Two Sci-Bun

by Linda Robeck


When the Space Shuttle first started to fly, it landed on a dry lake bed in the Mojave Desert of California. Back then they weren't sure if the brakes would stop it before it ran out of runway at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At that time we were studying how the astronauts adapted to outer space, and we had to run our experiments on them as soon as they arrived, before they re-adapted to Earth. We set up our equipment in a hanger on the shore of the ancient lake and waited for the Shuttle to land. At night, the desert got very cold, and the snakes preferred the warmth lingering by our equipment. Every morning we looked under our desks before we sat down to check if a snake had curled up there in the night.

    shuttle landing
    beneath my desk

"Dream Team" copyright Duncan Long


On the Mars Pathfinder mission, we had to be sure that we didn't send any Earth bacteria or spores on the spacecraft that might contaminate Mars. So each of us wore rubber gloves and head-to-toe clean room suits, and masks over our nose and mouth. The remarkably complicated little spacecraft had more explosives on it than any we had ever done before: explosives that opened latches, released the camera, sprung open the ramps, fired retro rockets, filled airbags, and freed the rover after its long journey. We armed the explosives by installing pyrotechnic devices, or "pyros" as we called them, as the very last step before we closed it up for launch. By that time, with all of the rockets and fuel installed, our baby was a sizable bomb. The smallest spark at the wrong moment would set it off.

What is a Sci-Bun? In traditional Japanese poetry, the "haibun" form begins with a narrative that sets the stage and background for a haiku poem. So a "sci-bun" must be a narrative that winds its way around a "sci-ku".

Sci-Buns copyright © 1999/2000 by Linda Robeck <>

Artwork "Dream Team" copyright © 1999/2000 by Duncan Long <>






Planet Magazine Home