As a child of the infant Space Age, I have always taken an interest akin to awe in the space program. I grew up about 20 miles from Huntsville, Alabama, home of Redstone Arsenal, and where Dr. Wernher Von Braun lead his team of rocket scientists in research that would contribute to the NASA program considerably. Space missions were a big deal back then. One of the few times when a television was turned on in public schools was for the launch or retrieval of a space mission. Each new record set by the rocket scientists and astronauts was heralded as a step forward for mankind. John F. Kennedy vowed to see an American walk on the moon before the end of his presidential decade. He didn’t see it, but the “giant leap for mankind” fulfilled Kennedy’s vow right on schedule. (That is, of course, if the conspiracy theorists are wrong about the theatric sound stage theory.) While I believe there is more than we know about what surrounded the “moon flights,” I do not embrace the theory of such a fraud on space science. Call me too awestruck if you like.
As the news came this morning, February 1, 2003, about the tragedy of the Space Shuttle Columbia, I was overwhelmed with a sense of sorrow for the loss – just as I was when the Challenger was lost in 1986 – but unlike then, I was immediately aware of an inability to accept anything I was seeing or hearing on face value. There are just too many implications and possible effects of this tragedy. While officials broke their necks to put out a message of “no indications of terrorism involved” the media continued to remind us that THIS mission had been the subject of much more stringent security measures than normal, supposedly because of crewmember Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut. My disappointment in and contempt for the mainstream media necessitates analyzing everything they feed us for motive and effect. A quick analysis renders an unmistakable attempt to seed an endless crop of theories.
The news media in a free country is supposed to be above reproach in independent freedom of speech and thought. Report the facts without first filtering them through the fine mesh of political correctness and sanitizing them for evil intent. That is what should happen but doesn’t in today’s media. We never know when we are getting some “doctored” version of the truth – even in the reporting on such a tragedy as this one. We never know what facts the secrecy monitors are withholding, what opinions are stated for psychological effect, or what lengths have been taken to assure an end result in “public opinion.” We just never know, so how free can we be? It is not up to me as a journalistic analyst to sway public opinion. I simply state what facts I know and what opinion they have caused me to form in my own mind. Whether or not I make my case sufficiently is entirely up to those who read what I say.
So, here are the facts. America lost six precious American lives today, and Israel lost one. These were brave men and women doing what they knew to be a dangerous job and thrilled to be doing it. America also lost a multibillion-dollar spacecraft that has been operating since the beginning of the shuttle program – a program with a truly remarkable record for safety.
The proper stance for Americans now is that of mourning.
Investigations will be done and reported on. Theories will be hatched and proliferated. The blame for this tragedy will be assigned both officially and unofficially. The space program will continue and I believe it most certainly should. I am still awestruck by the human commitment it takes to allow man to slip the bonds of earth, reach out and attempt to touch the face of God. I have lived long enough to see so very much – thanks only to the grace of God. If my fellow free humans cannot find comfort in all we have to be thankful for, much of our mourning will be in vain. That would be the ultimate tragedy.