Ascension

by Daniel Brenton on January 28, 2013

in Space

Space Shuttle Challenger
The Space Shuttle Challenger shortly before the explosion of one of the solid rocket boosters that would destroy the spacecraft.

Start: As my Facebook friend Sam Hobbs reminded me, 27 years ago today the Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-51L) was destroyed in flight due to a catastrophic failure of one of their massive solid rocket boosters. And, sadly, 46 years ago yesterday, the crew of Apollo 1 died in a fire in their spacecraft during a pre-flight simulation run.

(Update, Jan. 29: And, on top of this, 10 years ago as of Friday, February 1, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated on reentry. A tough week in space flight history, this one.)

These are moments that make grown men shed tears, and I confess I am one of those men.

Let me dedicate these few lines to the memories of the crews of the Challenger, and Apollo 1, and the crews of Space Shuttle Columbia, Soyuz 1, and Soyuz 11, brave, brave individuals who have given their lives in our tentative first steps into the final frontier. And, as well, let me dedicate these to all space travelers that have gone before, and will venture forth in the years, decades, and centuries to come.

And lastly — to astronaut Rusty Schweigert, who helped me understand that space flight can change the traveller into something more — and maybe even greater — than he or she was before.

“Ascension”

The world stood in astonishment

in those early years

And marveled

and wondered at this thing they did not understand

Voyagers to the very stars

What skill did you invest

What ingenuity did you employ

to reach the other side

of God’s own sky

Where did you find the anchorage for your pitons

What footholds did you reach within the clouds

Yet the astonishment of the Earthbound

was nothing

compared to the gift that you received

compared

to the gift of your ascension
 

Voyagers to the stars

As you clambered out upon the surface of the sky

And stood upon the clear blue floor of the cathedral of the heavens

As Peter before you in another wondrous miracle

took hesitating steps upon the sea of Galilee

You saw the Earth as God must see it

His world and all her wonders

unmarred by arbitrary boundaries

for He had never drawn them

Your mind was touched

by Infinity

And you saw us

standing together in countless blessings

harvesting countless miracles

in His Garden

There

just beneath the floor of Heaven
 

And now you hurtle through the cosmos

at speeds the intellect may understand

but the heart will never fathom

And circumnavigate

everything we have ever been

in only minutes

And as the overwhelming immensity

of it all

opens the heart you did not suspect you had

You break free of your chrysalis

and unfurl your wings

against the undiluted sunlight

You are transfigured

You are something more and you will never be the same

Voyagers to the stars

You have ascended

Your minds have touched a Greater Mind

Your hearts have felt Eternity

You see so much more clearly than the rest of us

Please help us see as you

You are a pilot

you are an engineer

you live a life of science

But you have entered

into the vault of Heaven

You have listened

as stars have sung cascading choruses

rejoicing in the ecstasy of their own existences

And your heart has been transmuted from steel into gold

it has

become a poet’s heart

You struggle for the words

Your voice speaks

in analog of digital trajectories

in dissonance

of harmonies composers have yet to capture

But here and there

through the persistent spirit

that made you reach beyond the clouds

Here and there

you find the words

you know we need to hear
 

• • •

Copyright © 2001-2013, by Daniel Brenton. All Rights Reserved.

End

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