Back in 2003 when the Columbia Space Shuttle was destroyed on re-entry with the tragic loss of seven lives, I wrote of the loss and the achievement.
With the ending of the Shuttle program, an unnamed and unackowledged victim of President Bush’s two wars, I am reprinting the thoughts I had at that time.
The human species has always been an explorer.
Without exploration and innovation, we would still be sitting around fires in front of caves. Every exploration into the unknown has had its casualties. Those brave people who first ventured across deserts, across lakes and oceans all faced, and often found, death. The first hot-air balloonists, the first aeronauts all took risks. Not for the advancement of mankind, but because of their own curiosity.
Our newest frontier is space. Possibly the hardest frontier of all. Those who brave it are chosen for their skills and training. Yet in all cases, it is the attitude of those who are chosen which gets them into space. It is the same attitude which drew people across continents and across oceans. It is wanting to know what is beyond the hill, beyond the river, beyond the sea, beyond gravity. Space will claim its casualties as have all the other great explorations we have undertaken.
In fifty or a hundred years, our children or grandchildren will be able to follow in their footsteps as our grandparents were able to follow the trails blazed by the wagon trains across the American continent and our more distant ancestors followed the silk route joining east and west. We do not remember the names of all those who died creating those trails and history may forget the names of these explorers. What wont be forgotten is the trail they have blazed.
These seven people have added another step on the stairway to space, to our future. Their true memorial will be the next step, and the one after that. It is up to all of us who remain and have a sense of exploration to learn from this tragedy and then to take that next step.