Of course there were doubters. Of course they said it couldn’t be done. But, of course, that’s how it has always been done. Blowing across the Pacific on log rafts. Clawing up Everest in tweed jackets with brittle hemp ropes. Blasting to the moon in a tin can built with slide rules.
I don’t blame the doubters. I’d been one of them myself. I mean, who in their right mind would believe you could launch yourself to Mars on a mag-lev railgun in a salvaged WWII submarine?
You’re right if that sounds batshit crazy. It is. To any regular Joe. But the dreamer who did it, who actually batshit did it, wasn’t a regular Joe. She was Jo Jo McRocket.
I kid you not.
Jo Jo McRocket. Self-named. Self proclaimed. Conqueror of Mars.
It’s still incomprehensible that Jo Jo made it to Mars. I mean, we were from the nowhere town of Pilot Rock in the nowhere vastness of eastern Oregon. When we were growing up there, and she was simply my neighbor, Josie Kerr, how could she even imagine this batshit crazy idea?
Pilot Rock is not a place that necessarily inspires a lot of dreams, except maybe getting out of our one-dog town. And I guess Jo Jo did. And became a space pilot to boot. Piloting the first manned craft to Mars. Even if it was a submarine she bought at a salvage auction and had trucked hundreds of miles inland from a navy shipyard near Seattle.
How’d she manage it? No one really knows except it took all her forty-two years to get it done. It’s hard to say when she went from dreaming to actually scheming. The building up to blasting off is easier to track.
Jo Jo had the curiosity of a scientist, the discipline of an engineer and the humor of an undertaker. Maybe the best way to convey her approach to conquering Mars is something she told me when we were in junior high and the new mag-lev superloop opened between Portland and Seattle.
“We’re never going to see something like that in Pilot Rock. Unless we slapdash it.” When I looked at her funny, she looked at me seriously. “Slap it together fast and get ready to dash to the Emergency Room.”
Jo Jo knew that to be first to Mars, to cut through all the naysaying, she’d have to be a bit bat-shit crazy. She’d have to slapdash her dream together, let it rip and pick up again and again whenever it broke.
She did. And she got broke a lot along the way, physically, emotionally, financially. But she kept slapdashing at her dream.
Only she knows how it finally came together. I can drive out the thirty miles from Pilot Rock to the ranch she bought in her twenties, and see the mag-lev railgun she secretly built over two decades. But I have no idea how she converted a WWII submarine into a vehicle capable of getting her to Mars.
NASA hasn’t said how it was possible either. Jo Jo’s conquest of Mars took them by surprise. Took the world by surprise. In private, I think the government agents and engineers investigating the launch are in awe of her. Though in public they tow the “batshit crazy Jo Jo” line.
In fact, folks don’t say “batshit crazy” anymore. They just say “that is so Jo Jo” or “you are totally Jo Jo.”
I get it. It’s hard to comprehend how she did it, or what made her think she could do it. All I’ll say is that Jo Jo McRocket had bat-shit belief.
And we will never see that again. She slapdashed her way to Mars and knew all along there was no Emergency Room for when it all broke on that cold, red planet. Because it did. She knew that. And still she went. Of course she did.
Rafting the Pacific. Scaling Everest. Blasting to the moon. Conquering Mars.
It’s all the slapdash same. All batshit crazy. Until it isn’t.