January 27, 1967. January 28, 1986. February 1, 2003.
January 27, 1967
Space Shuttle Challenger
Michael J. Smith
January 28, 1986
Space Shuttle Columbia
Michael P. Anderson
David M. Brown
Laurel B. Clark
February 1, 2003
Heroes. Magnificent Acheivements. The American Manned Space Flight Program. We may never see the likes of these again. I fear that as a nation, we no longer care about space flight and exploration. It is too hard. It costs too much. It is a political punching bag. NASA's budget is about 1/2 of 1% of the nation's budget, but to many that is too much. It isn't a path we are willing to follow. We are content to let others lead the way. And when we find ourselves left behind, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.
I mourn the loss of these courageous men and women this week. My heart hurts for their families, friends and the entire aerospace community. When we lose astronauts we truly lose our brightest and best.
We appear to be willing to compound that loss by losing the whole thing. American Manned Spaceflight may soon be a distant memory. Something to tell my great-grandchildren about when I am old. I can hold them in my lap tell them how I watched on that old black and white TV when the Saturn Missions launched. Or that Christmas season when the moon was orbited...and the wondrous summer night that men actually stepped onto the surface of the moon...and I saw it! The excitement of the Shuttle program and the sorrow I felt when we lost astronauts, both in training and in flight.
I can tell them of the whole saga of the Ares IX project and the part that their Granddaddy played in that program. I will pull out pictures and awards and tell them how amazing it was to be there and watch it launch and how the Roll Control System that the amazing Rocket Man helped build worked perfectly. The joy and jublilation we all felt at such a monumentous occasion. Then, the kick in the gut when the program was shut down just a few months after such success. I hope that my great-grandchildren will grasp the significance of what was accomplished in such a short amount of time.
And then, willingly it seems, simply gave up. What a shame.
Who will be their heroes? Sports stars? People from the entertainment industry? Politicians? Will they know what an astronaut is and perhaps aspire to be one?
Every day, I drive over a hill and the city of Huntsville, Alabama-Rocket City USA-comes into view. In the distance, I see the Saturn V display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. I've seen the sun set behind that display. I'm afraid I'm seeing the sun set on U.S. Manned Spaceflight.
R.I.P. brave astronauts
I hope I don't have to say the same to the program.