A Flight Feather of a Different Kind
by Donna McLaughlin Schwender
It’s really not a very good photo, but seeing it certainly has made my life a little lighter. What is it, you wonder? It’s a Peregrine Falcon feather that was dropped onto the surface of the moon by the astronauts of Apollo 15 back on August 3, 1971.
I was a few weeks shy of my fifth birthday when this feather – unbeknownst to me – became part on a famous experiment that demonstrated how falling objects (in this case – a feather and a hammer) accelerate at the same rate, regardless of their mass. In the forty-one-and-a-half years that have passed since then, I never heard about this well-traveled feather until yesterday when a copy of “Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle” (one of two books I mentioned in last Wednesday’s blog post) arrived on my doorstep.
The second the mailman rang the doorbell to let me know the Amazon box was sitting on my porch, I turned into the proverbial kid in a candy store. I dove into the middle of the book, planning on taking a quick peek at the wonders that I just knew had to be woven between the covers.
I never made it past the first page I opened to…..page 133. The one featuring this lunar lying feather.
Supposedly, the experiment was conducted under such a time crunch, that the astronauts didn’t even have a chance to retrieve the feather before they lifted off in – what else – “Falcon,” the flight module that had brought them safely to the moon’s surface. Just knowing that this feather is (hopefully) still gracing the moon with its presence, captivates me.
Why, you wonder? I’m not certain I can adequately explain it. I think it simply has to do with the fact that I believe every world – whether it’s deemed a planet, a moon, a sun, a star – is better with feathers in it. Even if it’s just one.
To me, feathers are such a strong symbol of living lightly – in our own skin, with others, in unison with whatever astronomical object we’re blessed to carry out our lives on – that I feel more hopeful knowing they’re potentially floating around out in space. That or simply lining other lunar surfaces.