We shall never cease


We shall never cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
-T. S. Eliot (1888 – 1965)

179 thoughts on “We shall never cease”

  1. We saw it first-hand.
    My wife and I were on the way to visit her parents in southwestern Arkansas for the weekend. As we were pulling out of the driveway, my wife glanced up and saw what she thought was a plane on fire. By the time I looked, it was a big ball of fire with bits falling off it. I thought it was going much too fast to be a plane and suggested it was a meteor (neither one of us knew the shuttle was supposed to land that day).
    About a half hour later, my wife’s father called us on my cell phone to tell us what happened and that debris was falling in an area we usually travel through to get to Arkansas (specifically, Palestine, TX). We decided to “press on” and take our chances with delays.
    We saw no fewer than four pieces of debris through the area, plus several brush fires a few hundred feet off the road that were probably caused by flaming debris. The largest piece we saw could fit into the bed of a pickup truck (that bit made the TV news–it landed in the grass median between a divided highway).
    Its going to take some time to seach for wreckage; its a very heavily wooded region of the state. We saw some F16’s from Barksdale AFB doing a grid seach pattern, but they were awfully high up; I doubt they could see anything visually.
    It was a sad weekend….

  2. You may or may not like Reagan, but his Challenger speech is worth reading (and applicable to Columbia):
    “Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.
    Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But, we’ve never lost an astronaut in flight; we’ve never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we’ve forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.
    For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we’re thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, ‘Give me a challenge and I’ll meet it with joy.’ They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.
    We’ve grown used to wonders in this century. It’s hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We’ve grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we’ve only just begun. We’re still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.
    And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them…
    I’ve always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don’t hide our space program. We don’t keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That’s the way freedom is, and we wouldn’t change it for a minute. We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: “Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it.”
    There’s a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, ‘He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.’ Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake’s, complete.
    The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”

  3. To all those who feel it’s a bit mushy to be upset over this tragedy:
    These people, these mortals go up there, they endure forces that would make greek Gods flinch, and they strive to expand what we know it is to be human.
    While we live on this Earth, under gray skies fighting each other over our differences, these people bring us the view of the world from above, as one, and give reason for faith in humanity.
    Growing up, I watched the Columbia especially, the first orbiter in space, and her missions and the space program is directly responsible for my sense of hope for the future, the basis of why I did not become a cruel, jaded person.
    On February 1st, the world lost one of our very few doves in the sky, and the seven brave people who flew her. A little bit of sun that breaks the clouds above winked out. There is nothing else we do on Earth with such skill and precission – that is not designed to kill people – than the space program.
    These people ride fire into the sky, and they ride on flames coming home.
    They died alone up there, largely I feel because we, humanity, have not been forthcoming with our support of space exploration.
    They are willing to take the chances they take because if they don’t it won’t be done, and we won’t offer a dollar more for their safetly.
    I think we should have been increasing the program’s money, I think we owe it to the brave souls that take these chances for us all.

  4. The following is a heartfelt request to the goverments of the world. Nick and I spent much time thinking this out and writing it. We have sent this to you and put it on PetitionOnline.com. We implore you all to read this and sign our petition. Our goal is to send a clear message to the goverments of the Earth that continued manned space flight is a necessity for the advancement of mankind. And to honor those valiant crew members of STS-107.
    Thank You Wil for your words and letting us respond,
    Nick and Therese Miller
    As Neil Armstrong said, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” We the People of Earth implore the powers that be , To go boldly forward with manned space exploration. Do not let the deaths of the gallant crew of noble Columbia be in vain. We know they would be the first to say it is vital that we continue to strive towards the stars and not let fear keep us from accomplishing the goals we have set before us.
    To this end we need to not only immediately continue the Space Shuttle program, as well as continue to expand the International Space Station. The Space Shuttle is a integral part of further advances for medicine as well as science in general. With the mobility and capability of returning to earth in a timely fashion, and experiments requiring both weightlessness and gravity being vital, the Space Shuttle provides admirably and it is also a key element in further expanding the Space Station. The Space Station is necessary for our long term experiments requiring weightlessness for medical and other scientific reasons, as well as being a logical jump point for our continued exploration of Mars and the other planets in our Solar System.
    The Space Plane is our next logical step to continue the efforts of those such as Yuri Gagarin, John Glenn, and the fateful crew of Challenger. The Space Plane will speed our trips from the Earth to the Space Station, be much more economical in the long run compared to the Space Shuttle in that it will not require disposable solid rocket boosters, as well as being safer for our space travelers with the absence of the rocket boosters. The speed in which the Space Plane will be refueled and able to return to space will make it possible for us to return to the moon and make use of resources there, as well as the possibility of colonizing Mars when mankind is ready for that step.
    On December 17th, 1903 near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina those who witnessed the first flight of the Wright Brothers, could have hardly imagined that in under 100 years mankind would have gone so far from the Earth. With advances in technology coming at exponential rates, we can put the first person on Mars within 10 years, and have people living there within our lifetimes.
    With continued support of manned space exploration, we will be honoring the memory and dreams of Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, Ilan Ramon, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, and Laurie Blair, the crew of STS-107 and the people of Earth.

