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. thank you Karina – your words are filled with intelligence and compassion. If only some of all the compassion and sympathy expressed today over this tragedy could be put into helping those who are still with us…starving, freezing and alone.

  2. High Flight
    by John Gillespie McGee, Jr.
    No. 412 Squadron, RCAF
    Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds–and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of–wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
    I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air
    Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
    I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark or even eagle flew.
    And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

  3. Lord have mercy on those astronauts, and on their families.
    I do not think that this will kill the space program. The commentators and callers on NPR’s talk of the nation seemed to all consider this tradegy part of the cost of exploration, and some officials appearing on CBS also said that the space program will go on. (We can’t take a couple of years off like we did in ’86; we’ve got a manned space station now!)
    I was stationed at Mayport Naval Station when the Challenge went down — we could see the split vapor trails from there.
    Was it Astounding/Analog’s John Campbell who said that space exploration would mean the invention of new ways to die?
    A few days ago, I re-read “Fallen Angels” by Mike Flynn, Niven, & Pournelle. And this morning I heard Dan Rather talking to some NASA suit about how many of us hoped to see a manned mission to Mars in our lifetime. The Nasa rep said that Mars had never been part of Nasa’s mission. Dan Rather, who later mentioned that he had been at Rice when Kennedy gave his speech dedicating the US to the exploration of space, said about a manned mars mission: “Some of us still dream.”
    Vivat! the dream!

  4. At 1pm today I had not turned on a television or listened to a radio all day. I was about to click on the TV when I stopped to check out WWDN. I first thought the picture was a tribute to the Challenger crew. Then I clicked on the link and looked at the date. Imagine my surprise.

  5. gosh, it’s terrible. i’m sick of death, death sucks, way too much death lately. i mean, 9/11, my dog Sweetie (although that may not really mean much to any of you, but it meant to world to me. i love her so much) and now this. *sigh* my love goes out to all the families. damn my idealistic mind! i hope everyone feels better soon!!!

  6. Beautiful T.S. Eliot quote.. comforting and challenging. From what I’ve heard, the families who lost their loved ones this morning feel the same way.

  7. In a tower of flame in Capsule Twelve,
    I was there.
    I know not where they laid my bones,
    it could be anywhere,
    but when fire and smoke had faded,
    the darkness left my sight,
    I found my soul in a spaceship’s soul
    riding home on a trail of light.
    For my wings are made of tungsten,
    and my flesh is glass and steel,
    I am the joy of Terra for the power that I wield.
    Once upon a lifetime, I died a pioneer,
    Now I sing within a spaceship’s heart,
    Does anybody hear?
    My thunder rends the morning sky,
    yes, I am here.
    The loss to flame when I was man,
    now I ride her without fear,
    for I am more than man now,
    and man built me with pride,
    I led the way and I lead the way
    to man’s future in the sky.
    For my wings are made of tungsten,
    my flesh of glass and steel,
    I am the joy of Terra for the power that I wield.
    Once upon a lifetime, I died a pioneer,
    Now I sing within a spaceship’s heart,
    Does anybody hear?
    “The Phoenix” by Julia Ecklar, c. 1983

  8. Take a look at the ages of the STS-107 crew. They were in high school and college when we lost 51-L.
    And they still wanted to go. And for five, they finally did on this trip.
    How many of today’s highschoolers and college kids are ready to take their place?

  9. Wil-
    That was a very fitting quote for the tragedy that happened today. I was 13 when the Challenger tragedy happened, and never in my life did I think I would see something similar occur again. How sad… I’ve been crying and praying for the astronauts and their families all day. I don’t think those brave men and women (who, yes, knew what they were getting into, but that doesn’t mean they deserved to die) would want us to stop our space program. I think they would want us to continue to be the explorers that we are- I daresay some of them must have watched Star Trek, and looked toward a vision of the future that may turn out in a similar fashion. We must always continue to explore- to seek out new life and new civilisations- to boldly go where no one has gone before. Corny? Maybe, but it’s a great way to live- and die. God bless the crew, and may we all be comforted knowing that they died doing what they loved most.
    Love, Alicia

