If you have not yet seenThe Martian, you should. Movies have always found ways to make space travel exciting, but this one makes science itself seem cool. When’s the last time the interplanetary hero was a botanist?
Like many Navy pilots, I used to daydream about becoming an astronaut. I had the science background, the grades, the flying skills, and as clean a route into space as most people get. But I chose a different path, one that landed me with three kids, an incredible job, and barely any regrets. Except, occasionally, when I watch a space movie and wonder What if…?
But about halfway through The Martian I realized having children has changed the way I answer that question. It was no longer me saving the day on Mars. It was Katie. And Lizzie. And Henry. They were the ones sowing potatoes in the Martian soil, traversing the barren red landscape, and fighting to get home to . . . well, to see their parents again.
I’ve always been a bit of a romantic. My wife makes fun of me when I suggest we sell everything and buy a sailboat. And as we grow older, it has become apparent that most of my crazy ideas will forever remain the daydreams they began as. But kids give my imagination new life.
The day after I saw The Martian, we took the family to see the Space Shuttle Endeavor, now parked at a museum twenty minutes from our house. Lizzie was more interested in the freeze-dried ice cream in the gift shop, and Henry was content to swing from the guardrail surrounding the enormous spaceship. But I still got brief glimpses of my kids as space-faring adventurers. The paths closed to me lay wide open before them. As parents, whatever dreams we have left, our children now carry for us.
I know that I will never rocket into space. The passage of time, and the choices I’ve made, have turned that idea and a thousand others into fantasies saved for movie night. Having kids, I can live with that. Now, as far as selling everything and living on a boat . . . there’s still world enough and time.