By my count there are 107 different “awareness” titles for the month of October this year, yet I was stunned to find that High in the Sky awareness didn’t make the list. I’d like to make a case for why we should cram just one more celebration into an already very full month. But first, even though I’m sure you’re already busy celebrating, let me just take a minute to remind you of just a few of the things of which you should be aware.
If you happen to be Italian-American, German-American, or Polish-American, party it up because this is your month. All the avid readers out there will be happy to know that it’s Book Month as well as National Reading Group Month. For the increasingly cynical writers among you, you may wish to note that October is Self-Promotion Month and National “Gain the Inside Advantage Month” (By the way, if you enjoy this blog, please tell your friends about it, especially if you have connections in the publishing industry!).
Also on our radars this month should be a number of conditions and diseases, including: Breast Cancer, SIDS, RSV, AIDS, celiac disease, Down’s syndrome, blindness, and dyslexia. We should be aware of health literacy, which is appropriate because we’re celebrating medical librarians this month. Oh, and don’t forget to take care of your teeth by focusing on orthodontic health and dental hygiene.
What should you eat while you’re observing all that is special about October? Well, it’s pizza month and in case you’re stumped trying to choose toppings, it’s also sausage month. But don’t feel left out if you’re vegetarian because October is your month, too and there are lots of vegetarian friendly celebratory options including: rhubarbs, spinach, pear, pineapple, popcorn, apples, caramel, and American cheese. I realize that last one doesn’t work for vegans, but Vegan Awareness Day isn’t until November 1st so I’m not going to let that bother me.
There are many, many more designated awarenesses in the month of October, a few of which I most certainly will not be observing. For instance, October is Caffeine Addiction Recovery Month. You can go ahead and break your caffeine addiction if you want to, but I’m keeping mine.
Still, in this air of intense awareness, we are ignoring one of the coolest things October offers up: the sky. Historically, October has seen some greatest advances in the human desire to take to the skies and beyond. Consider, if you will, some of these historic October moments.
As the sun faded on the evening of October 22, 1797, the celebrated French aeronaut André-Jacques Garnerin ascended in a hot-air balloon from the Parc Monceau in Paris to a height of 3000 feet. This in itself was nothing particularly special. For several years, even through the turmoil of revolution, the popularity of the hot air balloon had been growing throughout France and enthusiastic crowds had watched in awe as unmanned hydrogen balloons reached altitudes of at least 10, 500 feet. With a skilled aeronaut aboard, balloons were known to sometimes reach around 6500 feet.
What was really special about this October 22 flight was that at 3000 feet, Garnerin cut through the rope that attached his basket to the balloon and as it continued to float upward, he began to fall, slowed by the first frameless parachute. Garnerin’s original parachute resembled an umbrella in design. It also lacked the air vents that would eventually prove so useful in stabilizing the otherwise bumpy ride caused by the build-up of trapped air under the silk. It seems Garnerin was prone to motion sickness and rumor has it that during this maiden jump, he vomited on the amazed (and unfortunate) crowd.Still, Garnerin survive unscathed and before long his stomach settled and the kinks were worked out of his original plan, allowing for major advancements in parachute design that a mere 33 years later, allowed Claude Ruggieri to successfully and safely rocket a sheep into the sky (find more information about Ruggieri’s sheep launching: http://wp.me/p2ppTK-t )
As impressive as Garnerin’s achievements were, however, the October sky wasn’t nearly finished yet. By 1905, brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright had been working on glider design and experimenting with powered flight for several years already. On October 5, 1905, they had a major breakthrough. Finally with their third powered airplane design, Wilbur was able to fly a total distance of 24 ½ miles, a success that allowed the brothers to pursue a patent and potential marketability.
But what’s really amazing is to think how far flight technology came by October 14, 1947 when then US Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager became the first man to break the sound barrier, an achievement he celebrated by doing it again 65 years later (just a few days ago).
Ten years after that first sonic boom, human kind made another leap upward into the sky when on October 4, 1957, the Russian satellite Sputnik launched into orbit. The world held its breath and watched as the first artificial satellite streaked its way across the October sky, inspiring awe, fear, and feverish scientific competition.
And now what else could we possibly do in our October air space? Well, the same day Yeager repeated his historic flight earlier this week, a fascinated world watched as Austrian Felix Baumgartner ascended in a balloon to an altitude of 24 miles, and dressed in a pressurized suit (for some reason I keep picturing Ironman), dove to the earth from the edge of space. The descent took over 9 minutes, and Baumgartner landed safely on the ground after becoming the first man to break the sound barrier without a vehicle.
So as you observe National Toilet Tank Repair Month, National Stamp Collecting Month, Squirrel Awareness Month (you apparently only have to be aware of them because Squirrel Appreciation Day doesn’t come around until January), and National Sarcastic Awareness Month, take some time to look up at the October Sky and think about all the flights of fancy that have become realities of flight in this one amazing month.