STS-107, You've cleared the tower...Godspeed (repost)

edited February 2003 in General Discussion


  • edited December 1969
    When my wife Linda and I went to Virginia a few years ago to visit friends of hers that live there, we went to Arlington National Cemetery. For those of you that have never been to a Nationl Cemetery, they are a very beautiful, but heart touching sight.

    The headstones are so precisely laid out, that from almost any angle you look at them, they form perfectly straight lines. It is a quiet place. The wind whispers through the trees, the grass is trimmed to perfection...One of the few places where the landscaping people do a better job than the groundskeepers at Disneyland (who pride themselves on the job they do).

    It is a place that makes you reflect on the sacrifices that the individuals interred there made for their country, both during service, and after. I saw Congressional Medal of Honor Awardees (You don't "Win" a CMH...Winning denotes a "Good" thing, most that "won" the medal didn't live to know they had won it), 4 star generals, even lowly privates from the Civil War. All laid out nice and neat. As if still in military formation.

    There are several statues and memorials scattered around the Cemetery. The U.S.S. Maine memorial, President Kennedy's Eternal Flame, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (which if you EVER get to Arlington, I recommend that you go visit and see the Changing of the Guard, a very moving event), all are spread around the grounds. But out of all, I think the one that touched me the most was when I came upon the memorial to the 7 astronauts of the Space Shuttle Challenger.

    There are remains interred there that they could not positively identify at the time. They remains were interred as one and a simple gravestone was designed. It isn't a large affair. Just a simple granite monument with a bronze plaque on it with the faces of the 7 that were on board. . Right next to the monument is the grave of Dick Scobee, Commander of the Challenger. I guess they wanted him to be close to those that he commanded on that final mission. And not far away is the grave of Michael Smith, the pilot of the Challenger.

    I grew up on Star Trek and Battlestar Gallactica and the Apollo missions. I dreamed of leaving the Earth one day and going into space. The Apollo missions ended and I grew up and went on with my life, but I still stared up at the sky from time to time and wondered what it would be like to see the Earth from above.

    As I stared at the memorials of the crewmembers of the Challenger and I knew that they died doing what they loved. I knew that they were looking down on the Earth from above, along with the men of Apollo One, and the Russian Cosmonauts that gave their lives in the pursuit of space.

    I watched the Columbia dissolve into an array of stars this morning. I watched 7 people, doing what they had trained for and loved, become one with the cosmos. This morning they joined the men and women that passed into the great beyond who died doing what they loved.

    May they be at peace and may their families find some comfort in their times of woe.

    To the Seven Crewmembers of STS-107:

    Commander Rick Husband
    Pilot William McCool
    Payload Commander Mike Anderson
    Mission Specialist Kalpana Chawla
    Mission Specialist Dave Brown
    Mission Specialist Laurel Clark
    Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon

    HIGH FLIGHT by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

    Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

    Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds - - - and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of - - - wheeled and soared and swung

    High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
    I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through the footless halls of air.

    Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
    I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark, or even eagle flew.

    And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

    Columbia, you've cleared the tower, the Universe is yours.

    Challenger Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery
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