The Shuttle’s Last Flight: A New Beginning

Eight years ago, on a February morn, I was struck by the loss of Columbia on re-entry.  We waited for long minutes, and in the sky above my office the high, thin contrail from the ill-fated orbiter dissipated with our hopes.  Soon, the reports of debris began.

The loss of the crew was sad enough, and I remembered what had happened years earlier when the Challenger was lost during its ascent.  America, for years, seemed to turn away from space.  I walked back into my office, and wrote the following bit of poetry:

Push On!

The Shuttle, the Columbia, is lost
The world is shocked, and frozen now in place
Already timid souls bemoan the cost
And feel we should not once more challenge space

Debris will be discovered, gathered, probed
And theories will spark, then burst in flame
Though causes might not ever be disrobed
Too many will just search for who’s to blame

The seven lost this February morn
Of many countries scattered ’round the Earth,
Would wish to see our spirit now reborn
And keep exploring—go for all we’re worth!

The NASA Shuttle program has been stopped
It may be years before we can advance
But we can’t let this ball be simply dropped!
For future’s sake, we have to take the chance

The veterans Husband, Chawla, Anderson,
And rookies Brown, Ramon, McCool and Clark
Add their names to the journey just begun
And for them, and for us, we’ll keep the spark

More tragedies will challenge our resolve
And some will shy away from tempting fate
But there’s no problem here we cannot solve,
Though risks we cannot all eliminate

I sorrow for the loss of Shuttle crew;
The seven who have blazed a path to space
But for the future lost, I sorrow, too
Inertia seems to petrify our pace

It troubles me; I know what we can do
And yet we don’t; the reason’s partly fear
Three decades past, the future seemed in view,
But thanks to timid minds, it’s now unclear

The NASA folks need mandates to explore!
The planets and the stars await our call
But they’re reduced to “trucks” and little more
The Station’s just a building, after all

These things should be by private enterprise;
The costs would be reduced to less than half
Let NASA look with visionary eyes,
Beyond the needs of bureaucratic staff

Let’s grab an asteroid and make it ours!
The metals in it would transform our world!
Let’s use the Sun, and redirect its powers
With mighty space-borne wings that we’ve unfurled

The Global Warming business goes away!
Sunshine in space is not a fossil fuel
And up in Space, it’s always “sunny day”
Which much improves the solar power tool

It costs too much to lift the mass from here
On Earth we’re at the bottom of a well
But grab a passing rock, and now it’s clear
The task becomes much easier to sell

The Asteroids and Moon have what we need
To build enough to power us for good
And whether we are moved by faith or greed
At least we’ll move beyond the neighborhood

For one day we’ll be visited again
By rocks like those that ended ages past
And if we’re only here, then it’s the end
Humanity would then have breathed its last

Please join with me to tell our team “Push on!”
We’ll bind our wounds, and grow despite our scars
We cannot falter, ‘ere the chance is gone
Our destiny is out among the stars

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

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