Broken up and vanished. In the sky over Nacogdoches County. And I'm sad all the way back to the little boy with his stiff black book and his Bonestell rockets.
But Willy was right, and nobody ever said it would be risk-free.
If it were, it wouldn't be glorious.
And it's only with these losses that we best know that it really is.
I remember being in school, watching Columbia on TV as it was either launching or landing on the first shuttle mission—STS-1 in April of 1981. It was the start of the modern space age; no longer did we have these one-shot rockets but a reusable spacecraft that looked like an airplane. The implication that Real Soon Now, Joe Sixpack would be able to walk up to the Pam-Am ticket booth, buy a ticket to the O'Neill Space Station and sit crammed in a small seat and eat small portioned luke-warm airline food without even the benefit of a window seat. We couldn't wait. I was in 6th grade at the time.
On Tuesday, January 28th, 1986 I arrived home from school (it was a half day due to mid-term exams) to the phone ringing. It was Mom calling urging me to turn on the TV because the shuttle exploded on lift-off. The hope of being able to take a weekend jaunt to the moon were dashed amid shock, denial and a string of tasteless jokes about NASA standing for “Need Another Seven Astronauts.” No excuse, other than we were still kids. I was in 11th grade for our generation's JFK moment.
I was in front of the computer when Gregory called with the news. I didn't even bother turning on the TV this time and any hopes of a continued American presense in space are now spread halfway across Texas. I hope I am wrong.