We came here, you and I, to this place and this profession, to be great, to do great things, and give form to great dreams – and we have.


Greatness is what we are about.

It’s who we are, and how we want to be, and how we want our world to be.

We knew that there had been set-backs before us, long ago it seems now.


We knew that something called Apollo 1 happened before many of our teammates were born.

That demon of fate stole three people one day in a launch pad test.

Some wanted to cancel the lunar program.

But they didn’t, and Borman, Lovell, and Anders read from Genesis orbiting the moon on Christmas Eve two years later.


Those people back then, whose legacy we continue, worked through it, fixed their problems, and chased the demon away for a time.

He almost got three more on Apollo 13, but they caught him by the ears and wrestled their friends away from him.

He beat us on Challenger.

He beat us bad there, real bad.

They could have cancelled the program, they didn’t have to keep going, that generation could have just stopped flying.

But they didn’t.

They walked in the footsteps of those who had gone before, fixed things and moved on.

We built a space station confounding the critics who said it was too complicated, too hard and would never work.

We had amazing success for 17 years.

And then he got us again.


Up there in the cold thin-air, in a part of the flight envelope you don’t want to be in, he cornered our friends and took them.

And we who are walking in the footsteps of those who lost and won in years past have the task of fixing it, just like they did.

Many years from now when some of the folks working on our teams are walking on Mars, or the Moon, or flying in the cold dark between the planets, that demon will find us again.


He will, because he’s always with us.

…and when our children are having babies and showing them the red landscape of Mars out the window he’ll be there in their nursery, and he’ll take some.

…and when their children’s children are growing up under alien suns and their ships are plowing the void between the stars, he’ll be there too.

…and he’ll win from time to time.



He’s a persistent bastard.

But that demon of fate is a loser.


He’s the biggest loser in the universe because he never stops us.

And the next time he comes he has to work still harder because we keep going and we keep getting better.

When he does win, out there between the stars, and takes our great grandchildren, their families and friends will comfort themselves with stories of those who lost long ago, and picked themselves up and continued on.

They’ll talk about the people who persevered when they lost their friends on that re-entry over Texas.

And we will give them that story to tell, you and I,
because that is what they deserve,
and that is who we are,
and that is why we chose to be here.

Spaceflight mural - Robert McCall

“The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth;
…yet we can pray that all are safely home.”

STS-107 patch

Columbia was lost high above Texas on a clear Saturday morning… her crew returning from a 16-day science mission.

It’s February 1, 2003, but it feels like January 28, 1986.

It’s hard to express the feelings… the sense of loss… the helplessness.

I hope this tribute has helped explain the passion that is spaceflight.

God speed the crew of STS-107.



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