Just two weeks before the coronavirus shut down New York, I traveled to the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida, to see SpaceX’s Dragon mission space launch. With me was Brooklyn artist Janet Biggs, whose conceptual piece, Finding Equilibrium, was one of several artworks chosen by the MIT Media Lab’s Space Exploration Initiative (SEI) to participate in the rocket’s 30-day mission to the International Space Station. Passing strip malls and rehab centers, we drove from Orlando to Cape Canaveral at sunset, listening to a space-heavy playlist: Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Elton John’s “Rocketman,” even Ernie crooning “I Want to Visit the Moon.”
Standing out in a field—the equivalent of a press room at Space Center—under a clear night sky, we watched the Falcon-9 rocket lift off Launch Complex 40 at 11:50 P.M. It was like a hydrogen bomb going off: first the fumes turned the sky bright white, then a sonic boom pierced the air, deafening even from our post three miles away.