  10. I’m a little too young to remember Challenger, but I do clearly remember the first launch after that and how big of a deal it was [especially with me]. I’ve realized today how complacent I have been regarding the space program and how afraid I became for it’s future… no matter what happens in the next few weeks and months, this tragedy is a big setback.
    “There’s one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on: whether it happens in a hundred years, or a thousand years, or a million years, eventually our sun will grow cold, and go out. When that happens, it won’t just take us, it’ll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-tsu, Einstein, Maruputo, Buddy Holly, Aristophanes – all of this. All of this was for nothing, unless we go to the stars.” — Jeffrey Sinclair, Babylon 5

  11. I just don?t know what to say or how to feel about this, anger , shock and sadness. My thoughts are with the Crew, their family?s and the people and family?s involved with this mission and their own family?s. I hope this does not turn into a witch-hunt and there is no smoking gun this time. The danger is real with every space mission. They are all pioneers always pushing the boundary of what?s possible. Grieve, re-group , learn , continue? it is the only way to tribute these people. Lets also hope that we are getting closer to a new design space vehicle that does not carry the same dangers of the present.

  12. Thanks for the fitting tribute. I needed something to open the gates…I was 9 when the Challenger exploded. The very same day, the school counselor was murdered a few yards from me. Worst day of my life, and so I wasn’t letting this tragedy in. I think I have finally opened up, and can now honor these astronauts.
    Thanks again.

  13. from the “Navy Hymn” —
    Eternal Father, King of birth,
    Who didst create the heaven and earth,
    And bid the planets and the sun
    Their own appointed orbits run;
    O hear us when we seek thy grace
    From those who soar through outer space.
    J. E. Volonte (1961)
    Here’s an alternative non-authorized verse (apparently there have been many such written) that I copied from another message board, which supposedly attributes authorship to Robert Heinlein. I do not know if that is true. I do know that I agree with the sentiment expressed.
    Almighty Ruler of the all,
    Whose Power extends to great and small,
    Who guides the stars with steadfast law,
    Whose least creation fills with awe,
    O grant thy mercy and thy grace,
    To those who venture into space.

  14. I was in 6th grade when the World lost Challenger. I was in my science class and we were watching the launch on television. The idea was that we were to write a long report on the space program and the men and women who have sacraficed so much to make it possible. The original assignment was supposed to cover the program as far back as Project Gemini, and even back to Sputnik.
    We didn’t have to complete the assignment after the disaster. Instead the assignment changed to writing a tribute to the astronauts of Challenger, and to all of the people around the world who lost their lives persuing Mankind’s dream.
    That was actually the title of my tribute: Mankind’s Dream
    I only wish I could remember the words I wrote. It would again be fitting to the events of today.
    I did get an A on the writing, but then, everyone did, because it couldn’t be possible to give someone a failing grade on heartfelt words…
    And to LittleGuy, you asked about how many high school or college students would be willing to take their place, well, the truth is, I don’t know about them. But, personally, I would do it. In a heartbeat. I would like to think, thet given the chance, people around the world would do the same. I for one would be honored to follow in the footsteps of these great pioneers, doing as they did, persuing Mankind’s Dream…

  15. Thanks for the quote, Wil.
    Like most, it immediately brought back the memories of the Challenger. All of those feelings return. My heart and prayers go out to the families of the crew.

  16. When my thoughts naturally turned to the Challenger, and therefore to elementary school, they turned, again, to a song we used to occasionaly sing in those days. I looked up the lyrics, and found the last verse striking; perhaps I was looking too hard for relevance but I am drawn to it nonetheless. With those apologies (and any more wished for) offered:
    These mighty men labored by day and by night
    Matching their strength ‘gainst the river’s wild flight
    Through rapids and falls, they won the hard fight
    So roll on, Columbia, roll on.

  17. We pray for one last landing
    On the globe that gave us birth;
    Let us rest our eyes on friendly skies
    And the cool, green hills of Earth.
    Robert Anson Heinlein, The Green Hills of Earth
    I am in unashamed tears. We were watching the de-orbit burn here… argh… agony…. but we must keep launching… we must keep flying. We must.

