RATE THIS BLOG - click hereBlogarama

Site Meter
The World According to Pete

Subscribe in NewsGator Online blog archives

Recommended Weblogs of Equal or Lesser Value
davezilla
Heart Failure
How Not To Fly
Ludic Log
Mirth&Musings
Monkey Cage
PeteAccordingToMe
Porn Clerk Girl
Random Acts of Reality
Stacey Nightmare

Good-N-Plenty Sites of Interest
Bob from Accounting
Bushisms
Church Sign Generator
Jim Goad
Modern Drunkard
Rant of the Week
Retro Future
'Salon Apocalypse'
Slash & Burn

BLOGOSPHERE News & Reviews

BlogCritics

Alpha Bloggers
Blogging as Journalism
Starting a Blog
You've Got Blog

31 Flavors of Blog
Weblog Review

Confessions of an Internet Junkie!
My 'Generic Blog'

Pete Media
Pete Vs. the Virgin Mary ('89), then...
...'New Times' calls Pete a 'creep'('97)
Yucca Video/TV Clip
Pete out-predicts Psychics ('99)
Pete's research quoted in 'Earth Changes' book ('01)
Art For Pete's Sake ('03)
MEDIA PETROS

Cool Comix, Fun Flix & Groovy Tunes
Day by Day
Red Meat
Way Lay

I, Doll
Rainbow TV

Resonance Radio
Strangely Familiar

Damn Fine Art
Sarina Brewer
Joe Coleman
David Ho
Jenny Ignaszewski
ManWoman
Mark Mothersbaugh
Pete Petrisko
Mark Ryden
Isabel Samaras
Shag
Chris Winkler
Joel-Peter Witkin

Web Cam Fun!
Bubble Cam
Continental Drift Cam
Deformed Frog Cam
JFK Assassin Cam
Peeling Paint Cam

contact...
Email Pete about the world. He might reply. All work herein (c) 2002-2004 by Peter Petrisko

This page is powered by Blogger.

Saturday, February 08, 2003
[ WHEN THE DREAM FALLS TO EARTH ]

On the early morning of February 1, 2003, space shuttle Columbia was lost during re-entry.

Or, as writer Leonard Pierce (of www.ludickid.com fame) put it, the "spaceship or whatever that caught on fire" that day.

The astronauts killed when the shuttle broke up over Texas were commander Rick Husband; pilot William McCool; payload commander Michael Anderson; mission specialists David Brown, Laurel Clark and Kalpana Chawla; and Israel's first astronaut, Ilan Ramon.

Laurel Clark of Racine, Wis., was a submarine doctor with the U.S. Navy before joining NASA in 1996. The day before she died, she sent an e-mail home to family and friends. It read, in part:

"Hello from above our magnificent planet Earth. The perspective is truly awe-inspiring...

I have seen some incredible sights: lightning spreading over the Pacific, the Aurora Australis lighting up the entire visible horizon with the cityglow of Australia below, the crescent moon setting over the limb of the Earth, the vast plains of Africa and the dunes on Cape Horn, rivers breaking through tall mountain passes, the scars of humanity, the continuous line of life extending from North America, through Central America and into South America, a crescent moon setting over the limb of our blue planet...

Magically, the very first day we flew over Lake Michigan and I saw Wind Point (Wis.) clearly. Haven't been so lucky since. Every orbit we go over a slightly different part of the Earth... Even the stars have a special brightness.

Thanks to many of you who have supported me and my adventures throughout the years. This was definitely one to beat all. I hope you could feel the positive energy that beamed to the whole planet as we glided over our shared planet.

Love to all, Laurel."

Incredibly, it has now come to light that Clark may have sent another email, just prior to Columbia's re-entry. This one might be a hoax but, as cruel as it may be, it does demonstrate a salient point. While space exploration does fulfill a collective dream and inspire hope in humankind, it remains a dangerous job.

The second email read, in part:

"As we're about to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere, I'm sending a rather brief email to those I know and love. As awe-inspiring as my time on Columbia has been, I look forward to once again firmly planting my feet on American soil. Sometimes, experiences like this causes one to look at life in a whole new perspective, but it's also nice to get back home. My own experiences over the last sixteen days will stay with me until the day I die.

Some monitors just went off. We're trying to determine what the problem might be. Whatever it is, between myself, my crewmates and the experts on the ground, I'm confident it will be solved. We are all professionals, after all. Oh, shit. Oh shit! Commander Husband just burst into flames! There's obviously a major malfunction here. Oh, God, please... I don't want to die! I don't want to die! Please!! Our Father, who arrRRRRGGHHH!"

Soon thereafter, news of Columbia's final, fatal moments broke worldwide. The shuttle had disintegrated in the atmosphere, killing all aboard.

The Columbia disaster came one week after the 17th anniversary of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, which disintegrated 73 seconds after liftoff from Florida's Kennedy Space Center on January 28, 1986.

Space shuttle flights have been put on hold until NASA determines what caused the Columbia to break apart.

Reaction to the loss of Columbia, and that of the daring souls on board, was swift. The nation, and the world, mourned.

As the slow healing process begins, people are again beginning to question how the U.S. space program should forge ahead from here.

Some unequivocally state that manned space flight should be curtailed or stopped because of Columbia's loss. Others veer in the other direction, such as the man in one Letter to the Editor in a local paper, who said, "With the loss in mind, NASA should redouble its efforts to put people on Mars, as soon as possible - as a way to honor the death of Columbia's crew."

