Perceiving

The focus in CEP 818 this unit is perceiving.  Perceiving is taking the information we gain about a topic by using our senses and extrapolating that observation into time and space.

For the activity, we had to take a familiar aspect of our chosen focus topic, spend some time observing and imaging it, and then re-imagine it in a different format.  My focus topic for this course is the space program, and the familiar image I chose to observe and reimagine is the photo Earthrise.  This famous photograph was taken by the astronauts of Apollo 8 as they orbited the moon on Christmas Eve 1968.  It is a photograph I have hanging on the wall of our family room and that I look at almost daily, but this assignment gave me the opportunity to really look deeper at the image.

Image from NASA

While looking at the image the first thing that came to me was the feeling of loneliness.  The moon is such a sparse landscape and when it was paired with the bright swirling colors of earth, it made me feel very far away.  That made me think about the three astronauts on the mission.  Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders were all husbands and fathers celebrating Christmas in a vehicle the size of a Volkswagon Beetle while orbiting a satellite almost 240,000 miles from home.  While the excitement of the unknown was probably keeping them going, I am guessing they were probably experiencing a mix of emotions themselves being that far from home on Christmas Eve.  That got me to thinking about the fact that the “rising” of celestial bodies is somewhat of an emotional thing even here on earth.  People drive up the volcano Haleakala on Maui just to see the sunrise.  Moonrises – especially for a full moon – can be a spectacularly moving experience depending on where and with whom you are viewing.  I decided to take that idea of “risings” for my reimagining of the photograph and I wrote a poem about them.

Risings

Childhood

Camping with my family

Getting ready to fish on the calm morning lake

Warming as the big orange sun enters the sky

Bringing its comfort and light to the day

Sunrise

Adolescence

Going on an early summer date

Thinking nervously about what to say

Looking at the sky surprised to see the moon a big as the sun

Reflecting the light to calm my jitters

Moonrise

Adulthood

Traveling across the sky

Feeling like my life has become a dream

Gasping as the blue marble that is my home rises over the horizon

Looking as fragile as an orb of blown glass

Earthrise
For me, this process helped remind me of the human factor of the space program.  Astronauts are always viewed as pilots, scientists and engineers.  These are all jobs with the stereotype of the individuals in these fields being very rational and unemotional.  By thinking through the Earthrise photo and putting myself into the shoes of the astronauts on that flight, I was able to think about the more emotional side of being an astronaut that we as a society do not tend to remember until there is some kind of horrific accident like Challenger or the Apollo 1 fire.  I think when looking at the space program, it is important for students to see the astronauts for the humans they are – too see their successes and failures and to understand that astronauts were once kids with a dream just like them.

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