I have always had a feeling that the human nature is a capricious, yet mystery attribute. Since the beginning of its existence, the men kind has been a curious species, constantly seeking for answers to the questions that could not be solved and understood at the time. On the other hand, the evolution has not been a very cooperative comrade to achieve our goals. Bodies we operate on a daily basis, are not meant to be used on long and risky expeditions. Contrarily to inner desires, humans are designed to dwell in a fairly sedentary fashion. Fortunately, the intrepid necessity for inventions and solutions have overcome the needs of staying in a safety zone. Without the courage of brave men throughout history, we would not have been able to pave the way for modern explorations and new technologies. One of the prime examples of such a solemn behavior was the NASA’s Space Shuttle program (officially called the Space Transportation System (STS) that main goal was to accomplish the Routine Earth-to- orbit crew and cargo transport. Even though, as dangerous as the missions turned out to be, the spacecraft names perfectly described the attitude of the pioneer astronauts – Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Discovery and Endeavour.
For 6 years since the last Space Shuttle mission, the program has been seen as one of the most expensive and the tragic operation carried out by NASA. Two dates, January 28, 1984, and February 1, 2003, are easily recalled as the moments when the world could witness the disasters of Challenger and Columbia respectively. The technical malfunctions took the life of 14 men and women serving, not only for the USA but primarily, for the whole world of science. The evening of the catastrophe Ronald Reagan gave a remarkable speech about the suffered loss and made the sacrifice, later it was ranked as the 8 the best rhetoric ever. The president ended it with a famous sentence:
“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.”
The news about the Challenger disintegration staggered the Americans which 17% of them witnessed the event on the television and 80% listened to the news within an hour of the occurrence. The message was loud and clear, exploration and purse for new frontiers might end up with the highest dedications – the human lives. Even in the wake of such a tragedy president Reagan did not hesitate to state:
“We’ll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.” Each of the crew had a high and noble purpose in life, not only because of their courage, and daring, and idealism, but also because of the choice they willingly took.
And they really did, the program was finally closed after the third mission in 2011, and the total reached 134 STS lift-offs.
The Columbia and Challenger accidents probably could’ve been prevented, however, since these two cases we have a made huge progress in space flights safety and technology. Today, we aim to launch as many unmanned ships as possible. Thank you Mr. Musk, we all are cheering you up… The humans also gained something more – the precious experience. We might have gotten a bit too proud and overconfident about treating the cosmos as the frontier we already owned. Yet another time, in a hard way, we were reminded that we did not. However, these are the moments when you realize there is always room for improvement, there is always a small step to be made. Just like Neil Armstrong said on the Moon while being the first human who could feel the stardust under his feet.
“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”
No doubt, in your life, you will be found in a situation where the only solution is to take a high-risk card. To play a little bit of poker, to go all in. And you know what? Never hesitate to make that choice, just like the folks who were onboard Columbia and Challenger. Strike for being an adventurer looking for new horizons and lands. Once you feel a passion for research and discoveries, in no time, you will start to aim to be the next Buzz Aldrin. Every morning, you will be looking at the stars knowing that your limit is set somewhere else, deep in the outer space. You just to have a little bit of courageousness and curiosity – just like every space traveler.
PS. the list of wonderful NASA craft names goes on: Curiosity, Pathfinder, Pioneer, Voyager, Magellan and Ulysses.
PS2. I want to pay tribute to all of the men and women who have lost their lives while trying to cross the limits of science and human abilities. Unquestionably, without such a sacrifice we would not have been here, as the men kind, where we are. As far as I am concerned, dedicating your existence for a greater purpose is the ultimate lifetime accomplishment.