Remembering Columbia
[Posted to Random Bytes on February 1, 2003 11:35 AM| Links to this post ]

Shortly before my 10th birthday on April 12, 1981 the United States launched its first space shuttle mission - STS-1. Like most 10 year olds, I wanted to experience every exciting ounce of the event. I'll never forget bounding out of bed and rushing to the kitchen to grab my cereal so that I could sit in front of the TV and watch as much of this amazing event as possible. Turning on the TV, I was disappointed to find that none of the news networks had started coverage yet. I'm still not sure what I was expecting to see at 4:30 in the morning on broadcast television. Much of the other detail is lost to the fogginess of time, but I'm still left with a very palpable sense of excitment, pride and tremendous hope for humanity as a result of putting that wonderful mixture of people, technology and science into outer space. All of this was heightened by earlier delays in the launch schedule.

I will also never forget watching that beautifully sculpted mass ever so slowly lift itself off the launch pad towards the blackness of outer space. I watched every single launch and landing that occured right through to the 1986 disaster. I'm still no less of a fan of the program 22 years later, but 1986 served to put things into perspective for me. The shuttle program is not only an amazing amalgam of discovery, exploration and awe for little boys, but it is also a dangerous exercise that has as much potential to go disasterously wrong as it does to go amazingly well. The program is a series of launches and landings that needed my prayer as much as it needed my awe.

I've got a lot of empathy for Doc's situation this morning as I watch the news. Reading an earlier entry in his blog, I thought how neat it would be to sit down and watch the landing this morning. Not an unusual thought for me over the last few years, but the landings have been difficult or impossible for me to watch because of the combination of a moderately busy travel schedule and no cable or satellite television connections. Broadcast TV has never been a great way to keep in touch with real-time NASA events and today was no different.

Reading his blog led me to remember when I was a younger and where my thoughts were during the momentous events, good and bad, of the shuttle space program.

Today, they are with the families affected by this disaster, every shuttle watcher that needs to digest this tragic event in their own way and also with the six-year olds that we each have inside of that also needs some understanding of how something so great could, as Searls rightly put it, end so badly.

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