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(submitted to the Seattle P-I, Seattle Times, and the Stranger so far - any other suggestions?)

Hiding behind the fading echoes of Columbia's death is another, terrible sound - the sound of a dying dream. The dream of exploration, of discovery - of meaning given to our existence as human beings.

The space program is our drive for exploration, our curiosity, our need to know made manifest. It is the symbol and the realization of our intelligence. It is us reaching out to touch the face of God.

But to a world grown weary of day-to-day tribulations, of hunger and war and hatred, such a dream seems awfully abstract. You may as well ask the point of planning to climb a mountain when you have a broken leg; of working on a novel when you haven't yet published a letter to the editor. It may not get us anywhere now, but it makes our purpose clear, gives us hope to push past the drudgery and pain to the next new horizon. And hope is beyond price. No government program, no war, no economic stimulus package can give us that.

I ask this - what is the point of trying to save this world if there is nowhere for it to go? We must keep the dream alive, else our souls will die. And without souls, this world will surely tear itself apart.

Stand behind those who died today by supporting the vision for which they sacrificed their lives. Keep your eyes on the sky, and keep the dream alive.

Heather Keith


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 1st, 2003 12:04 pm (UTC)
Absolutely Beautiful

This is stunningly written. It expresses our need not to give up our dreams and our quest in our moment of mourning.

I hope this does get to see wider print than just LJ
Feb. 1st, 2003 12:17 pm (UTC)
Arigato gozaimasu.
Feb. 1st, 2003 01:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I do hope that this gets into a lot of newspapers. They are words that need to be heard.

There's also... as many people have said so far on my lj friends list (lyricagent in particular), why should we care about THESE 7 deaths? These people who knew they were at risk and accepted the risk. These people who died having lived their dreams and done something most of us will NEVER have an opportunity to do? She points out that while she wrote her lj post about it, five people were raped or murdered in the US alone. She points out that a plane in korea crashes, and no one cares. Then we're told that 2 americans were on the plane and suddenly we care, or are supposed to care. It doesn't make any sense.

Because of these weird attitudes about which deaths count, this accident could stop the dream you so beautifully speak of. And THAT is what breaks my heart.
Feb. 1st, 2003 03:12 pm (UTC)
As I am posting again and again, I hear no death-toll for the space program in all of this. Instead, it is a call-to-arms, rallying those with the knowledge and expertice to look at what has happened, determine a cause, and find a fix. That is how NASA always handles these, that is how they always will. Any talk of the death of the space program is inflammatory and hollow. The men and women of our space program meet and conquer challenges for a living. They take from them what the next steps of discovery must be.

Already, just from what has been revealed so far, they have two clear, new objectives. I have posted elsewhere (sk4p's lj), but will again here: (1) We need to develop emergency EVA capabilities in the event of future damage to tiles (though that has yet to be determined as the cause of today's loss). To repair tiles in orbit would be optimal, but at least we must give the astronauts the ability to assess their vehicle and be certain it is ready for re-entry in the event of unexpected impact on the heat shield tiles. If there is damage, contingencies must exist for transferring the crew to the ISS where they can await passage home, rather than risk re-entry with a loose, cracked, or otherwise damaged tile. And (2) Clearly, a new form of insulation for the external tank must be developed, given that in 2 out of the last 3 lift-offs a sizable chunk has broken off and struck the orbiter itself.

That's it; that is what will happen. The dream will not die. NASA will not die. Honestly, the way politics works, they will grow from this. They will be granted extra funding, both for the investigation, and for the development of new technologies deemed necessary by said investigation.

All I have to say about NASA'a future, myself...LET'S GET BACK TO THE MOON, and when we've done that MARS!
Feb. 1st, 2003 06:51 pm (UTC)
That is how NASA will handle it, yes - but those in Washington who have been cutting back the space program all these years will see this as an excuse to cut still more, unless the supporters rally quickly and loudly. It happened after Challenger - it nearly destroyed it then, when there was more popular support than there is now. I hope you are right - but I'm not going to sit back and trust to it.
Feb. 1st, 2003 07:53 pm (UTC)
And, no matter what the politicians say today, the funding will be cut massively just as it has after each setback and overall since we went to the moon. We no longer have an adversary (the soviets) that we can play childish "we beat you!" games with, so no more impetus. It's really sad but except for a few of us eccentric, science fiction reading nuts out here, there is little interest in space exploration anymore.
Feb. 2nd, 2003 09:25 pm (UTC)
Give yourself points for prophecy.

Of course, the way the government works, a large chunk of this increase (if it happens) will go to giving administrators bigger offices and more toys in those offices. (Readers are invited to look at the way funding for "Homeland Security" has actually been used for an idea of how things are likely to go. A good chunk of it has gone for purposes that are, at the very least, tangential to homeland security..if not totally unrelated.) People have been talking about a shuttle replacement for at least the last 10 years, and no one at NASA has come up with a good replacement. People outside NASA have had many suggestons, but NASA (like many a government agency) has a severe case of "Not Invented Here" syndrome.

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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Heather Keith Freeman
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