WHEN STEVE MAHAN was a kid in the 1960s, his mother would sometimes wake him in the early hours of the morning to watch the hours of television coverage preceding the launch of the Mercury space missions. “We would hear about all of the preparations, all of the technology, everything that led up to these moments,” Mahan says.
“And then we would count down ’till you finally got to zero and ignition, and one of those rockets begins bellowing fire and smoke, and slowly begins to creep away from the grapples. Then your thoughts always turn to the man in the capsule who’s being shot off into space.”
Now 63 and having lost his sight, Mahan has become one of those capsule-bound explorers. In October 2015, he became the first member of the public to ride in Google’s self-driving pod.