Americans weary from constant reports about the coronavirus pandemic longed for good news. Such news came their way on Saturday, May 30th, when American astronauts were
successfully launched from American soil for the first time since 2009. Not only is the SpaceX mission an awe-inspiring one, but it also illustrates ten ways an adoption is like this scientific endeavor in space.
1. Timetables Aren’t Always Met
The current SpaceX mission did not happen overnight. A goal and a timetable were set, and those on the team worked diligently with that purpose and plan in mind. Astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken trained four years for this mission with the aim of traveling to the International Space Station in a small capsule built by a private company. Prospective adoptive parents have the goal of adding to their family by putting a small human being in their home. Usually, their time table is a short one; they want a bundle of joy right away.
But having a timetable to reach your goal is no guarantee that things will go as planned, either for SpaceX or for prospective adoptive parents. The SpaceX program was three years behind in getting this mission to the launch pad. Those desiring to have a child usually desire one as soon as possible, but space missions and adoptions often take time—lots of time.
According to an Adoptive Families survey, 63% of families adopting newborns in the United States were matched within a year. The wait was longer than 12 months, however, for 37% of the families. Matches occur when they occur and not when a couple simply plans for the event to occur.
One high profile adoptive parent amply illustrates the long stretch an adoption timetable might end up being. Actress Sandra Bullock waited four years to adopt her son from the time she began the process. Did she want to wait that long? Likely not, since she was in her late 40s when she adopted him. But the goal was to adopt a child, and that mission was successfully completed. Timetables are a good planning tool, but there is no way to accurately predict when a child will be placed or when a rocket will hurtle human beings into the sky at an incredible speed.
2. Missions Get Scrubbed
When it comes to space missions, launches are often “scrubbed.” This term signifies that something has been cancelled or postponed. Hurley and Behnken’s SpaceX launch was originally set for Wednesday, May 27th. It had to be scrubbed due to unfavorable weather conditions in the area impacting the mission’s safety. A successful launch did not occur until the second launch attempt three days later.
Although it is not referred to as being “scrubbed,” adoption attempts are prone to falling through. The expectant mother might miscarry or decide to parent. Perhaps the adoptive couple elects not to go forward based on medical information obtained such as pre-natal abuse of drugs or alcohol. But a scrubbed launch or match does not mean that a successful one cannot subsequently occur. If at first you don’t succeed, you need to try again, whether it be launching a rocket or creating a forever family.
3. The Government Has a Role
Although SpaceX, a private company, designed and built both the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule used for Hurley and Behnken’s mission, the government played an integral part in the venture. Uncle Sam contracted with SpaceX for the Commercial Crew Dragon program and provided the funding. The manned mission was launched from Kennedy Space Center, NASA’s primary launch center for human spaceflight. Hurley and Behnken, both with military experience, were selected by NASA to be the astronauts for this mission. The government’s fingerprints were all over this project.
Although creating a forever family is a personal event, the government is also an integral part of this family building. Adoptions are conducted under governmental regulation. Each state has its own set of laws spelling out how adoptions can and must be handled. Federal laws address required procedures when an “Indian child,” as statutorily defined, is placed for adoption. State court proceedings are required to give legal authority to the parent-child status by entering a final judgment of adoption. The government gets involved monetarily as well, offering a federal adoption tax credit (up to $14,300 in tax year 2020) as financial incentive and assistance.
4. It’s a Team Effort
The SpaceX launch was the result of team effort. A large number of people working together were able to accomplish something extraordinary—the launch of humans into space by a private company. Individuals (such as the astronauts), businesses (such as SpaceX), and the government (NASA) collaborated to achieve this result.
While the birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child take center stage in an adoption, launching a forever family also takes team effort. Individuals such as health care providers and counselors are needed in order to undertake a birth mother’s medical and emotional needs; attorneys must handle the required legal proceedings. Businesses such as adoption agencies assist to conduct home studies to approve families for placement. The government provides a legal framework for transferring the parental rights of birth parents to adoptive parents. Not only does it take a village to raise a child, it takes one to assist in the adoption of one as well.
5. Extraneous Factors Play a Part
As technologically advanced as society is today, people still cannot control some things. Weather is a prime example. The scrubbing of the SpaceX launch on May 27th occurred because of adverse weather conditions. Rain, clouds, and electrical activity (lightning) were not conductive to safety during a launch.
Weather can also cause changes in plans for an adoption. Need to get to the hospital where the baby is being born? Bad weather may result in flights being canceled or car trips taking longer than anticipated. Really bad weather such as a snowstorm or a hurricane can cause the closure of airports, roads, courthouses, and Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (“ICPC”) offices.
