So I was reading today’s Metro on the morning train, and I came across an article by one James Ellis on the RAF Fylingdales base. This began with a romantic scenario of looking up at the starry sky, taking a sip of wine, and making a wish as a streak of light flashes across the heavens. But Mr Ellis warns us that we may come crashing down to Earth if we read on, where his interviewee explains:
"You're probably looking at a piece of space junk that is burning up on re-entry into the atmosphere."
The very same romantic dejection oppressed the late great Kirsty MacColl in her classic hit, A New England; wherein she "saw two shooting stars last night, and wished on them, but they were only satellites."
Smashing song, and all; but what a load of old rubbish!
Yes, it is a very glorious thing to see a star fall. Doubly so, when one knows whence the star came, and what long roads that aeons-old chip of nickel-iron has worn out before its last swan-dive in white fire.
But the metal in the junk is just as old, and was forged in the same stellar furnaces. And the junk is no crude nugget, but the shaped and fashioned tool of our minds and hands, launched by our own wit and will into the sea that is the sky, and coming home at last. What more has romance to ask?
It is a long fall for Mr Ellis’s piece of space rubbish, but it is a great skylarky exaltation for my earthbound human spirit. Whence our junk falls today, our grandchildren may rise tomorrow. I will raise a glass of wine and breathe a quiet wish to that, any old starry night!
And to those who will still hold with earth-spurning Kirsty on this matter, I can only shake my head in mortal wonder, and sing right along with my own personal backspin:
Is it wrong to wish on space hardware?
I wish, I wish, I wish you’d care...