February 1, 2003

columbia: 1981 – 2003

7 astronauts die as shuttle breaks apart

Colonel Rick Husband; Lt. Colonel Michael Anderson; Commander Laurel Clark; Captain David Brown; Commander William McCool; Dr. Kalpana Chawla; Colonel Ilan Ramon.

“Human spaceflight is a passion.”

When I was a kid all I wanted to do was be an astronaut. During the bus ride to school would I philosophize with my first grade girlfriend on space. I read books on all the planets. I wrote reports on space. I wished I was Spaceman Spiff. I made dioramas of space stations. I bought posters of galaxies and nebulas from the science museum. I built model rockets. I went to Space Camp in Florida. I toured NASA. I listened to Space Hog. I got Stephen Hawking’s book for Christmas. I tried to take an astronomy class post-secondary at the U of M Twin Cities, but because of traffic could never get to class on time and had to drop it. I drink sweet draughts of Cowboy Bebop. I dream.

I have since found a few terrestrial interests to make life down here interesting in the meantime, but I still yearn to one day float above it all in my own craft. The only way to get to that point, where the average windsurfing instructor can take day trips into orbit and be home for an evening session on the river, is to continue in the direction we’re going in spite of disaster.

“We will find it and fix it.”

Spaceflight is a risky business, and stuff like this has happened before without even nicking our fascination with space exploration. Apollo I, Challenger, now Columbia. Astronauts know the risks yet are willing to blast off anyway. It’s human. We strive for the unattainable. We climb mountains and cross oceans. All we can do now is learn from what happened and keep shooting for the stars, because two things have to happen in my lifetime or I promise, here and now, to be the gol’ darned crankiest grandfather to ever be strapped to his rocking chair:

1. I get my own spacecraft.

2. Man walks on Mars.

We mourn for today. In memory of those we lost this morning, we start on #2 tomorrow. It might not be the rational thing to do, but it is the human thing to do.

The complete text of Bush’s speech, courtesy of Spaceflight Now.

Happy Fun Pundit has the speech that Bush should have given. I agree entirely.

Dane, the speech on Happy Fun Pundit was beautiful. If only Bush would have spoke that one, but alas Bush would never give more money to NASA let alone enough money to be able to improve our spaceflight.