My first flight was at the ripe old age of six weeks...and I think it infected me for good. I love to fly. Had I money to blow, (and the kids were older) I'd learn to fly myself.
I think this love of flying contributes to more than a passing interest in NASA and the Space Shuttle. I remember the first space shuttle launch I ever watched. It was riveting, even tho I didn't fully understand it. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news that Challenger had exploded. I was in the eighth grade, in the cafeteria having lunch. One of my classmates worked in the office during the period before lunch. He had heard the news on the radion while working in the office and told me at lunch. The media had made an extremely big deal out of this particular mission because Christa McAuliffe was on board...the first school teacher in space.
I remember the disappointment and hurt when Columbia was lost. It seemed like we had already lost enough...why again?
So, today, I share deeply America's concern for Discovery. Watching and waiting. Thinking of the family members of the astronauts, for whom this is going to be a very long week. Praying for a safe and event-free return flight next Monday.
These are the pre-flight interviews of the Discovery shuttle crew. Read them. They are always amusing and enlightening.
The families of the explorers lost in the Columbia explosion a little more than two years ago made this statement:
"As NASA prepares to launch the Shuttle Discovery, we, the Columbia Families, would like to show our support for the STS-114 crew and all the dedication and talent of those who supported this Return to Flight effort. We have had two and one half years to reflect daily on the loss of our loved ones as the Shuttle Columbia (STS 107) broke apart over Texas on February 1, 2003. "
"In the aftermath of the Columbia tragedy we saw our nation's space program reinvent itself. The extraordinary efforts of local, state and national organizations involved in the recovery effort, the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, the Return to Flight Task Group and all the NASA and aerospace industry workforce implementing the Return to Flight effort have clearly done an exemplary job in defining and reducing the technical risk as much as possible. As the families of Apollo 1 and Challenger before us, we grieve deeply but know the exploration of space must go on. We hope we have learned, and will continue to learn, from each of these accidents, so that we will be as safe as we can be in this high risk endeavor."
"As important as solving the technical risk is, we must be vigilant to ensure the organizational and cultural issues that contributed to Apollo, Challenger, and Columbia are forever remembered. Under the leadership of the new NASA Administrator, we have every confidence that the sacrifice of our loved ones and those that preceded them will be realized for the benefit of all humankind."
Indeed. Godspeed Discovery. You are America's Modern day Explorers of the final frontier.