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The Tragedy of the Space Shuttle Challenger

February 02, 1986

I know I'm just one of millions who saw the live coverage of the space shuttle launch. On my second cup of coffee, I waited anxiously for the countdown.

Although it had become almost routine, I still expected the adrenaline rush coming with the blast-off of that magnificent creation of modern technology. A strange thought came to mind--how spectacular a mid-air explosion would be. I felt sick to think such a thing. I prayed for the success of the mission and the safety of the crew.

As the engines fired to life and the rocket leaped from the pad, I felt relieved. Beautiful it was, as always. Still, my heart beat fast. The risk is always there, and the souls that make space their challenge know the gamble.

Just over a minute later, when the fireball burst onto my screen, I was shocked. But curiously, I felt no surprise. It's now almost four hours since that tragic moment, and I can just begin to think. The challenge--and risks--have suddenly become horribly real.

I've washed my car and done the dishes. I've flipped frantically between channels trying to get some explanation of the tragedy. Even now, the TV is recounting previous disasters.

How sudden, how horrifying, how hopeless it must have been for those seven souls. Perhaps they felt no pain--but I'm certain they knew an instant of shock, a second or two of complete fear and ugly surprise. On their way to space those seven souls met their end.

I remember that first frantic race to space, between us and the others. And I remember the jubilation of the moon landing. It seemed our destiny. In many ways, it was just a promise. Only time will ultimately tell.

For those seven souls, I still pray. They were among the chosen to expand our frontier, and have given their lives on a journey to the heavens. God will bless them for their courage, and receive them into his loving care. Those of us left, here on Earth, will decide whether the price of conquest is too precious.

LEONARD LAMMI

Los Angeles

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