“Landing Phase” by Don Maker

(dedicated to Space Shuttle Enterprise)

From out of the endless void we fell at over Mach twenty-five;
with an L to D of four-to-one, our descent was more of a dive.
But the stick was dead and the hull was red,
so we rode her down to the onrushing ground
and just hoped we would somehow survive.

At seventeen-thousand feet we began our so-called landing phase,
and the blessed CPU kicked in without its normal delays.
So, despite the glows from the blazing nose,
we could feel some float start around the bird’s throat,
and we sang that great programmer’s praise.

We didn’t hit much of a thermal, but then, it doesn’t matter much—
because she’s a silo with stubs for wings, the bird doesn’t have much touch.
Since her normal place is flying through space,
we try not to mind if the landing aren’t kind…
if they don’t leave us needing a crutch.

That last roll-reversal left us dead center of the glideslope corridor;
at twenty degrees and three-hundred knots, the bird is begging for more.
But the pathy lights have just come into sight,
and the CRTs swear that it’s time for pre-flare,
‘though the vehicle still wants to soar.

The horizon blazes with whiteness as the sand reflects the sun,
and we know, one way or another, we’ll soon come to the end of our run.
With hardly a sound the gear quickly drops down,
and tension runs high as we drop from the sky
in a bird that weighs ninety-nine tons.

We’ve resumed the controls, and it’s time to find out exactly what we’re worth,
for the place that we’ve been makes us feel we’ve returned to find our soul’s rebirth.
And when we anoint the long waited touchpoint,
the drums seem to roll as I say to control:
“The first spaceship has landed on Earth.”

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