Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Boldly carrying on...

Admit it. You watched (or listened to) Discovery's re-entry this morning with a bit of aprehensive excitement. Just like watching the start of the Indianapolis 500 - hoping that nothing tragic happened but wanting to be tuned in just in case it did.

It didn't.

Yet don't let the sigh of relief make you believe that this was just "any old" shuttle mission. Instead, you should have a renewed belief that there is no such thing as a routine shuttle mission and a renewed faith in the human spirit. This is not commercial air travel and our astronauts are not merely a flight crew. They are, as many have called them, daredevils and explorers. They truly have risked their lives for scientific pursuits as mundane as demonstrating simple repair technics and as everyday as taking out the trash. Two and a half years worth of trash that is.

These are seemingly ordinary adults - scientists and engineers. Nothing special about them. Nothing that is unless you consider that they climbed into a rocket, survived the most controlled explosion known to man, hurtled into the vacuum of space, and returned with the knowledge that the last voyagers before them had all died taking the same ride. That's one horse that would be tough to climb back on.

I cannot fathom traveling into space. But even more, I cannot grasp the emotions I would feel if I were a member of STS-114 - the first shuttle trying to get home since the Columbia disaster. A disaster caused by a one pound piece of foam hitting a 1 million pound shuttle. The courage it would take to endure that seems almost incomprehensible.

But it has happened before. The astronauts of Apollo 7 and those aboard Columbia STS-26 both continued the tradition of their fallen peers and did not sway from their duty or resolve. In each case, it was more than two years from the previous tragedy before the next manned flight was undertaken.

So today, the names Collins, Robinson, Kelly, Thomas, Lawrence, Camarda and Noguch can be added to the list of Schirra, Eisle, Cunningham, Hauck, Covey, Lounge, Nelson, and Hilmers as brave pioneers being the first to step forward and take the leap of faith and show us all a little about what courage really means.



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