There is No Sound in Space
If you want to be a pilot, you must be content with the beeping.
If the sounds of a hospital unnerve you, this is not your place because the ringing in your ears they leave promises that you will never taste silence again. They will echo loudly in your skull, the beats reverberating through your headsets until you can’t hear your own voice as you bark information and commands through the microphone.
And the lights, the lights! They will blind you, overlapping pop-ups and red alarms and engine concerns and fuel consumption and smearing, bright swaths of glowing screens as you wipe your moist eyes, blinking.
You must be okay holding your own life like a surgeon delicately holds a heart. A slip of the scalpel, a slip of the controls, and your family will never see you again. If you are easily shaken up, this is not the career for you: you cannot let your palms sweat when a millimeter on the joystick separates you from certain death. Every microtwitch you make will be felt by the ship, by the cargo.
You must be okay holding your own life like a surgeon delicately holds a heart. A slip of the scalpel, a slip of the controls, and your family will never see you again.
You must be fine with knowing that space will stay with you. That when you lie down in your own bed, your core will turn, anticipating the movements of a ship that does not house you. That space’s weightlessness, its allure, its lethality, will change how it feels to rest. You will always be ready to spring up, to turn off the autopilot and to slip into the pilot’s chair, because your survival will depend on it. It will change you, and its touch will leave waxy, invisible scars even when your feet are on solid ground.
Humans were never meant for space travel. Here to Mars is enough time for you to see a new baby when you return, an unfamiliar face — and for familiar ones to warp with age. Here to Saturn is eight missed birthday parties. Here to Proxima Centauri is four hundred mothers.
You will be in places where here to home will feel agonizingly long. You will return a stranger — I did — because people will tend to forget you when you miss weddings and funerals and phone calls and faces. Keep the ones who think of you close, and don’t wonder if they will remember you in thirty years. If they can recall your wit in ten, your voice in five, your smile in one.
You must be all right knowing there is no sound in space. Not a whisper, nor a hiss, nor a breath. You are not meant to be in this vacuum of particleless ether dotted with pinpricks of stars that have already died by the time their light reaches you.
So when your windshield begins to crack, when the alarms and lights meld into a crescendo of this is it, this is it, this is it, when mission control’s voice begins to waver, and when your sweaty hands fumble with the emergency suit —
Remember, you will only waste your breath if you scream in a place no one can hear you.
Asma Abdela is a high school junior from San Jose, California. Her version of write drunk, edit sober is writing at night and editing in the harsh, harsh daylight. She wrote “There is No Sound in Space” in a hospital lobby. This is her first publication.