics, and even if you don’t realize how very far away the sun is from Earth, all you needed to understand the risks posed to wax wings was to witness the world’s most ubiquitous fail when the scoop of ice cream falls off a small child’s sugar cone and lands in a mushy mess on the sidewalk.

Here’s what I believe really went down: you were flying up, up into the sky, when suddenly, you found yourself facing off against a dignity-stealing bee. The bee is rushing you, trying to sting your face, your bare torso, your easily accessible backside. You’re swatting at it like mad, trying to knock it off course. But this bee is determined. They always are.

“Off with you, you damn-ed bee!” you shout, but it refuses to comply.

Your flight path is suffering due to the erratic swatting. You’re dodging left and right, regretting that you left your clothes at home, because your ding-a-ling — as your lowest hanging body part — is now your Achilles heel. You’re realizing how terribly, terribly vulnerable you are. To a fuzzy little bee, no less!

You’re sweating profusely as you thrash back and forth. With the last swat, your wings are coming apart. You fall back to Earth, where your father comes to collect you.

“My son! My son!” Daedalus cries.

“The sun! It was the sun!” are your last words.

You can’t have “Brought down by a bee” carved on your tombstone. That’s just shameful. But if it was the all-powerful sun, a massive ball of plasma upwards of 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit (or 5.778 Kelvin, in case you want a data point that you can’t possibly compare to anything else you know), you’ll die a hero.

“At least he tried!” is what the public will say.

Whereas if they knew about the bee…

“Well, that was just dumb,” they’d say, shaking their heads.

So, you leave everyone to suspect the sun. But they’re also left wondering why you didn’t wear clothes. Seeing someone’s nether regions, both straining and dangling at the same time, as they slowly lift over your head and into the sky just isn’t a good look for anyone.

Government-issued astronaut diapers

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Remember when that astronaut got busted for her ill intentions toward the other woman in her love triangle?

“No, that doesn’t ring a bell.”

The one who wore diapers on her road trip?

“Oh, yes! That astronaut!”

Everyone remembers the diapers. Everyone mocked the diapers. But I can tell you, as the mother of a toddler who has just gone through potty training, the diapers make complete sense. Whenever we leave the house now, I have to plan our itinerary very carefully to ensure my daughter will have bathroom access at least every two hours, whereas before she had a portable and disposable toilet. All that was required was a backpack to tote extra diapers around in. Now, I have to locate a public bathroom, repeatedly insist that she not touch anything, and hold her so she doesn’t fall in. It is laborious, unpredictable, and often more unsanitary than a soiled diaper.

Let’s forget for a moment this astronaut’s goal, which was to eliminate her competitor. The level of dedication she displayed is admirable. We should all be so single-minded and productive. Pit stops didn’t factor into her itinerary.

The thing us earth-dwellers didn’t seem to consider is that this woman was doing exactly what she was trained to do – wear government-issued astronaut diapers on missions. These astronauts are constantly carrying out complex, time-sensitive tasks – tasks that cost the US government millions of dollars per second. There’s no time for potty breaks. There’s no way you could get out of that bulky astronaut uniform quickly enough, anyway. Especially in zero gravity.

The only thing that doesn’t make sense to me about this story is the irony of an astronaut – someone used to traveling at upwards of 10,000 MPH in space – choosing to drive hundreds of miles instead of taking an airplane. That’s like depositing your check at the bank instead of uploading it electronically from the comfort of your own house.

Driving? Doesn’t make sense. Adult diapers? Makes complete sense.

Zero Fs for Zero G

A demotivational children’s story

Source: Wikimedia Commons

When you grow up, kid, you can be anything you want to be.

Except for an astronaut.

Every child born since humankind first entered space has wished to be in zero G. It is not a unique dream.

There are 332,624,742 people in the U.S., of which only 365 achieved careers as astronauts with NASA. Those are odds of just .0001%.

In other words, you’re more likely to win the lottery and get struck by lightning.

For starters, NASA expects you to have at minimum a bachelor’s degree in engineering, biological science, physical science, or mathematics. Almost every candidate has at least one advanced degree; many of them have multiple PhDs.

Becoming a graduate of the Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program or its equivalent in the Air Force is about the only way you can hope to get in without multiple advanced degrees.

I realize this is all merely jargon to you at the moment. Suffice to say, with hard work, time, and money, you could potentially earn such lofty degrees. But making it past all the other hurdles will be progressively more unlikely.

· You must pass a rigorous NASA space physical and psychological evaluation. Let’s be honest, kid — you’re not going to pass. You break crayons and flail around on the floor when you can’t have what you want.

· You must be comfortable living in cramped, confined quarters with the same people for an entire mission. You can’t even handle a two-hour road trip with your siblings without squabbling. In a spacecraft, when Joe farts, you’ll know; and that stink will hang around until the air systems clear it out — which can take a while. When you cry, because you miss Mommy and Daddy back on Earth, your crewmates will tell you to stop damaging the incredibly expensive equipment with your salty tears.

· You’ll eat often-bland meals out of a pouch, the same ones over and over. We all know what a picky eater you are — you only want cornflakes and gummies. The good nutritionists at NASA will ensure you are eating a balanced, healthy diet while you’re up there, which means gummies will be few and far between. Cornflakes are a big no-no — imagine the damage those crispy flakes with their ridged edges could do to the equipment!

· In space, there’s no privacy for pooping. You must train on Earth how to use the space toilet. There may even be a camera involved, pointing right at your business end, to see if you’re doing it right. If you’re terrified you’ll fall into the potty, just wait ’til you try these acrobatics in space.

· You’ll lose your lunch! Did you know that most astronauts get sick their first day in space? Zero G confuses your body. After all, it was designed for life on Earth! You will feel nauseous and vomit repeatedly until your body adjusts. It’s not the thrill of being on a merry-go-round; rather, you are subjected to significant pressure followed by discombobulating weightlessness.

· It’s dark! In the black void of space, no nightlight is going to ease your fears about a monster lurking under the bed.

So, please — stop dreaming, kid, and set your sights on something more realistic. A career that doesn’t involve putting Earth in your rearview mirror.

What’s that you say — President is your next choice? Well, the decreasing odds of achieving that position is a story for another day.