The Space Shuttle Challenger shortly before the explosion of one of the solid rocket boosters that would destroy the spacecraft.
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.
The world stood in astonishment
in those early years
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
compared to the gift that you received
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
And you saw us
standing together in countless blessings
harvesting countless miracles
in His Garden
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
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
become a poet’s heart
You struggle for the words
Your voice speaks
in analog of digital trajectories
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.
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Daniel Brenton is the creator/author of the 5 Second Novel series, co-author of the space race thriller Red Moon (with David S. Michaels), and is the author of the satirical column The Round Files, published in Stuart Miller's short-lived Alien Worlds Magazine.
Despite being a writer, Daniel has no cats at this time, is unwilling to become an alcoholic, and has a very difficult time keeping a straight face while writing about himself in third person.