Now, let's not lose our heads here. While I don't think manned space exploration should be halted either, trying to land people on Mars would be tomfoolery of the highest order at this point. Just getting people to and from near-Earth orbit, evidently, still needs to have some 'kinks' worked out.

However, with recent events in mind, it might be a good idea to re-think the shuttle program. Shuttles that, in many cases, are close to two decades old.

Last December, NASA chief Sean O'Keefe presented a shuttle successor. It is a scaled-down "space orbital plane," a glider really, that would ferry astronauts to the space station for a fraction of the price of a shuttle trip.

NASA estimates it would take $12 billion and at least seven years to develop. However, if the proper amount of time and money were dedicated to the task, I'm sure those estimates could be cut down to size. "American ingenuity", and all that.

Hopefully, this new design would be an improvement on the last, in that we'll then have a shuttle that doesn't blow up quite as easily.

Yes, the exploration must go on. From our earliest history, that has been our destiny. From seafaring vessels to discovering the 'New World'. From the ocean depths to the farthest reaches of the universe. It is the way we are "hardwired". It is our way of life, one that could not - and should not - be denied.

Our mourning for the loss of Columbia's crew is just one small part of a bigger picture. It wasn't just the death of seven brave souls. In a way, it was the death of a dream. The dream that somewhere, somehow, there are people who dare to live life larger than most others do. As long as that dream lives on, even if you or I aren't the ones living it, hope remains.

At this moment, to quote Rev. Jesse Jackson, we must continue to, "Keep hope alive. Keep hope alive."

To that end, perhaps it is time to introduce an Adopt-An-Astronaut program at the grade school level. Each month, children can pick a different currently living astronaut who is flying - or has flown - shuttle missions and learn all there is to learn about him or her. That way if, god forbid, we lose other astronauts to a shuttle disaster, at least somebody will know who the hell they are *before* they actually die. Also, children can then have some real heroes to look up to because, no, ballplayers and rock stars don't count as "real heroes" in my book.

In conclusion, I'd like to once again quote Laurel Clark. As reported on CNN.com, this passage sums up the tragedy - and inspires the hope - better than I ever could:

It was the wonder of life that inspired her (Clark) most during the space trip, making note of the silkworm cocoon that she had seen hatch in orbit as part of an experiment.

"There was a moth in there, and it still had its wings crumpled up, and it was just starting to pump its wings up," she told a reporter. "Life continues in lots of places, and life is a magical thing."

(fin)
-

ADDENDUM (added Feb. 9, 2003):

ADOPT-AN-ASTRONAUT program - why & how

In my Feb. 8 column, "When the Dream Falls to Earth", I wrote . . .

"...perhaps it's time to introduce an Adopt-An-Astronaut program at the grade school level. Each month, children can pick a different currently living astronaut who is flying - or has flown - shuttle missions and learn all there is to learn about him or her. That way if, god forbid, we lose other astronauts to a shuttle disaster, at least somebody will know who the hell they are *before* they actually die. Also, children can then have some real heroes to look up to because, no, ballplayers and rock stars don't count as "real heroes" in my book."

Within hours, several people wrote in response, asking, "Can you tell me more?"

And now, I will...

The ADOPT-AN-ASTRONAUT Program

Each month, grade school children can pick a different currently living astronaut who is flying - or has flown - shuttle missions and learn all there is to learn about him or her.

To this end, school curriculum can include:

Social Studies: Researching & writing about specific astronauts. Make a presentation to the class. As a class project, write a very nice letter to one of the astronauts. Get back a glossy, autographed picture of your particular class astronaut. Hang it up on the class "Adopt-An-Astronaut" Wall of Fame. Feel proud to be an American, living in an age when the space program is "all that and a bag of chips", as the kids say.

History: Learn about the rich history of the U.S. space program. From early rocket tests to the first unmanned missions. Special emphasis on launches involving monkeys (i.e. "ape-o-nauts") because, after all, kids love monkeys. Continue with manned missions to the moon right through to the inception, and current missions, of the space shuttle.

Art: Learn to draw the many exciting "spaceships" we all know and love. From the 'Star Trek' Enterprise, to the 'Star Wars' X-Wing and TIE Fighters, to, yes, the real Space Shuttle. It's learning to love the space program through positive reinforcement.

English: Learn to spell and pronounce the last names of astronauts, the techno-gadgets they use on missions, and all the cool parts of the shuttle itself. In other words, all those things that most adults know absolutely nothing about today. Impress your schoolyard chums with your vast space knowledge. Woo-hoo!

Recess: Somebody should invent a card trading game along the lines of 'Pokemon' or 'Yu-Gi-Oh!', but with a space shuttle theme. Call it "Shuttle Is Go!" or some such. A set of cards would include shuttle commanders, crewmembers, and mission specialists. Kids can then trade cards, in order to assemble the best mission team possible. The object of the game is to pit your assembled team's combined skills against those of others. Whichever team finishes science experiments correctly in the least amount of time, fixes more orbiting satellites, repairs the Hubble telescope without screwing it up, and then returns to Earth safely, wins. It's fun for the whole family!

Via the "Adopt-An-Astronaut" school program, children nationwide (and, perhaps, around the world) can once again become excited about real space exploration. Just like in the early days. And if the kids get excited, the adults will surely follow.

And that, my friends, would be the greatest tribute to *all* the astronauts lost over the years. Now, go to your local school with this idea, and get it started in your community. - Pete




posted by Pete 10:40 PM
Comments: Post a Comment



home