The thrill of flying the SR-71 Blackbird

One moonless night, while flying a routine training mission over the Pacific, I wondered what the sky would look like from 84,000 feet if the cockpit lighting were dark… I slowly turned down all of the lighting, reducing the glare and revealing the night sky… To my amazement, I saw a bright light outside my window. As my eyes adjusted to the view, I realized that the brilliance was the broad expanse of the Milky Way, now a gleaming stripe across the sky. Where dark spaces in the sky had usually existed, there were now dense clusters of sparkling stars [and] shooting stars flashed across the canvas every few seconds. It was like a fireworks display with no sound… Despite our speed, we seemed still before the heavens, humbled in the radiance of a much greater power. For those few moments, I felt a part of something far more significant than anything we were doing in the plane.

Trust me, this is a must-read, even if you’ve zero interest in jets, etc. (Like many kids of the ’80s, I kind of obsessed over the SR-71; I’m pretty sure I had the Revell model kit the author mentions, and distinctly remember loving my metal Matchbox version of the plane.)