Thursday, July 21, 2011

Reflections On A Dream

It all ended with a flawless touchdown at KSC. 

As a member of GenX, I come from the generation whose adolescence was shaped by the profound imagery of shuttle launches; in addition, being an Air Force brat placed me in a subgroup of people who were profoundly moved by the subtler but nonetheless technically staggering set of processes that had to execute perfectly for safe landings. After Challenger, and even moreso after Columbia, launches and landings never again were "routine" in the way they had become during those few golden years in the mid-1980s.

Coming to terms with the fact that there will be no more shuttle launches is, in a word, surreal. As I sit on my couch in the San Francisco Bay Area writing these words in the wee hours of a summery July morning, I can still vividly remember that early afternoon over 30 years ago at my elementary school in North Carolina when the entire school watched the first landing... in an exotic far-off locale called California. My mind is swimming between multiple levels of irony.

I could go on about my memories of the program... about how nearly 22 years after that glorious first landing it was the very same shuttle that never came home... about the direct connections I had to the Space Shuttle Program through the USAF... about so so many points in my life where my memories are framed around shuttle milestones...

But at this moment I feel the power of that lesson from John's Gospel about the greatest love (the kind of love that makes a person lay down his life for others). In the spirit of that love, as a way to honor the drive toward the stars, and as a reminder that we stand on the shoulders of those who paid the ultimate price for our exploration of space, I hereby list the names of the precisely 30 people who have died in service to either the Russian or American space programs. God bless them, one and all:

Valentin Bondarenko
Theodore Freeman
Elliot See
Charles Bassett
Gus Grissom
Edward White II
Roger Chaffee
Vladimir Komarov
Clifton Williams
Michael J. Adams
Robert Lawrence
Yuri Gagarin
Georgi Dobrovolski
Viktor Patsayev
Vladislav Volkov
Greg Jarvis
Christa McAuliffe
Ronald McNair
Ellison Onizuka
Judith Resnik
Michael J. Smith
Dick Scobee
Sergei Vozovikov
Ilan Ramon
Rick D. Husband
William McCool
Michael P. Anderson
David M. Brown
Kalpana Chawla
Laurel B. Clark

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