Monday, February 03, 2003
Saturday morning started out normally enough; sleeping in a bit late, putting on a pot of coffee and checking the e-mail inbox. It wasn't until I saw the CNN Breaking News alert that had arrived shortly after 9:00 AM that I heard of the Space Shuttle Columbia's demise. Besides the initial shock and sadness, the news brought back a flood of memories from early 1986, on the day the Challenger exploded. The tragedy of both Shuttle disasters contains not only the feelings surrounding the crew's loss of life, but the collective loss felt when such grand missions come to a sudden, unexpected end.
As time has passed, each mission has increasingly been an international envoy: we speed much more than a group of people into the dark skies, we send them as mankind's emissaries into the unknown frontier, hoping for their swift safe return with a packet of knowledge that may bring us closer to the future.
Alas, that was not to be for the Columbia. Not this time.
Have you noticed something different about people's reactions and comments following Saturday's Shuttle disaster? Back in 1986, I heard many people say that the Challenger's explosion proved that these [space] missions are far too dangerous and expensive to justify continuation. That we should abolish the manned space program in favor of robotic probes that do not place astronauts at risk. I have a feeling that we - humanity - are somehow more determined to continue our dreams and grand missions following 9/11. Now, we understand more clearly that we cannot let tragedy and loss stand in the way of moving forward, because in moving forward we also offer an uplifting, appropriate memorial to those we have lost.