Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pic of the Day: Heroes (7 different ones).

(back row) Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik
(front row) Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair

I wasn't around for the loss of the Apollo 1 crew, but I remember where I was the day the Challenger was lost, January 28, 1986. It was a typical, boring high school English class. The principal made the announcement that the shuttle had exploded and all aboard were killed.

For a few years, I was comforted by the thought that they were killed outright in the explosion of the External Tank. Then I learned that the real damage to the crew cabin--and the event that killed the crew--happened when it hit the Atlantic Ocean at more than 200 miles per hour. I still get chills thinking about that.

The Challenger crew are heroes for the same reason all the space-jockeys are heroes: there's something about a person who will strap himself to a highly-explosive mixture of kerosene and liquid oxygen, or liquid hydrogen and oxygen, or to a pair of solid-fueled boosters that can't be stopped once they're burning. You get in the chair on something like this and willingly ride that metal bomb into space, you're a bona-fide hero, even if all you do is get space-sick. At that point, going to the moon, walking around, driving a moonbuggy, packing up and coming back this way is just gravy.

But once you do all that and come back, you're a freaking LEGEND.

If you don't make's tragedy, but no less heroic, because such people know the risks and take them anyway.

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