The space shuttle Columbia, traveling 12,500 miles per hour as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere after a 16-day science mission, disintegrated in flames 200,000 feet above north central Texas today with seven astronauts aboard.
A senior U.S. official told the Associated Press that “it’s gone” and the astronauts were dead. He said NASA officials have recovered parts of the shuttle on the ground. Parts of the shuttle have landed in a field not too far from the house.
The last week in January seems a cursed week for NASA. Jan. 27, 1967: Astronauts Gus Grissom, Edward H. White and Roger B. Chaffee die when a fire sweeps their command module during a ground test at Kennedy Space Center.
Jan. 28, 1986: The space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after launch, killing all seven astronauts aboard, including Christa McAuliffe, intended to be the first teacher in space. Other astronauts killed were Francis “Dick” Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair and Gregory B. Jarvis.
And then today. Which granted is the first day of February, but still within a week’s span of the other accident dates. In memory of the scientists lost to the world today, I leave you with one of my favorite poems:
“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 unsurpassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God. ”
Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941