A dialectic cuts through the world of modern rocketry. The launch behicles are massive cans of metal and industrial fuels; yet the satellites and missiles themselves are infinitely delicate packages of microchips and sensors. The workaday limits of rocket science are conjointed to a world of weightlessness and omniscience. Satellites and missiles are born in worlds of utter secrecy – clandestine factories and closed military bases – and live out their lives in the soundless black of deep space, silently listening, watching and processing. (Who would have thought that a space so totally empty would make such a wonderful place to hide; to observe unseen?)
But there is one moment in their lives when they bellow their existence with a ground-trembling, exubernt din that lights the night skies like a second sunset: the 45 seconds or so it takes for them to lift from their launch pads and disappear thousands of miles downrange. They may have feet of clay, but their heads are truly in the stars.