When I was in grade school in Reagan's 1980's there were two government jobs we dreamed of getting: high tech weapon designer (black humor was the only way our nine year old minds could deal with the horror of the Cold War), and space shuttle pilot. When we took field trips to Boeing's Museum of Flight we completely ignored the Wright brother's plane for the replica moonlander.
Today the future of manned spaceflight is in question and shuttle launches rarely make the daily paper. The science curriculum which could point kids toward a future in astrophysics is falling behind as quickly as arts education is being cut. NASA may still be around, but it's name has a whiff of middle aged nostalgia about it, which is unappealing to children.
My 5 year old can draw the Starship enterprise, but would be confused at seeing a photo of the shuttle Enterprise. I want my kid to think of the stars as actual places instead of CGI animations. At naptime I want him to imagine himself velcro-ing his zero G body to the shuttle wall to prevent free-floating in the cabin. I want him to win a trip to Space Camp as a finalist on Double Dare. I want him to have all the daydream opportunities I had.
Next weekend I plan on making treats and sitting him down to pass on the vanishing lore of these things to him the way my dad told prattled on to me about The Lone Ranger and Tanto.
In case he is as disinterested in his father's hand-me-down daydreams as I was at his age, I have invented a secret weapon to draw his attention: Astronaut Cupcakes.
Here is the theoretical recipe:
1 box Betty Crocker cherry chip cake
2 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 c water
1 can cream cheese frosting
1 teaspoon powdered orange Tang
1 package Nasa endorsed freeze-dried "Astronaut Ice Cream"
9 golden metallic cupcake papers
Directions: Mix and bake cherry chip cupcakes exactly as Ms. Crocker instructs on the back of her box. Set aside and allow to cool. Thoroughly mix Tang powder into cream cheese frosting until it reaches a uniform dayglow orange color. Smear cupcakes in Tang frosting and top each with a single moon-rock-sized chunk of freeze-dried neapolitan icecream. Try to have all three flavors (chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry) represented in each chunk. Next, with a long sewing needle, insert string through the top of the cupcake to the bottom. tie a knot under the bottom of the cupcake paper. The knot should be large enough to prevent the cupcake from sliding off the end of the string. Suspend nine cupcakes from the ceiling at various radii from the dining room table. Measure carefully to keep distances to scale with the orbits of planets within our Sown Solar System. Pluto is to be represented. Hang the cupcakes just out of reach of your tallest child. Make your child jump for them in slow motion as if leaping in 1/4th gravity. After eating, leave the golden metallic wrappers littered on the gray carpet under a motionless American Flag.