Postcards from the Bleeding Edge
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

  Sax in Space

In 1992 I met Kurt Heisig, in Santa Cruz, California. Meeting him, and seeing his story of how he worked with Ron McNair to create a sax that could play in the rarified and zero-g atmosphere inside the space shuttle, inspired me to finally compose the song that captured all the joy and pain I'd felt at every stage of man's quest for the stars.

I spent some time this weekend in Craig Guessford's studio, attempting to lay down a new version of that song (shorter, more intense), but didn't finish it in time to post today, the 41st anniversary of the first Moon landing.

I play Rhysling and Me obsessively sometimes. I remain haunted. What I wrote about the Challenger disaster is perhaps not as haunting as what the late Jeanne Robinson went through, or what Jarre had composed... but we all cope as best we can.

I dug through my storage unit last month and found a copy of Kurt's original, mimeograph'd story, and got craig to take this picture of the picture, of the only remaining documentation that a sax (and sax player!) actually flew in space. No recordings exist from Ron McNair's first flight, and from the second flow only tears, and versions of the song he was to play, recorded on the ground.

What's happened in the newspace program in the last few months has been incredible... from Hayabusa's successful landing, to the perfect launch of the Falcon 9, to SpaceShipTwo nearing it's first drop test... all give me hope for the first time in decades that Man may move beyond earth orbit in my lifetime. Perhaps after that, I can finally put Rhysling to rest.

Craig was sad that Constellation had been canceled, before I told him about all the good stuff that has been happening lately, outside of NASA. Now he's jazzed again.

I keep thinking maybe, just maybe, as we get restarted into the Solar System, I can do something a little more constructive for getting humanity off of Earth, than writing music. The highest an effort of mine ever got was a 160 miles above the earth, where it now floats in the atmosphere, evenly mixed with the molecules of James Doohan. Maybe I can do better next time.

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David Täht writes about politics, space, copyright, the internet, audio software, operating systems and surfing.


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