When Heroes Fall

Sometimes, as in the case of the space shuttle Challenger, we humans become the tragic victims of our own technology.

When such things happen, there isn’t too much we can do aside from lamenting the loss of one of our own and hopefully learning from our mistakes.

It’s often a heavy cross we bear.

The families and friends of the seven astronauts, who died recently in a fireball miles above Cape Canaveral, are bearing that cross now. Though we’re thousands of miles away from the astronauts’ families, we can honestly say we’re with them in spirit.

After years of relative success with the space program, malfunctions here and there were to be expected. But nobody was ready for what happened to the shuttle — at least not in such magnitude and so suddenly.

Where do we go from here? That’s the question that people who witnessed the fatal flight are asking themselves — people like our children, like the technological wizards at NASA.

The only clues to the tragedy lie in the pieces of wreckage being lifted from the Atlantic Ocean bottom. NASA is keeping its recent finds pretty much a secret at this point, but we anxiously await the answers.

Recent reports indicate that the pre-flight, sub-zero temperatures may have had something to do with the shuttle’s rocket boosters exploding. Again, no confirmations.

And the future? Of course, the rational approach is that we move ahead. Such a terrible event shouldn’t deter us from reaching out to the stars, with a new century only years away.

From our mistakes, we can only move forward — a form of tribute to those who died along the way.

Times like these make such a rationale so hard to believe. Yet we must.

Only when heroes fall do we really stop to think about just what it is we’re seeking. But we mustn’t stop and think about it for too long.

We owe it at least to the seven astronauts of the shuttle, if not ourselves, to press onward…

And upward.