  18. I had only passed my second birthday when the Challenger trajedy occured. However through my love for space exploration, (eventually fueled by Star Trek when I was only ten), I learned what I could. In the aftermath of todays events I would still want to be the next person on on a space shuttle.
    At first I didn’t understand the tribute you put up this morning to the Columbia shuttle crew, and then I saw the news reports on CNN. Even though I wasn’t personally affected by the Columbia trajedy I cried anyway. My heart goes out to everyone involved and I prey for their stregnth in the days to come.

  19. Maybe from the brave crew of 7 and our loss we will learn. They have taught us that even though they all came from different backgrounds, cultures and religions they came together for the good of ALL man kind. They went in peace I hope we can do the same!
    I hope we will keep the dream alive & continue to fund the space program. We should never lose sight of the fact that they were pioneers to a better future for ALL.

  20. I’ve just heard about this and my heart goes out to the families of all seven of the crew members.
    Tragedy really makes one stop in our tracks to think about life…

  21. What a sad day for all of us.
    I was in elementary school when we lost Apollo on the pad. I had just finished college, had my first “real” job when I turned on the TV and watched in disbelief as Challenger and her crew fell back to the Earth. This morning as I watched Columbia streak across the screen of my TV, I couldn’t believe the loss of these heros.
    Remember them always and keep them and their families in your prayers.

  22. God Bless everyone in space travel and that they will have safer journys than these people. I hope they are with Him! thanx Wil for posting this!

  23. There are no words to express the feelings that well up within me when I hear such news. I can think of no comforting words for family, friends or colleagues. I can only say in all honesty that I will pray for them, while to some that may mean little it is all I can do. I cannot imagine their grief for it must be a infinity removed from the sadness and grief that I, having never met these people, feel.
    When words fail,
    At times such as these,
    Draw close to one another,
    Be there,
    For one another,
    For when words fail,
    As they do now,
    Can be a healer,
    When held together in love.

  24. Tragic. A week ago my students read a story about the Challenger. They weren’t born at the time, but I told them I would always remember where I was when it happened…7th grade Math. Unfortunately, they will remember this day as well.

  25. What annoys me is the Media trying to pinpoint this on terrorist actions. Damn you Murdorch News. Unfortunately, events like this will happen in our time, as no form of exploration is 100% safe. If it was, then we would not have see any advancements on the Roads, or Air, or even Naval travel. Hopefully the search will go on. It is a setback, a terrible setback, but we cannot allow one event to dictate the future. If we did we would never progress anywhere. I hope the journey
    will continue.
    Perhap’s it’s easy to say that as a European, as we have no real space travel program (I’m Welsh by the way)but i can only hope we learn from this grave mistake, and make our way into the future.
    Sion B

  26. “No grave or tombstone do they need, for their memory will survive
    “As long as we fly beyond the sky and keep the dream alive.”
    –“Keep the Dream Alive”
    If you ever dreamed of going into space, if you still want to visit Luna City before you die, if you believe that our species canNOT keep all its eggs on one planet, write your Congressional representatives and urge them to support the space program. All of our fallen astronauts, I am sure, would vigorously protest their deaths being used as an excuse for us to give up. Give them the only memorial worth having–a strong space program.

  27. I have no fitting words. Only these…
    It feel like i did when i was five and watching Challenger.
    My heart goes out to the families of the shuttle crew and all those at NASA.
    In the pursuit of science, knowledge and truth these people united for this common purpose.
    They came from diverse backgrounds and overcame tremendous odds to gain their place on the shuttle and gave their lives for a program, an ideal, they believed in.
    Although not from the US or Russia, the manned space programs always gave me inspiration and hope that something better can come from the stars and from the human endeavour to reach them.
    Today this hope will not be dimmed.
    It will shine on as it has always done, in their memory.
    Thank you Columbia.
    Best Speed.

