Saturday, January 28, 2006

20 Years, in 73 seconds.

I was one of the schoolchildren that NASA had arranged to watch the challenger launch. I remember sitting there in science class, greay haried and floral printed Mrs. Burke and the kids I'd been with since kindergarten all around me.

It seemed like it took forever for the conutdown, and then the engines, and the steam and smoke and it took FOOOOREVER for it to lift off; but there it went.

73 seconds...

When you're a little kid, 73 seconds seems like an awful long time.

Most of the kids were already starting to turn away, bored, but I was still watching; and so was Mrs. Burke.

73 seconds...

I don't remember seeing the explosion honestly. I know I was watching, I know I saw it, I remember the emotions.. confusion, anger, fear, sorrow, more confusion... but I don't remember seeing the explosion.

What I remember most is Mrs. Burke gasping, and crying. I'd never seen a grownup outside of my own family cry in public before. and in the halls you could hear the sound of more crying. More grownups crying.

We were all sent home that day. Everyones faces looked wrong. Everyone knew that those people had died; but bigger than that, something great had been wounded badly that day.

We hadn't had an accident that serious since Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee died in the Apollo 1 fire.

Funny thing though, Gus had a thought about accidents and the like:
If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.

--Virgil I. Grissom, after the Gemini 3 mission, March 1965
And so here we are 20 year later, and we have progressed no father; in large part because of the shuttle program (which I would consider a failure, but a necessary one) holding us back.

I can't say anything better than what Gus did (oh and I should note, though I loved the movie "The Right Stuff" it did a great disservice to Grissom).

14 men and women have died in the shuttles, and yet, their death has accomplished so little. We are still stuck on the outside, looking in, and so long as we depend on NASA, or any other government agency to lift us up off this rock, we will be.

It is our entrepeneurs, and or engineers who are our tru stargazers, and they will be the way to the future.