I always remember where I was when I hear really awful news.
I was watching TV a January night in the ’60s when the news broke in with a special report that three astronauts had died in a fire during a training mission.
I was returning from a quick post office trip at lunch that January day in 1986, when a man on the radio said “The Challenger seems to have exploded.”
I was walking into work a brilliant late summer morning, went into the vending machine area to get a soda, and a total stranger said to me, “Oh, it’s a terrible day, a plane hit the World Trade Center.”
I was watching Comedy Central this morning, laughing at Bill Murray in Scrooged when I just happen to check SFF Net newsgroups on my laptop. Adam Troy Castro titled a bleak message at 9:34 in sff.discuss.obituaries with “Not Again”
Terrorism, I thought. Oh shit.
Then I read the message.
“It’s beginning to look like we’ve lost the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia…”
Shit! I grabbed the channel changer and immediately switched to NBC. And cried for about 10 minutes.
I have been a huge fan of spaceflight. I don’t remember the Shepard or Grissom flights, but Glenn flew just after my fifth birthday and I remember that vividly. Space travel is an act of supreme confidence in the future – it meant we were living in the future.
I find any death related to the space program to be doubly-heartbreaking. It’s sad when any person dies in the course of their work; but every death related to space travel seems to drive a nail in the coffin of NASA.
Life has risks. I just hope we don’t mothball the program for another two and a half years due to this tragedy. Astronauts know that it’s risky. Most Americans know that it’s risky. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done.
If everyone was so risk-averse, we’d still be little monkeys living on a beach in Africa.