We Were Here

By: Peggy Nelson
August 11, 2011

The International Space Station is out of time. And almost out of space.

I suppose I imagined it would always be up there, in the way that your car is always your car, even though it has new tires and a new braking system (twice) and new windshield (3 times) and a new hood and new oil and a new antenna and new radio settings because you got sick of the old ones on at least 3 different occasions and probably could have a new paint job except the old one is Jackpot Gold (An Official Color of the Ford Motor Company) which has embedded sparkle flecks, and even though it’s ridiculous and ugly you always kind of liked it, so it stayed.

I mean my point is persistence. Something persists, even if the something itself is not the same something, but a series of overlapping somethings, having an historical or causal connection to the original something, which is of course Your Car. I mean Mine. My Car.

So even though I can’t say I thought about it constantly, I imagined the Space Station would always be up there, and added to and fixed and elaborated and improved, so that eventually when we got our collective acts together it would serve as the jumping-off point for starship assembly and further-out space stations. Or at the very least devolve into some kind of techno-burner space camp Neuromancer-stylee where Autonomous Orbital Astronauts could power up and get that far at least possibly to Magic Carpet Ride which was the best part of that one Star Trek movie and indulge in various visual augmentations for personal planetary perspective. At least that.

I mean I know they sunk Mir. But the ISS was like the new Mir, right?

Like backyard camping.

But really more like a jumping-off point, like the head of a hiking trail where you leave your car and your information and your city name and strap on your pack and head off into the wilderness. Really more like that.

So now it’s coming down. They’re going to crash it into the ocean.

I know there was that whole thing in the 60s of how The Ocean was Like Space, except more interesting because of ocean animals, but you know, come on. It’s not. No I mean it is interesting, sure, but it’s not Like Space. The ocean is on the earth. It kind of defines us, certainly from space, even though we are not, ourselves, ocean animals. At least not anymore.

Well apparently they don’t like us to say crash it into the ocean. More like “guide.” Guide it into the ocean. They can’t let it decay up there, because it will eventually crash down in pieces, maybe on a city. Or a highway. Or on you. So they have to guide it, onto the ocean animals. Who might not be in the way anyway, there’s a lot of ocean.

And then the backpedaling — ok, ok, maybe we’ll maintain part of it! (With what budget, exactly…?) Or, better: its place will be taken by private industry Space Stations, lots of them, accessed by all sorts of Autonomous Astronauts. As long as they’re economically autonomous like Google, or Richard Branson. That is if he’s still interested in Space, and not fully occupied with ocean animals.

See with the Ocean we live above its meniscus. With the sky we live below. Surface tension keeps us in place, mostly.

If we let it.

They’re crashing the Space Station into the ocean.

In a metaphorical meniscus collapse, there’s no space left to be.