Archive for January, 2011
One warm night in August of last year, I awoke from a dream about the breakup of the Shuttle Columbia. I’ll write more about this in a day or two, but for now, it’s enough to say that Dave “Doc” Brown was a colleague, friend, and very much a part of the family. He was lost to all of us that February 1 with the rest of the STS-107 crew.
Doc and I knew each other for only a few years, but I learned from him and he from me during that time. Our friendship rested on a shared love for space exploration as much as on shared relationships. He was bright, caring, centered, with an understated and occasionally wicked sense of humor. I miss him (pictured below with his beloved Labrador, Duggins).
More than once before the launch, Doc commented to friends that whatever happened – if “something” should happen – the real tragedy would be if we didn’t continue. We all knew what he meant. No one wanted to think about it.
I have heard his voice and those words more than once this past year, and have struggled with them.
That’s how it was in the early hours of August 31. I opened my eyes and paused a moment, for in the dream Dave stood right in front of me. I picked up my laptop and walked out into the living room. It’s filled with large windows – so I pulled up the shades, laid down on the warm, smooth wood floor, and looked up. It was a clear night, and even with the lights of Houston in the way and tears in my eyes, I could make out a few stars. I lay perfectly still, and in just a few minutes the words found me.
I am extremely fortunate to count among my friends and colleagues several who’ve risked their lives to explore space – and several more who’ve stood at post in Mission Control, keeping watch over spacecraft and crew – totally prepared, tough, and vigilant. One of those in particular has shared a part of his path with me and I with him over the past year, teamed by circumstance. There is a kind of symmetry here, for he was there for Columbia, and was one of those who helped lead NASA back, to Return to Flight, seeing to it that Dave’s challenge was not in vain. Like Doc and I, we two have taught each other, worked together, and shared a passion for human spaceflight. This is dedicated to both of them – to all of them.
So hard, sometimes
to carry it,
that we are not alone,
that others share these dreams.
We build those metal walls, and wings,
train controllers, entrusting “Flight”
to orchestrate the tempo.
Face reality, work the problem.
Stay in the trenches.
Pay the price.
We are the future’s troubadours,
set to wandering by those
who cannot see,
who cannot hear,
who will not commit.
Too cowardly to reach for glory.
I would rather hear the music of a launch -
Would rather watch humankind ascend,
risking all, to scale the heavens.
Bringing me to tears.
Filling me with passion.
Reminding me why we do this,
every single time.
Late at night -
long after the thunder and fire have faded
I remember sacrifice, honor duty,
hold fast to destiny,
and seek some peace in solitude,
reflecting on the stars.
- For DMB, and PSH