  5. Pardon the length (I hope this is ok….it’s an email from one of the astronauts, an email sent the day before she died):
    Laurel Clark of Racine, Wis., was a submarine doctor with the U.S. Navy (news – web sites) before joining NASA (news – web sites) in 1996, traveling to the depths of the oceans before soaring above as a mission specialist helping with science experiments on the space shuttle Columbia. The mother of an 8-year-old son, she was on her first shuttle mission when Columbia disintegrated over Texas. The day before she died, she sent an e-mail home to family and friends:
    “Hello from above our magnificent planet Earth. The perspective is truly awe-inspiring. This is a terrific mission and we are very busy doing science round the clock. Just getting a moment to type e-mail is precious so this will be short, and distributed to many who I know and love.
    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. Mount Fuji looks like a small bump from up here, but it does stand out as a very distinct landmark.
    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. Of course, much of the time I’m working back in Spacehab and don’t see any of it. Whenever I do get to look out, it is glorious. Even the stars have a special brightness.
    I have seen my ‘friend’ Orion several times. Taking photos of the earth is a real challenge, but a steep learning curve. I think I have finally gotten some beautiful shots the last 2 days. Keeping my fingers crossed that they’re in sharp focus.
    My near vision has gotten a little worse up here so you may have seen pics/video of me wearing glasses. I feel blessed to be here representing our country and carrying out the research of scientists around the world. All of the experiments have accomplished most of their goals despite the inevitable hiccups that occur when such a complicated undertaking is undertaken. Some experiments have even done extra science. A few are finished and one is just getting started today.
    The food is great and I am feeling very comfortable in this new, totally different environment. It still takes a while to eat as gravity doesn’t help pull food down your esophagus. It is also a constant challenge to stay adequately hydrated. Since our body fluids are shifted toward our heads our sense of thirst is almost non-existent.
    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.”

  6. Why did we go to the Moon?
    What were we trying to prove?
    In shuttles we venture forth
    Conquering Space
    while slowly(?!) destroying
    the home of our race
    You’d think we would come
    to acknowledge our Place…
    Alas, it is not so.
    Why do we bury the dead?
    What has gone wrong with our heads?
    We got our priorities messed up somehow
    We’d best re-evaluate where we are now
    The fate of our future could turn with a dial
    Gone, in one final blow.

  7. This was a tragedy that should never have happened.
    I only hope that something positive can come of this tragedy. I don’t know what can, but I pray that they did not die in vain.

  8. As a member of the US Air Force, I am not only saddened by this tragedy, but also that some of my colleagues have fallen. It is a reminder that people can die no matter where they are, who they are or what they do. Yet these folks will always be heroes in the name of exploration. In 1987, I attended a school that was renamed to Challenger Middle School. Thank you for your tribute, Will.
    “Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on.” — President George W. Bush, 2/1/03

  9. Godspeed, Columbia.
    I am, like many here, a space geek. 9-11 has been the only thing that has affected me more heavily than the Challenger disaster. I will never forget seeing it explode. Never. Columbia has burned bright into my memory as well. Seven more brave soul given the Viking Burial in the Sky.
    “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…” -another famous President that some folks here may or may not like…
    I will pray to whatever deity might listen for the families of the crew, and pray twice as hard to whomever listens for the future of the space program.
    Godspeed, Columbia.

  10. I believe President Bush said it best. ” The Columbia crew may not have made it back to earth, but they did make it home”

  11. That was nice Wil. I live in the town where all this is happening. I saw somw wreckage. It makes me sick to my stomach. Let’t not forget these real Heros.

  12. I’m the type who normally prefers to grieve alone. While I understand that others feel the need to share their grief, I have seldom felt that way myself. For that reason, I’ve avoided reading the comments here until today.
    It’s taken me about 2 hours to read everything and one thought moved me so much that I felt I had to comment.
    Many people have commented on how much hope can be gained by considering how people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds can come together with one goal, this mission and this programme. I agree with this. What struck me here though, was the near universal outpouring of sympathy, not only for the victims of the disaster and their families, but also for the other, unrelated tragedies that have occurred and are continuing to occur throughout the world. That we can all, in this one forum, share in these common thoughts and continue to hope that the world will eventually become a better place through our efforts is, I believe, the most immediate sign that there really is hope for this world.
    This post really isn’t about the Columbia, I guess. I simply wanted to say how incredibly moved I am that so many people have shared so many beautiful thoughts. There is hope for humanity, after all.

