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Flight STS-107 (113)

President Regan stood at a podium and spoke to the people of the world, as people in his position often do. But there was something different about this speech. This time he had the attention of a 16 year old kid in a medium sized country town half a world away.

“The future,” he said “does not belong to the fainthearted, it belongs to the brave.”

Earlier that day thousands, maybe millions of school students across the united states, and many in other countries, had sat in front of television sets to watch the spectacle that is the launch of a Space Shuttle. They had been joined by the same sixteen year old,

At sixteen actually having the motivation to get out of bed to go to school can be the stuff of fairy-tails. But this 16 year old started many days far earlier than necessary. Almost as many days as there had been Shuttle launches. It had become almost ritual. But it was a ritual that came to an end, or at least saw a two year hiatus as a result of the events of that day. Monday, the 29th of January 1986. >>>

I’m a space geek – I think anyone who has visited this site more than once knows that (so that would make, maybe 5 people). I have been all my life. When I sat there that morning and saw the Challenger destroyed, I was stunned. My head spun and my heart sank.
I didn’t know the names of the astronauts. I didn’t even know what the mission that they were setting out on that day was for. All I knew is that another group of incredibly lucky and daring humans were breaking away from the Earth and further exploring what ‘Space’ had to offer.

I still hardly ever miss watching a launch and I often catch the shuttle landings – however being less of a spectacle than the launch, the landings are often overlooked by the media, at least here in Australia.
I knew that Columbia’s mission was almost over, I knew that they’d be returning soon. I wasn’t sure when, and I wasn’t sure that there’d be any coverage of it shown here. But, as luck (you could say) had it, I was working on some design work fairly late on Sunday morning and at around 3:00 am I wandered into the lounge to take a break and surf the ‘news channels’.

I was sixteen again. My eyes welled and my mouth hung open.

In much the same circumstances that had found me in front of the television set to see the ill fated launch of Challenger in 1986, I had taken a place in front of the television 5 years earlier. That’s when the ritual began.

In 1981 I watched as the 32nd manned flight into space left the launch pad with John W Young and Robert L Crippen at the controls. OV-102’s mission was pretty much one to ‘test’ the new craft. This was something new – This was a Space Ship. This was no rocket, no tin can on top of a missile – This was the goods! Named after the Boston, Massachusetts based sloop captained by American Robert Gray, this was the first reusable space craft. This was Columbia’s maiden voyage.

I remember watching the launch like it was yesterday. However it took me many years to understand why I was and am so taken by the space program, It’s something that I don’t consider often. I was confused about the feelings of sorrow and loss that came to me in 1986. But I think I understand them a little more as I revisit those feelings as a result of the events of Sunday morning.
My family, particularly my mother, has little time for the Space program and believes that there are better places to put the money that goes into maintaining such a program. They wont understand this, but I do. I think I understand now why I feel so ‘attached’ to the space programs run by nations around the world.
We live in a vast, relatively unknown universe. And yet we are trapped on this tiny ball that is the planet Earth. Some may argue that this is our home, but, to me, a man imprisoned in paradise is still a prisoner. The brave men and women of the worlds space programs, who venture out into space are the evidence that we are not trapped and that we not prisoners on this tiny ball.

If there is a God, may he bless the crew of Columbia flight STS-107 (113) and even if not, let us never forget what these amazing people sacrificed to give us a glimpse over the wall.

Commander Rick D. Husband
Pilot William C. McCool
Payload Commander Michael P. Anderson
Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon
Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla
Mission Specialist David M. Brown
Mission Specialist Laurel B. Clark

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1 Comment

    Lovely words man.

    I was alive when the challenger blew up but was too young to really know what it means.

    for a lot of my life ive loved watching sci-fi, reading stuff about astronomy and space travel. i think its got to do with that whole ‘ what the f*** is out there?’ feeling among people.

    ive always thought, even since i was a little tacker that humans were not alone and i once asked mum and dad if the space people would be coming to earth soon.

    i think the space programs are a credit to man’s ingenuity and struggle to reach out and explore, learn and live in new and unknown places. just look at the famous explorers, people had no idea where they were going, they just wanted to explore.

    my heart goes out to the families of those that lost their lives doing the thing that they most certainly loved. their passion is not wasted, for it has instilled in many people a belief in the exploration of space.

    elroy, nice words, my friend.