Download Mike Reagan Mug Photo Michael Reagan, 2/1/2003 [Archive]

They've Gone Home

When I watched the tragic story of the Columbia space shuttle unfold, I recalled how my father reached out to comfort a grieving nation 17 years ago in the wake of the Challenger disaster and the seven astronauts who perished.

On January 28, 1986 he spoke of the courage it took for the shuttle crew to challenge the dangers of space, telling us that: " they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly."

Speaking of the seven heroes of that disaster: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe, my Dad emphasized their courage in the face of the dangers which each of them understood clearly, and their willingness to go forward in the full realization of the incredible hazards that lay ahead.

Today, George Bush also sought to comfort a grieving nation as Americans recoiled in horror over the fiery end of the Columbia mission.

Speaking from the White House he reiterated my dad's theme of 17 years ago, saying that the astronauts had a "high and noble purpose in life," and noting that those who died aboard Columbia were fully aware of the terrible risks they faced, but nonetheless went willingly into space on a mission of exploration in service of all humanity.

Both my father and President Bush stressed the monumental exploration being done by NASA and that the reason why we are what we are today is because of the courage of explorers such as Columbus, Drake and Lewis and Clark. We have never stopped exploring and America's astronauts are in the forefront of exploration, boldly venturing into the vast expanses of space and going as the TV show Star Trek said, "where no man has ever gone before."

They go to places in the far reaches of outer space we could never imagine exist, conducting scientific and medical experiments that could produce results which will benefit all mankind. Unfortunately, we have become so accustomed to the frequent comings and goings of space shuttles that we don' t think of the fearsome dangers these men and women face from the moment they don their space suits.

Today while we are once again reminded of those dangers, these men and women who risk their lives to serve and expand human knowledge are the ones who are willing to face those dangers so that we can all reap the benefits of their courageous explorations.

As we contemplate their courage and devotion, we need to pause, honor and pray for the heroes of Columbia: Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla Laurel Blair Salton Clark, and Ilan Ramon

What my father said 17 years ago can be said today: "We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them . as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'

And we can be comforted by President Bush's words today that while Columbia did not return safely to Earth, "we can pray they are safely home."

Which they surely are.



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