Thursday, August 09, 2007

Godspeed, Endeavour

Image Source: NASA

Yesterday evening, the space shuttle Endeavour lifted off for a mission to perform more construction on the International Space Station. I missed the launch, as I was riding a bus home at the time, but I wish our astronauts well.

The big story of the mission so far has been that of astronaut Barbara Morgan. Ms. Morgan was selected in the mid 1980's as the backup "Teacher in Space" behind Christa McAuliffe, one of the seven astronauts on the space shuttle Challenger when it was lost during liftoff on January 28, 1986.

I remember the Challenger accident all too well. I was in 6th grade at the time, and was already quite the space enthusiast. All sorts of educational activities were planned during the Challenger flight, starting with the launch, all beamed live into our classroom (and thousands of other classrooms across the country).

We didn't watch the launch of Challenger, though, because of a snowstorm in eastern Pennsylvania that closed schools for the day. I forgot about the launch (which I could have watched on CNN), but spent most of the morning sledding and enjoying the snow day. It wasn't until around lunch that my mom called and said she heard something over the radio about the space shuttle in the Atlantic Ocean that I turned on the news to learn what had happened.

Sometimes I'm amazed that, twenty-one years after the Challenger accident, NASA is still struggling with questions of vision (where are we going with manned space flight?) and culture (whether it be astronauts and alcohol or the design of our next space capsules). It is good to see that, despite the bureaucratic nightmare that is government-controlled spaceflight, the individuals inspired to travel into space (like Barbara Morgan) still are able to live out their dreams and help humans reach for the stars.

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