Space Race

Space Race

Space Race

Space Race

“Tower to control… Tower to control… Both rockets cleared for takeoff.”

Rocket fuel smoke engulfed the takeoff zone, and for a moment – the race was neck and neck.

Reporters and spectators sweat through their shirts a safe distance away – trying to squint through the sticky, Florida sunshine and the rocket’s clouds.

It was bound to be a historical, record-breaking day – no matter the outcome of the race.

And even before the rockets could launch, more than one record had already been set. It was the largest attended rocket launch Cape Canaveral had ever seen. It was the first time that news media from nearly every country whose name isn’t too difficult to pronounce was there to report the dual launch live. And it was a pretty hot day- might have even set a temperature record. Just to name a few.

On the morning of the launch, there were still some valid safety concerns. Was it safe to launch two rockets in tandem so close to one another? Was it safe to send two manned rockets on such a long space flight? Once on Mars, could they launch themselves back to Earth? Was it safe that this was the first space race? Well you know, like a space race-race.

Oddly enough, no one seemed to raise what should have been the most obvious concern – was it safe to allow two egotistical billionaires with no astronaut training to fly their self-commissioned spaceships to Mars just because they made a bet?

The answer to all those questions was, “Hmmm, probably no.” That was also the answer the Cape Canaveral Commander gave four years ago when one of the billionaire’s assistants asked if the race would be allowed.

But, time and money can change even the most indecisive of no’s into a solid, affirmative shoulder shrug.

With final authorization to launch the rockets from Cape Canaveral confirmed, the two billionaires shook hands and laughed maniacally – a type of laugh only billionaires and super villains have really been able to master.

The race was on and the one billion dollar wager was agreed upon. Four years from that day, the pair would strap into the pilot’s seats of their race-rockets-to-be and set off on an endurance race to the Red Planet.

But, for the rival billionaires, that wasn’t enough. They were not satisfied with simply racing each other in outer space to another planet. They needed to create some hype.

So hype up their race they did. To be precise, exactly 12,572 people around the world found gainful employment working on one of the marketing and outreach teams each billionaire set up.

As word and interest of the race spread across the globe, more and more people became invested in it. R&D teams sprung up to develop the fastest rockets. Bookies and casinos started taking bets on each billionaire. Television shows, news specials, and radio spots were obsessed with the race – for four whole years, every 3rd TV channel and every .5 FM stations were airing something about the race.

For a while, the world seemed like it lost interest in everything else. Facebook went out of business – no one cared what their friends were doing anymore because, well, they weren’t racing each other in outer space. The Kardashians became extinct. Disneyland’s attendance plummeted and the park was sold – no one even knows who bought it because they didn’t care.

Somehow, the hype didn’t fade even a little bit throughout the four years leading up to launch. The World Cup and the summer Olympics had to be cancelled because everyone refused to go anywhere other than Florida. And you can’t blame Florida – it just had a lot going on.

At least that’s what it told Fifa and the International Olympic Committee when they asked if Florida would be willing to make last minute accommodations to host the events.

The noise from the launch pad grew louder and the spectators and reporters covered their ears, waiting to catch a glimpse of which billionaire would get out of the gates first.

And finally, after what seemed like a long exposition of the race that was supposedly unfolding in real time, one of the rockets – the solid gold one painted down the sides with giant dollar signs – emerged from the clouds and roared into the sky.

The onlookers erupted in applause and cheers. The race was on!

But, the other rocket had yet to take off.

The applause settled along with the rocket fuel clouds. One rocket remained on the launch pad – this one simply painted a modest rocket-ship color, no giant dollar signs.

Up in the sky, the solid gold dollar sign rocket ship was just exiting Earth’s orbit with a huge head start to Mars. Endurance race or not, ever inch could make the difference.

In unison, the heads in the crowd pivoted back and forth from sky to launch pad. Launch pad to sky. Were they witnessing the start and finish of the race right before their eyes? Could four years of rocket ship development really result in utter failure?

On the launch pad, the billionaire emerged from the dud- ship with a smirk on his face – dressed not in a space suit, but a charcoal, one button, Italian cut suit. His assistant ran out to the flight bridge and handed him a martini.

He wasn’t upset. He acted as if he had already won and he wasn’t even dressed for space.

As the Earth-locked billionaire exited view, the spectators and news reporters slowly disappeared. News reports concluded that there was already a winner, even though he had barely left Earth.

Days, then weeks passed, and the world’s obsession with the space race (race) quickly faded. People went back to their normal lives. Some collected their early winnings from bets they placed on the race – including one very happy loser who seemed to recognize the technological challenge that a return from Mars would likely present.

And about 30 million miles from Earth, the front-runner billionaire – the clear winner – had Mars in his sights.

His ship landed in the red dirt softly and he stepped foot on the surface of Mars. He turned around to watch what he thought would be a last place finish, but the other rocket ship was nowhere in sight.

“Oh, fuuuu…”