I’m guessing that most children dream of being an astronaut at one time or another in their lives. I too dreamt of the magic of weightlessness and spent many hours picturing myself hitting booming golf shots in the sea of tranquility or driving moon buggies recklessly whilst peppering the moon with aluminum foil flags.
So it was with a small pang of regret that I watched the International Space Station fly overhead the other night whilst driving a group of guests through the Londolozi Bushveld.
We were following the Nottens Female leopard through thick brush and down to a murky pool in the Tugwaan Drainage for a drink. As she noisily lapped up the brackish water we turned our attention skywards and watched the space station describe a neat arc in the eastern horizon.
If you haven’t seen the space station go overhead you really ought to give it a go. Log onto www.heavens-above.com and become a free registered user. On the site you’ll be able to get the exact times for a fly over at any location in the world, alternatively google ISS flyovers and you’ll be surprised at just how much cyberspace is dedicated to affording you a view of this remarkable object.
The Station is an internationally developed research facility, conducting experiments in biology, physics, meteorology and astronomy. It’s not complete either and while little bits are added here and there – the finishing touches are scheduled for 2011.
As the ISS sailed Venus like across our bows I reached back into those childhood dreams and momentarily envisaged myself chasing rice granules around in a zero gravity environment whilst playing an aerial game of chess with a fellow astronaut between conversations with mission control.
But then the Nottens female finished slurping and walked past the car. I turned the vehicle around and was delighted to discover that she had paused to clean herself on a soft patch of grass in full view of all the guests. The Space Station was forgotten and as a blue moon rose (second full moon in March) we left Nottens to her cleaning and headed for gin and tonics on a crest.
Then I paused to reflect on those astronauts peering out their re-inforced windows at our beautiful mosaiced planet probably wishing 15 times a day as they pass over Africa that they were on Safari.
Some things just aren’t what they might have promised to be but going on safari at Londolozi will always be!
If you are curious as to why random American Cities are thrown into the text of the story, then imagine you were hypothetically onboard the ISS and again hypothetically it travelled north to south down the USA’s east coast. Then starting at Boston – at each bold entry peer out the window and that would probably be the city you would see a few hundred kms below you. That should give
you an idea of the speed at which those poor astronauts (not on game drive) are travelling.
Written by: Tom Imrie
Filmed and Photographed by: Rich Laburn