  28. I am old enough to remember Apollo 1, President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King (though I was very young… the images of Walter Cronkite on CBS explaining how JFK was killed remains as one of my earliest memories).
    I’ve often dreamt of space travel, and was at the unemployment office on January 28, 1986, having been laid off from my dream job (in commercial art) the day before. I let a lot of dreams go to the wayside that year….
    Now when Littleguy hopes and asks about who will take up the mantle… I hope everyone who can will.
    We never thought to worry about space shuttles until Challenger exploded… then we had it brought to us again. The seven folks who were on Columbia today were fully aware that things aren’t always perfect and they still wanted to be able to experience something less than 500 people on this entire GLOBE has done… to be weightless and work for our world from space.
    We never thought to really consider how dangerous the job for police, fire and rescue workers was until 9/11 — when they were just doing their job no matter the risks… now we painfully remember every time we hear a siren or see a police car or fire truck buzz by.
    We never thought re-entry was dangerous for the shuttle, but as I reminded my co-workers today, we have been flying with 22 year old technology…. hoping that the old work horses would fly no matter what, with every administration since Nixon cutting NASA’s funding and mission.
    We must continue to aim for the stars… our future is still there.
    I only wish I were young enough to restart my dreams that I always wanted to have lead me into space.
    Those of you young enough to rekindle your dreams no matter what it is… don’t forget to do it… you will never regret your life and you will serve others, no matter what the dream.
    Godspeed Columbia and my condolences to their friends and family.
    — B. Martin
    Corpus Christi, TX

  29. The following is na extract from my blog, but I think is relevant to this discusion and as such, I’ll post it here as well. These are my thoughts on todays accident. I haven’t gone in to depth eulogising (sp?) the crew, there are people more skilled that can do that better.
    My condolences go out to all those directly effected by this tragedy, but I also have a sense of grief for all of us. While my thoughts should really stay with the families of the shutle crew, they can’t help but rush ahead to what this means for all of us.
    NASA’s fleet of shuttles is aging, Columbia first flew in 1981 (over 20 years ago). Most of us would not keep a car this long, far less something as advanced and as complicated as the shuttle. Recent years have also seen NASA’s run in to funding problems. If these problems have contributed to this disaster (and I do consider this a disaster) then the future of the fleet will surely be called in to question, and with it endevours such as the international space station and any future manned mission’s to the moon (or in the more distant future Mars).
    If NASA can’t financially support its fleet of shuttles then they may have to be shut down (or at the very least reduced in numbers). While the crew excepts a certain risk on a shuttle mission, this is a risk backed up with the best safety and security money can buy. If we can’t afford the best we can’t ask the crew to risk themselves, it would be wrong to do so.
    You could make an argument that sending a man or woman in to space isn’t really necessary, that enough of the tests they would run could be automated and the argument may well be valid. But to me there is another side to sending people in to space. It represents an achievment, something near impossible that the enginuity of mankind has overcome, to retreat now back to unmanned satalites would be to admit that we aren’t ready to play out there. We are allways reading news articles about new discoveries in space (from looking back at the begining of time to the search for other habitats that can support life, from the serious to somewhat gimicky), these articles help show us that were not all there is, they give us a sense of wonder.
    To me space is an extremly personal experience. It is unlikelly I will ever go there, but I dream about it. Endless open vistas stretching before my imagination, fuelled by the facts scientists discover. If people of different nationalities and genders can get along in a cramped space station then it can’t be impossible for us to do the same on earth, where we have more space to spread out and be ourselves. That sounded a little trite, but I hope you can understand what I mean. Space is a golden horizon that pulls many of us onwards, making us strive to end up in a world society that values and desires to explore and utillise (but not exploit) the oportunities it can give us.
    In short, NASA (and its equivalents across the world) need more money not less. If america can’t support its shuttle fleet, we’ll all loose. Sounds a little one sided, perhaps its time other countries tried to help America (or one of the other space faring nations) financially. I would support a small increase in my taxes to support space exploration and research as long as all this research went in to the public domain

  30. I was in tears and shock this morning when I heard the news. I’m from Australia, but space exploration has been at the very centre of my life since I was born. However, I’ve been deeply gratified to see just how many people support the space program and what it represents, not just to our friends in the US, but to the people of the world.

