Sunday, February 02, 2003

In Memory of the Columbia

     With the loss of the Columbia shuttle and it's crew today, I felt it would be a slight to them not to say something here. It's hard to think of anything to do but express my utmost sympathy for their families and my absolute respect for the people who were onboard.
     While watching the reports on the news yesterday morning, I was reminded of something Tom Wolfe said, regarding the Apollo program, in his book, The Right Stuff:

     What is it that makes a man willing to sit up on top of an enormous Roman candle, such as a Redstone, Atlas, Titan or Saturn rocket, and wait for someone to light the fuse?

     There are people out there, unbelievably, who actually tried to profit off this tragedy. I was amazed to read that within hours, perhaps minutes after this catastrophe, auctions for bogus "debris" from the craft were on Ebay.
     There are those who'd rejoice in it, as well. Many Iraqi's reportedly have, calling it "God's vengeance" for encroaching on their land.
     I can't begin to describe how these reports sickened me. As far as vultures of the Ebay auctions are concerned, there's probably nothing anyone could say to show them how misguided and base their actions are, I imagine their hearts are so jaded that nothing could elicit pangs of concience from them.
     To the people of Iraq, though, I would ask that they to take no joy in this event, as it was not a tragedy to be mourned by only Americans, but by everyone. The seven astronauts on board, I believe, weren't in space for the benefit of one nation or for Western culture's advancement, but for all of humankind. I truly believe that although they were patriots, one and all, their grandest goals in life weren't merely the advancement of the United States of America, but the the advancement of the entire world and it's people.
     Russell 'Rusty' Schweikart, upon returning from his mission on Apollo 9, remarked:

     "As you pass from sunlight into darkness and back again every hour and a half, you become startlingly aware how artificial are thousands of boundaries we've created to separate and define. And for the first time in your life you feel in your gut the precious unity of the Earth and all the living things it supports."

     Reading that, it makes you think that if everyone could see the Earth from that viewpoint, it might go a long way towards achieving some sort of brotherhood among all the world's people. Even if we had the resources to achieve such a thing, though, it would still be impossible, perhaps, as not everyone has the courage of the seven people that died yesterday, nor the vision to look beyond their earth's war-torn borders towards a better world for us all.
     Their bravery and their willingness to sacrifice their lives in the name of furthering the scope of man's knowledge should be commended and their heroism remembered always.

     Man must rise above the Earth - to the top of the atmosphere and beyond - for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.

- Socrates

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