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Today is the fifth anniversary of the loss of the space shuttle Columbia, which disintegrated upon re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere following a successful 16-day mission. Later investigation determined that a hole had been punched into one of the wings by a piece of insulation that had fallen off from the external fuel tank during lift-off.

It was mid-afternoon here in France when the first images and information came our way:  NASA's space shuttle Columbia had disintegrated upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere; all aboard were lost.

French news TV was as saturated with the same dramatic images as any American station could be, and I, who had watched the coverage of the tragic explosion of Challenger back in 1986 all day long, found myself watching both TV and computer monitor long into the evening.

I didn't "know" Columbia's astronauts the way I "knew" Challenger's: after all, one member of Challenger's crew was Christa McAuliffe, who was to be America's First Teacher in Space. And Judith Reznick was an alum of Carnegie Mellon University, where my husband was a graduate student at the time of the tragedy.

But I ached for the loss of Columbia in much the same way I ached for Challenger: another setback for humankind's ability to shake free of the bounds of Earth. While I had long since come to realize that the closest I was ever going to come to being an astronaut was riding in a simulator at the Kennedy Space Center... these tragic setbacks were somehow very personal to me. That we have continued with manned missions at all is a testament to courage and perseverance.

So today I say: Hail, Columbia. Hail to the brave men and women who have died in the effort to expand our knowledge and horizons. May we think of you and honor you today. Hail and godspeed.

Originally posted to mofembot on Fri Feb 01, 2008 at 11:26 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I was driving down a country road (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, bws, PsychoSavannah, sarasson007

    in my old F-150 when I heard NPR's Scott Simon (?) announce that the Columbia was 15 minutes late. Holy crap, I thought, that's not good. I arrived at my destination but couldn't get out of the truck because I was crying over the news that the shuttle had been lost.

    Thanks for remembering.

    IGTNT: Our war dead. Their stories. Read "I Got the News Today."

    by monkeybiz on Fri Feb 01, 2008 at 11:43:28 AM PST

  •  Thanks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Had forgotten that today was the day.  I remember clearly, just getting out of bed that Saturday morning, having a vague thought that the Shuttle was landing soon -- I'm a space geek -- when a friend called and said, "Dude, Columbia just broke up over Texas".  The same friend who had called at 8:55 am on a Tuesday 17 months earlier to say, "Dude, someone just flew a plane into the World Trade Center".  

    Columbia's loss wasn't as life-changing, nor the toll nearly as large, but it was still an awful day.  The rational side of me is hard pressed to justify the tax dollars spent, yet hardly anything inspires me the way space exploration does.

    Godspeed, Columbia and her brave crew.

  •  Thanks for remembering (3+ / 0-)

    Here in Houston, around the NASA Johnson Space Center, flags fly at half mast this week.  

    January 27 marks the 41st anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire.
    January 28, the 12th anniversary of Challenger explosion.
    Today, the 5th anniversary of Columbia.

    The men and women who fly atop the fire have my lifelong devotion and awe. The often unknown men and women behind the scenes who give their all for the goal of peaceful pursuit of space have my devotion and awe.

    Those who forgot that "Failure is not an option" and that thought expediency  easier than safety (especially in the case of the two space shuttle disasters), do not.

    "Some creatures are made to see in the dark." -- Henry David Thoreau

    by Bodhiness on Fri Feb 01, 2008 at 12:14:16 PM PST

  •  Half century of space age (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My Karma just ran over your Dogma

    by FoundingFatherDAR on Fri Feb 01, 2008 at 12:36:41 PM PST

  •  Thank you for the memorial (0+ / 0-)

    Thank you for bringing this up, we need to never forget the loss of the pioneers who are forging the outward frontier.

    I will never forget that Saturday morning, I was waiting for the "booms"..and when they were late I knew something had gone very very wrong.

    I live 20 miles south of the Cape, and eagerly anticipate the sonic booms that signal a successful return much as I relish walking to the end of the driveway and watching the shuttle clear the tree line and soar heavenward until it vanishes from sight, always holding my breath until we pass the 73 second mark.

    "Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist" George Carlin

    by bws on Fri Feb 01, 2008 at 02:21:18 PM PST

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