Apollo 11 was launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969--24 years to the day after the first atom bomb was detonated at Alamogordo, New Mexico. During its initial burn the Saturn V launch vehicle used as much oxygen each second as is consumed by half a billion people taking a breath.

After six months of marriage Jerry knew what to expect from my mother. She refused to show interest in the launch because she knew it was something that interested him. Her disinterest was punishment for not having finished the translation of his Czech moon poems, which she feared would be obsolete once the moon was reached. "Desire satisfies only until it is fulfilled," Jerry quoted to her from his own work any time she challenged him.

Well-wishers had written messages in the sand at Cocoa Beach, over which the mammoth rocket passed, taking some of the ocean's roar with it as it accelerated to escape velocity, 17,000 miles per hour, when it would cover a distance equal to the height of Mt. Everest every second.

It would take more than three days to reach the moon. With no air resistance in the vacuum of space and practically no gravity, the slightest forces could affect the ship's trajectory. Even dumping waste water, if done too forcefully, could send the ship off course, requiring costly use of fuel to make the adjustment. So urine and other liquid wastes were trickled out gently as watering a delicate plant. It took the ship an hour to drift away from the frozen piss crystals which obscured the stars the astronauts viewed to confirm their position with a sextant. They were nervous during this piss-blindness, for though they had faith in their machine--which Commander Collins called a minicathedral--they trusted the evidence of their eyes more than the vehicle's far-from-infallible instrumentation.

While the astronauts were trickling tiny golden piss comets behind them on their trip to the moon, Ted Kennedy, brother of John (after whom Cape Canaveral had been temporarily renamed), drove into the Chappaquiddick, killing his passenger Mary Jo Kopechne.

How strange to drown in an automobile. In the fathomless blackness at the bottom of a river at night, shallow-breathing in an airpocket as bubbles escape to the surface displaced by water running down the inner window like rain.

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