Columbia -- 02/01/03

I was on my way to work this morning, needed to go in on a weekend to finish installing software on the computers in classroom two for a workshop I'm running on Monday and Tuesday, just backing out of the driveway when I heard the news on the radio. For a moment I think I am listening to a retrospective on the Challenger explosion or maybe the Apollo launchpad fire, expect the announcer to say "and thirty-six years ago" or "seventeen years ago" and then I realized he wasn't talking about earlier losses...

Thirty-six years ago...I had been on my way to a movie with friends -- a news bulletin came on the car radio -- the radio station was next to the theatre and we went into the station to see if we could find out more, read the teletype printouts from the wire services.

Apollo One -- January 27, 1967
Virgil "Gus" Ivan Grissom, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
Edward Higgins White, II, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
Roger Bruce Chaffee, Lieutenant Commander, USN

Seventeen years ago...I was running laps on the indoor track in the basement of the main gymnasium at the university where I worked when someone came in to spread the news they had just heard on the radio.

Space Shuttle Challenger -- January 28, 1986
Francis Scobee, Commander
Michael Smith, Pilot
Judith Resnick, Mission Specialist
Ellison Onizuka, Mission Specialist
Ronald E. McNair, Mission Specialist
Gregory Jarvis, Payload Specialist
Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist

This morning...He was talking about a loss that had taken place just a few minutes earlier...

Space Shuttle Columbia -- February 1, 2003
Rick D. Husband, Shuttle Commander, Colonel, USAF
William C. McCool, Pilot, Commander, USN
Michael P. Anderson, Payload Commander, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
David M. Brown, Mission Specialist, Captain, USN
Dr. Kalpana Chawla, Mision Specialist
Laurel Clark, Mission Specialist, Commander, USN
Ilan Ramon, Payload Specialist, Colonel, IAF

I don't have words for this... but want to quote some words written by one of the best writers about the heroic men and women who challenge space, the great science fiction writer Robert A Heinlein... the first and last stanzas of his "The Green Hills of Earth"

Let the sweet fresh breezes heal me
As they rove around the girth
Of our lovely mother planet
Of the cool, green hills of Earth.
We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the friendly skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

And also his "Prayer for Travelers" -- a hymn in his story "Ordeal in Space"
Almighty Ruler of the all,
Whose Power extends to great and small,
Who guides the stars with steadfast law,
Whose least creation fills with awe,
      O grant thy mercy and thy grace,
      To those who venture into space

[The memorial image was made by Bonnie]

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