  13. I remember very well the Challenger and where I was that day. I had the flu and stayed home from school that day. I had just fixed myself a baloney on toast with mustard when I saw those terrible pictures.
    It practically broke my heart to see that horrifying sight 17 years ago. I never thought I’d see that again.
    But then Saturday morning, I had literally just gone to bed at 9:00 am. Then at 11:00 am, I got a call from my friend.
    “Dude, the space shuttle just exploded!”
    I immediatly turned the TV on and put it on CNN. There, Miles O’Brien (the CNN correspondant, of course) was telling how NASA had lost contact. I watched the streaking lights in the sky and I kept wanting to believe that the crew was okay.
    That maybe they had survived.
    But when I heard that NASA had lowered the flag to half-staff at the Kennedy Space Center, I felt the same pain I did 17 years and four days earlier.
    I’m still numb from the shock of all this. I remembered Columbia well, as a kid in fourth grade, we watched the Shuttle landing. It was so impressive then, seeing that magnificant craft glide down to a perfect landing.
    Columbia was truly the jewel in NASA’s crown.
    It’s a shame that NASA has announced that there won’t be any replacement shuttle.
    It would be interesting to research if the Russian Space Shuttle could be used to replace Columbia. Perhaps if modifications were made to the Russian version of the Space Shuttle, NASA could modify it to make it spaceworthy.
    “The conquest of space is worth the risk to human life.” – Gus Grissom

  14. Difficult to say which is sadder: The loss of the shuttle and its seven crewmembers, or that it takes something of this nature and magnitude to bring home the essential heroism of the members of the astronaut corps and the need for realistic investment in the infrastructure of our space effort to so many people.
    A terrible, terrible occurence on every level.

  15. Wil
    I was reading some links about challenger, and the thought that Iraqi’s are calling this Gods vengeance is disgusting, hateful and blasphemous. I do not condone war usually, but in this case
    I think that it is warranted, not just because of what they said about the challenger crew, although there is that, but because there leader is a loose cannon who brainwashes his people into believing all the junk he feeds them about
    Allah. I hate the thought of war, but in this case it all comes down to who pushes the big red button first, and all I have to say to Mr. Bush is blow ’em to hell and back!

  16. Every rose has it’s thorn
    May God bless and keep the brave souls on board the Columbia
    They surely deserve thier eternal reward
    And now a prayer(hey i’m Catholic whadyawant!?!?!)
    Now I lay me down to sleep
    I pray the Lord my soul to keep
    If I should die before I wake
    I pray the Lord my soul to take
    Our father who art in heaven
    Hallowed be thine name
    Thy kingdom come thy will be done
    On earth as it is in heaven.
    Give us this day our daily grace
    And forgive us our trespasses
    As we forgivr hose who trespass against us
    and lead us not into temptation
    But deliver us from evil
    For your is the glory and the power of God
    Forever and Ever
    Rest in Peace Colubia.

  17. It’s been a long road,
    getting from there to here.
    It’s been a long time,
    but my time is finally here.
    And I will see my dream come alive at last,
    I will touch the sky.
    And they’re not gonna hold me down no more,
    No, they’re not gonna change my mind.
    ‘Cause I’ve got faith in the heart,
    I’m goin’ where my heart will take me,
    I’ve got faith to believe,
    I can do anything,
    I’ve got strength in the soul,
    and no one’s gonna bend or break me,
    I’ve can reach to the stars.
    I’ve got faith…
    I’ve got faith…
    Into the heart.
    Live long and prosper, Columbia. May your souls live on into the 24th century and beyond.

  18. It was my 11th birthday, I was sitting in Mr Platts math class at one of the many elementary schools I attended. And suddenly they came on with the announcement that the space shuttle Challenger blew up on take off. I was absolutely crushed. For years my birthday was marked with sadness from the accident. I am now 28 as of January 28th. And I live in Waco Tx… for those of you who arent familiar, its in Central Texas whee the explosion took place. I heard the boom, I felt my house shake. I turned on the the news and the memory of my 11th birthday came back to me. But this time I was explaining to my kids what had happened and holding them as they cried. I pray for all the families of the astronauts, not just of Columbia, but of Challenger and Apollo accident as well. May their souls rest in peace forever.

  19. I am half a world away from most of you but I am a space enthusiast just the same. I like so many others keep a scrap book of space events, which, until now was filled with milestones of achievement. Now it features a tragic loss.
    I have had the honor of meeting two astronauts so far in my life. Andrew S.W. Thomas (Australian Born) and Moonwalker Harrison ‘Jack’ Schmitt.
    Australia’s hopes and dreams fly in space every time Andy Thomas flies on the shuttle. But my dreams fly every time there is a launch. No matter who the crew is.
    May the dreams of these 7 men and women live on in the space program. I honestly hope that we will return to space and continue the work that they sacrificed themselves for.

  20. what century are we in??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? i think i held the key to long

  21. “Ad Astra”
    A hundred worlds await us if we keep our track,
    Let us explore what no eyes have ever seen,
    We must go always outward, never fall back,
    Though we will surely meet dangers unforeseen.
    So let us spread our wings and upward rise,
    Until we have left Earth’s prison bars,
    Until we are far beyond her familiar skies,
    And can finally reach the distant stars.
    —Daniel Rowlands

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