It creeps up on you; stalks you. You can run but you know in the end it’ll walk you down. Sooner or later you’re going to find yourself space mad, moon-drunk, sun-tapped. Flying through the strange and infinite nebula between your ears, blithely sailing the lunar sea.
It happened to me a few nights back. Eighty thousand light years into my trip and I decided, against all sense, to try to fly under the golden loop of a huge solar prominence, arcing from the surface of a K-type star. Wrenched out of orbit seconds later and burning like a sacrifice to outraged gods, I had to land to repair my bruised ship.
I set down on an glittering icy moon, fixed her up—and then it became clear I was still dizzy with neutron dust. The nearest station was thirty thousand light years distant…and yet the mile-deep, inches-wide canyon looked so inviting. I even took off and steered towards it before pulling up as though emerging from a trance, and returning to orbit.
Exploring is both the simplest and yet most difficult life for a pilot. Jumping is easy, flying is easy. Jumping eight or ten or twelve thousand times, and flying safe in the meantime, takes its toll. Perhaps the spirit that moves us explorers to fly far from home is also the one that leads us into peril, should we see it coming. There’s a hair’s breadth between restless and reckless. The beauty and joy of exploration is knowing how far from the line you can fly.