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.