6. It’s Expensive
The Commercial Crew Program contract awarded to SpaceX by NASA was worth approximately $3.1 billion. NASA’s Inspector General estimates that a seat on the SpaceX flight cost the federal government $55 million. With two astronauts assigned to this mission, the bottom line for tickets for the astronauts to ride was $110 million. Human space flight is not cheap!
Adoption is expensive also, but thankfully not as much as securing a seat in the Dragon crew capsule was. According to a report in Adoptive Families magazine, the average cost of an adoption in the United States is $43,000.
Whether a space flight or an adoption, a cost-benefit analysis has to be undertaken. Sure each is expensive, but what is the value of the result? Can a price tag be placed on the scientific achievement, knowledge gained, and innovations produced from a human spaceflight? On the positive impact made on a small human life who has gained a stable and loving forever home?
7. Technology Is Involved
A mind-boggling amount of technology went into designing a rocket, a crew capsule, and utilitarian but fashionable astronaut suits for the SpaceX mission. Radar provided weather updates as to whether conditions were safe for a launch. Mission control utilized an array of equipment to keep in communication and an eye on the astronauts. The walls of the crew capsule were lined with touchscreens for the astronauts to handle flight duties. The bottom line is that the SpaceX mission could not occur without technology.
Technology is also an essential part of the adoption process. Prospective adoptive couples do not always live in the same area as the adoption agency or attorney. E-mails, faxes, cell phone calls, etc., allow the parties to communicate and coordinate despite being miles apart, perhaps even in different parts of the country. Birth mothers might lack transportation to have a face-to-face meeting, but they can stay in touch by texting.
The legal process of adoption is also impacted by technology. ICPC packets in some states, such as Florida, can be submitted electronically. A growing number of courts have done away with paper pushing and require electronic filing of court documents in pending cases; adoptions are no exception. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, in-person adoption final hearings were curtailed, but adoptions went forward with proceedings conducted online via Zoom.
8. The Itinerary Isn’t Definite
After achieving liftoff on the second launch attempt, Hurley and Behnken headed for a rendezvous with the orbiting International Space Station (“ISS”). How long will they be there? The answer is that it depends. They could be at the ISS anywhere from six weeks to four months depending on what needs to be done. There is simply no way in advance to know what amount of time will be sufficient to address what needs to be taken care of; some tasks may be known in advance, but unexpected circumstances often arise.
The lack of a definite itinerary in an adoption mirrors is what the astronauts face. Prospective adoptive parents of a newborn cannot be certain when birth, their “liftoff,” will occur. False labor may send them to the launch pad (the hospital) only to have the launch scrubbed for that day. They may linger at the hospital for hours or even days waiting to get the all clear, a discharge order allowing them to leave the hospital with the baby. When ICPC clearance will be received is unclear. Holidays, weekends, and adverse weather may cause delays due to office closures.
With the SpaceX mission, all were aware that there would be a launch, a docking at the ISS, and a splashdown to end the mission. Exactly when each of those events would occur could be estimated, but never known for certain. Similarly, prospective adoptive parents know there will be a birth, physical placement of the child with them, and a return home with a child declared legally theirs. Each of these events will happen cannot be pinpointed with precision in advance.
9. History Will Be Made
The SpaceX launch on May 30th was historic. For the first time in the history of manned spaceflight, astronauts were launched by a private company. Previously, only three governments (the United States, Russia, and China) had achieved sending humans into space. The event was even more momentous since no Americans had been launched into space from American soil since the last shuttle flight in 2011. This launch was one for the books!
Just like a successful launch, a successful adoptive placement will also be one for the books—the family photo album, the family tree in the family Bible, and/or a baby book. Adding a member to a family is one of the biggest milestones a family undergoes. For the first time in the history of that family, that person will be recognized and embraced as a family member.
10. It’s Big News
Unless you were living under a rock, you were probably aware that a manned SpaceX mission was planned, that the first launch attempt was scrubbed, and that the second launch attempt was successful. Why did you know this information? Because the news media was all over it, even offering live coverage at critical times. And why did the news media cover this story? Because people wanted to know about it; they were excited and eager to hear about and see the event unfolding.
Similarly, prospective adoptive parents should be aware their adoption mission will be a story family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers want to follow. Who doesn’t get excited about someone’s efforts to add a bouncing bundle of joy to their family? Be prepared to be peppered with questions about the mission’s progress, timetable, and snags. SpaceX undoubtedly did not provide every detail about its manned mission, and adoptive couples don’t have to reveal all the details of their adoption either. But sharing happy and successful times with others adds a wonderful dimension to the mission.
A manned SpaceX mission and an adoption appear nothing alike at first glance. But at least ten similarities exist between the two exist. Prospective adoptive parents can recognize these basic similarities with the SpaceX flight, such as the government having a role, technology being involved, and scrubbed missions a good possibility, to guide them through their own thrilling but daunting adoption mission.