Cyrano De Bergerac was the first man to visit the moon. When he arrived, he found a young Chinese woman named Chang’e who was witty, intelligent and fond of wine. They had a brief but passionate affair. Cyrano eventually tired of life on the Moon and one morning, climbed back into his hot air balloon and put the thing into reverse. He left a note pinned to Chang’e’s pillow but there is no record of what he wrote. It was beautiful and passionate and utterly cold, no doubt. Several months layer, Chang’e gave birth to a rabbit. Things work differently in Outer Space.
The rabbit, while the first animal in space, was not the last. The United States and the Soviet Union both spent inordinate amounts of rocket fuel placing dogs, mice, rats, chinchillas, iguanas, turantulas, several colonies of ants and assorted birds (mostly parrots) into orbit at a rate that you just wouldn’t believe. On at least one occasion, the United States launched a capsule stuffed with three thousand eight hundred and fifty two speckled guinea pigs, just to see if they could. Then there were the primates. For whatever reason, all the Chimpanzees sent into space returned with their intelligence greatly augmented and full of a desire to conquer mankind. This fact was kept secret form the general public until 2000, when, due to clerical error, one of these maniacal super chimps was accidentally elected president of the United States.
Yuri Gagarin, the first man to orbit planet Earth (who was not entirely fictional) was reportedly to have said from his space capsule,”Well, here I am in heaven and I don’t see any God.” This anecdote was made up by Khrushchev and attributed to Gagarin, who was far more popular than the Russian Premiere. Unfortunately, Gagarin died just a few years later when his jet encounter foul weather and crashed.
There is no weather, foul or fair in heaven. No God either. Just stars and infinity. Enough room for everyone. Planets and comets. Fountains of methane. Hurricanes bigger than the planet Earth. Black Holes. Giant clouds of sparkling light that give birth to stars. Wonders greater than can be conceived of here, at the bottom of our little well. We look up through our narrow opening and dream of the moon, of Chinese girls and rabbits, lovers who fly to heaven in hot air balloons and heroes who ride smoking rockets into a sky that never ends.
Tonight is Yuri’s Night.
Raise a glass in honor of the the first man in space.
And pour a little on the ground for Laika.