Some months ago, I posted a blog item that talked about the launch of the space shuttle and how I freeze when I hear the words “Go at throttle up,” at which point the Challenger blew up in January 1986. Those words still make me stop what I’m doing during launch.
Today, the shuttle Discovery came home. It streaked across the United States en route to a safe landing in Florida. The shuttle program only has three more missions before it comes to an end in September.
These landings do much the same for me as the launches. I now stop what I’m doing when the shuttle is coming home, recalling what happened that terrible day in February 2003 when the Columbia broke apart over Texas on its way home after a 16-day earth orbit mission. The mission commander was Amarillo’s own Rick Husband.
Both events, the destruction of Challenger and Columbia, remind us of how dangerous these missions always have been. They’ve never been “routine,” yet we’ve become bored by these missions. How sad.
I truly wish we could rediscover the excitement of those early Mercury and Gemini missions and the first half of the Apollo program; you’ll recall that NASA canceled the moon missions after Apollo 17 because the nation no longer was interested enough in space travel to justify the expense of sending crews to the moon and back.
This morning, I felt the excitement — as I always do — when a space ship came hurtling out of orbit toward a feather landing in Florida.