Tuesday, 8 March 2011

This time it's different

There's three of us, enough to make a fuss. We're pleased
to be a team, of course, relieved there's no more 'token woman'
business going on. In fact we thought the talk would shift
at last. Surprise expressed, yes, but hell! It's more than

forty years since 1969. But hear
the press reel out old jokes, on TV, radio and in print.
'Three women! Imagine the launch party, bet they went,
Damn! We've all come in the same outfit.' Or,

referring to the padded orange jumpsuits,'Are you sure
it doesn't make me look fat?' And something behind our backs
about women drivers. All I did was study maths and physics,
go to rocket school and practice zero gravity -

all they do is quip about the uniform! My mother
still hopes I'll meet the right man, of course, but I wanted
the man in the moon. You have to believe in yourself when you're up
against that. Mothers. Men. This is a vocation but if I'm truthful

some of the sparkle's gone. The Apollo Missions - those were
the wild west days: the lone cowboy dude he was
the epic hero: one man, one rocket, one trip to the moon.
(Even if there were two or more astronauts; even in a team.)

Surrounded by extremes we were back then, no points
in-between at all: The Space Race, The Cold War;
black and white TV; apartheid in South Africa.
So many enemies. They named the quest with blinkers on:

'Apollo' - god of the Sun, wasn't he? That daybright star:
Apollo, god of days and mice. But the ruler of the moon
is Artemis: goddess of the hunt, wild animals
and childbirth. A strange compounded queendom.

Maybe they thought, in naming their ascent for man,
to tell the story of her defeat? 'Apollo Mission':
Man conquers Moon. Did they forget these two were twins,
Apollo and Artemis? Nothing without the other, day

and night. Did you know, they never put a woman
on the moon? Other fish to fry. Now three of us
are on the shuttle, soon to join another in space.
Three and one makes four: a world record. Never before

did they cheer us on in twos and threes; four is the magic number.
Yet, it's just a few laps of the earth, some tests, some data pulled -
it's almost office work. No. Don't you believe what you read
in the papers. We reached for the moon and won.

© Cath Nichols

Celebrating Four Women in Space for International Women's Day
(2011 theme: Equal access to education, training and science & technology)
Cath has a PhD from Lancaster University. She is now over-qualified for almost everything except a job in academia or libraries, and - oh! Look at those jobs vanish. Never mind. Profile.