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Remebering Apollo, Challenger and Columbia

43 years ago, an accident on the Apollo cost the lives of three American astronauts. I don't remember it - it was a little before my time. It was a horrible thing, but because of it, flaws were found, changes were made, and space travel became safer.

Today, of course, marks 25 years since the space shuttle Challenger exploded, shocking not only the United States, but the entire world.

I was 18 years old at the time, at the U of S. For the life of me, I don't remember what I was doing - but I *do* remember that there was a sense of the unreal about it.

I thought, with the confidence of a teenager who thinks that nothing will ever hurt them that we were invulnerable. We were too advanced, too genius, too perfect for anything like that to ever happen. I felt very much like a child who has lost a loved family member - a sense of loss and bereavement and, almost betrayal - how could this happen?

Even more sadly, it wasn't the last time - in a few short days, it will be 8 years since we lost Columbia. I remember that even more clearly, and I wrote an LJ post about the Face of Corporate Grief, and my thoughts on how SF fans as a community were affected by this disaster.

Time passes, but I find the things I said 8 years ago are every bit as applicable today as they were then.

...for us, the geeks and nerds of yesteryear, who grew up SF junkies, who became congoers and hard science/space program aficionados, it's a very personal loss. These people who do this thing are, in essence, our heroes. They do that which most of us aspired towards as children. We wanted to go up in the space ships, walk on the moon, live on the L5 station. And to lose, for a third time, the brave men and women who are living our dream is painful in a very intimate way, and leaves us with an intense sense of loss. And a little survivors guilt as well, I think.

Unbelievable? No. I think we all know how very vulnerable we human beings are. Just a thin scrap of space suit between us and a hostile, merciless environment that will kill us. Just a few inches of metal and heat resistant ceramic tile between us and the heat that will burn us to a cinder in seconds...

I think we do, in a way, start to view our ventures into space as somewhat routine, in that we humans have now ventured out there many hundreds of times. But the sense of wonder? I don't think that ever goes away. Not for me, anyway.

And as for exploring deep space? One day. It has to happen. we'll get there. Who would have ever thought we could do the things we *have* done 100 years ago? Even 50 years ago? We're gonna get there, I chose to believe that. I'm interested in taking my retirement on the moon.

If, like me, you ruminate and, reflect and sometimes feel sentimental, you may want to check out these songs. I think they are beautiful and pay tribute to our fallen heroes.

- vixy wrote an amazing, brilliant song addressing both the Challenger and Columbia disasters. This song still makes me cry.

- catsittingstill wrote a beautiful tribute to Columbia. This song still makes me cry.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 29th, 2011 03:31 am (UTC)
I was in first grade when Challenger exploded. This was, of course, back when space exploration still held the nation enthralled, when we were fascinated and humbled by the fact that we were visiting the stars. The whole school was watching the lift-off.

I was raised on SF and Star Trek and Star Wars, and at that point in my life, I believed I would visit the stars, too. That I would be part of that magic. I was profoundly disturbed and upset when the shuttle exploded; I remember I cried and cried and was nearly inconsolable. I feel like a lost a part of my childhood that day.

Thanks for this remembrance.

Edited at 2011-01-29 03:31 am (UTC)
Jan. 29th, 2011 04:00 am (UTC)
I was working at ABC News DC Bureau that day. It was awful.
Jan. 29th, 2011 05:30 am (UTC)
Oh, my. Talk about reviving memories from so-long-ago. I was a teenager during the Apollo one (and somewhat remember it fuzzily, because the airwaves weren't as saturated with immediate information as is available nowadays).

But the Challenger I do remember vividly. The shock and also disbelief that it wasn't just huge contrails I was seeing up in the sky, but an actual explosion. And, yet, I kept mumbling to myself that it wasn't an explosion. Talk about denial. Also, I remember the huge controversy afterwards - that resonates with me as a fan of SGA - about having had a civilian aboard, as if the loss of her life was indefensible as opposed to the lives of the NASA crew.

With Columbia, my feelings were of a different nature. I don't know whether my SF love makes me more naïve, but I could sooner accept a defect in a car, or even an entire production line of cars, but NOT in a spaceship. Because-because-because it's not SUPPOSED to happen on a scale of that magnitude. Or that it's a reminder that there are things out there that can kill us, if we venture too close to the sun. You don't need to be an Ancient Greek to appreciate that tragedy.

Anyway, thank you for allowing me to share. It does help when we can exchange memories of bad times, when I want to be reminded that I am not alone, that I can reach out and grab a friendly hand.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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