Friday, May 20, 2016

A visit to Newquay

We had visited Newquay in Cornwall back in 2012; I remember taking my wife, Clare, my sister-in-law and her husband to the Roman Catholic Church there for Mass one Saturday evening. The roads were convoluted - thank God for the sat nav! - and afterwards, the route back to our cottage took us past Sainsbury's.

Now I'm back here again.

It's a warm evening, the sunset fading behind me as I stare at the lit-up spaceport. The Government had resolved to build this facility back in 2016, with Virgin Galactic's space tourism as the 'anchor tenant'. That dream was long gone; what I would be seeing tonight would be the first UK 'heavy lift' launch for the new orbital laser platform.

Our contribution to future interstellar missions.

Thousands of us, mostly young, lithe men and women, crowd together here this evening. We didn't need to be here, but there is something tactile, sensual, about our presence in this moment.

Turning around, I see the ranks of synth trucks parked on the layby.

The loudspeakers speak the countdown, redundant as the main boosters ignite. A wall of ambient sound compresses my very body as the vast machine lifts on its plume of smoke and fire.

I watch it dwindle into the sky, its plume beginning to tip for orbital insertion.

It's time to go.

I peel the induction cap off my scalp, pull up my duvet and in a creaky whisper, ask the care home AI to turn off the lights.

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