by Chris Tobias
September 6 marks the one-year anniversary of Take Back the Sky, and I have to say I think we’ve come a long way in these first twelve months. Our online petition has over 1,400 signatures and continues to climb, we’ve sent hundreds of letters to Elon Musk at SpaceX asking him to name his first manned Dragon spacecraft Serenity (and those are just the ones we’ve collected and sent at cons; it’s likely there have been hundreds more), we’ve been featured on podcasts and blogs, and we’ve presented panels and worked tables at two conventions, with a third scheduled for later this month (Pittsburgh Comicon, September 27-29). Until we hear the announcement that the next manned US spacecraft will be called Serenity, though, there’s still plenty of work to be done, so we figured we’d kick off the second year of Take Back the Sky with a very special project that should be all manner of fun for everyone.
Since the autumn season is just around the corner, we thought this would be the perfect time for us to show Elon Musk how much we want him to christen his first manned Dragon Serenity by sending him a leaf on the wind… literally.
Here’s how the idea came about:
When CBS cancelled the television series Jericho in 2007, fans of the show wanted to find a unique way to let the network know how much they wanted it to continue. In the season finale, a character had uttered the expletive “Nuts!” in reference to the response of American General Anthony McAuliffe (no relation to Challenger crewmember Christa McAuliffe) to a German demand for surrender during the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. The Jericho fans seized upon that one line, and decided to show their support for the show by sending packages of nuts to CBS headquarters. After receiving nearly ten tons of packaged nuts in the mail, CBS finally reversed their decision and renewed the series (at least for a while longer).
It’s estimated that the Jericho fans may have spent upwards of five figures to send all those nuts to CBS. While that kind of dedication is admirable, we want to imitate their perseverance and creativity without asking our supporters to spend very much of their own hard-earned cash. So here’s the plan:
We’re asking each and every supporter of Take Back the Sky to go into his or her yard (or perhaps a park) and pick a leaf. It should be a leaf that is either still on the branch, or one that is very freshly fallen. Put that leaf in a small, sealable plastic bag, and put it in an envelope with a short note to Elon Musk asking him to name his crewed Dragon Serenity (and I do mean short—one or two sentences will do). Once you’ve done that, seal the envelope, slap a stamp on it and mail it to this address:Space Exploration Technologies Attn: Elon Musk 1 Rocket Road Hawthorn, CA 90250 USA
When Elon Musk gets a pile of leaves big enough to jump in, we’re pretty sure he’ll get the message that Browncoats around the world are passionate about the idea of a manned US spacecraft called Serenity!
Now, here are a few tips for a successful “Leaf on the Wind:”
- The US Postal Service will allow the mailing of plant matter only as long as it will not decompose before it reaches its destination, so be sure to pick a leaf that is either still on the branch or very freshly fallen. Those pretty autumn colors may look just like Serenity’s logo, but Elon Musk will never see them if the envelope gets flagged and pulled because it has a certain aroma of unpleasantness about it when it arrives in California. If you want your leaf to stay fresh longer, you can blow a tiny amount of air into the bag (not too much, or it won’t fit in the envelope) before you seal it. That way you really are sending SpaceX a leaf “on the wind.” Another helpful technique is to take a very small wad of paper towel, toilet paper or Kleenex tissue and moisten it slightly, and then wrap it around the leaf’s stem before you seal it in the bag.
- Make sure you know what kind of leaf you’ve chosen so you’re not sending a leaf that’s hazardous to the touch. (We want Elms and Maples, not Poison Ivy or Poison Sumac!)
- The note you include should be brief and hand-written. This will set it apart from the letters that have already been arriving. Again, one or two sentences will do. (I chose to include a little Haiku with mine: “Watch your Dragon soar/With the name Serenity/A leaf on the wind.”) It’s probably also a good idea to sign it, because CEO’s of big companies tend to get a little nervous when they start getting anonymous notes in the mail! If you want to make it seem informal, yet personal, try signing just your first name and where you’re from (for example, “Chris from Pittsburgh”).
- For our supporters who are not in North America, you can still get involved, but it will take a little bit more work. Since your leaves on the wind aren’t likely to arrive before they decompose, you’ll have to think outside the box, but you could send a hand-made leaf cut out of construction paper. They may not be real, but I’m sure they still will be all kinds of pretty, and you won’t have to worry about them losing their beauty before Elon Musk ever sees them.
- Regardless of whether your leaf on the wind is hand-picked or hand-made, be sure to tell people you’ve sent it on message boards and on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (#LeafOnTheWind), and encourage them to do the same.
It’s important to realize that the Jericho campaign succeeded not because they sent nuts, but because they sent almost 20, 000 pounds of them. If we want this campaign to succeed, we need as many people as possible to participate. Also, this campaign is not meant to take the place of regular letters. Ideally, the two should work in tandem. We need to keep sending those plain old ordinary letters as well!
So, if you’re a Browncoat who would like to see a manned US spacecraft named Serenity, or someone who believes that bridging the gap between science-fiction and hard science will help rekindle American interest in space exploration, please take a few moments of your time and the cost of a postage stamp to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Take Back the Sky with us and send Elon Musk a leaf on the wind—literally.
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SpaceX recently made me an offer to work for them at their Rocket Development Facility, which I turned down in order to pursue another endeavor. Am I insane?
Hey, you gotta follow your heart. If it’s what you really wanna do and what you’d enjoy, ignoring things like salary or other so-called “practical” considerations, then go do it and have no regrets.
I’m more passionate about the propulsion research I’m working on now than I am about liquid rockets. It’s the real key to opening up the solar system. Plus I’ve been to SpaceX’s facilities, and everyone there says they work you to death. Turnover is high, and everyone working there will be burned out in a few short years, tops.
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