  31. ……and know the place for the first time
    through the unknown, unremembered gate
    when the last of earth left to discover
    is that which was the beginning;
    at the source of the longest river
    the voice of the hidden waterfall
    and the children in the apple-tree
    not known, because not looked for
    but heard, half heard, in the stillness
    between the two waves of the sea.
    quick now, here, now, always–
    a condition of complete simplicity
    (costing not less than everything)
    and all shall be well and
    all manner of things shall be well
    when the tongues of flame are in-folded
    into the crowned knot of fire
    and the fire and the rose are one.
    –t. s. eliot
    from the close of his Four Quartets
    it’s on my closet door, this quote wil gave to all of us again. a few years ago on thanksgiving, a company took out a full page ad in the local paper, and all that appeared there was the poem. so i saved it. it rings, now.
    even so
    te deum laudamus
    dona nobis pacem

  32. when the challenger went, i was about three weeks out from my 16th birthday. We watched it in my 1st period social studies class. We watched it blow up. Imagine a class of 40 kids, stunned into silence. For the entire day. We’d open our mouths to say something, and nothing would come out. A choking sound, a whining sound, the sound of speechless shock.
    And the loss of Ramon. The loss of Petr’s picture. The loss of a torah that survived Bergen-Belsen. On top of the other six- gods, what an utter shame. L’Chaim!

  33. I am typing From Australia,and we had an experiment on the shuttle to do with spiders and there effect on them spinning a web in space,this was run by a high school about 10 minuits from were i live..We here in Australia are deeply saddened by what happened

  34. It is a crying shame, that the countries of this world can not put their petty differences, endless bickering, and senseless grudges aside, even if just for a little while, and concentrate all of their combined efforts, talents, and intelligence on a common goal, with that goal being space exploration and colonization, and bringing to life the very dream of our friend Gene Roddenberry, God rest his soul, to a reality. Infinite possibilities in infinite diversity was one of the defining visions in the Trek universe, and while much of the technology in the show most likey could never be possible in this lifetime, at least the founding principles of cooperation and diversity could be achieved. These 7 astronauts, just like all of those before them, and all of those that will follow, for a brief instant in infinite time, set aside all of those differences and worked together to achieve something wonderous, something that many of us on this Earth today will only be able to dream of. And it is these people that we, not as Americans or Canadians or any other nationality, but as members of Humankind, should strive to be like in everything we do, from the simplist tasks to the most complicated endeavors. It will be then, and only then, when the people of this world will be able to achieve things more wonderous than we could ever imagine…

  35. My life is so pathertic and sad, I need to make myself feel better by mocking the grief of others. Please pay attention to me.

  36. In Robert Heinlein’s early work “Requiem,” the hero dies in a successful voyage to the moon. He is buried on the lunar surface by companions who have no grave marker other than a shipping tag for a compressed air cylinder. When Mr. Heinlein died, he was, according to his instructions, cremated and his ashes scattered at sea from a US Navy warship. Some feel it would be appropriate to honor him by placing a pint of seawater and a shipping tag, inscribed with RL Stevenson’s “Requiem” (which follows), on Mare Imbrium.
    UNDER the wide and starry sky
    Dig the grave and let me lie:
    Glad did I live and gladly die,
    And I laid me down with a will.
    This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
    Here he lies where he long’d to be;
    Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
    And the hunter home from the hill.

  37. Thank you for the kind words Mr. Wil Wheaton. Reminding me to enjoy all of life’s joys and discoveries day by day because others have died so that I may do so.

  38. I don’t know about anybody else…but I want to be up amongst the stars some day. Dare to dream dare to imagine…then do it!

  39. Wil:
    Thank you for the fitting words; God Bless the
    souls of the Columbia Crew.
    As for the seven-letter word who wrote in at 6:13pm-consider the source-not worthy of being on the same page as the magnificent souls lost in the atmosphere today.

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