Okay, now - - Personal and historic tie-ins. On 1FEB2003, while Matt was writing his police reports, Holly and I were motoring down Interstate 35. We'd gotten underway early, wanting to arrive at my brother Jerry's place in Georgetown in time for lunch. The music CD in the player ended, and my Belovéd Bride was selecting another. While she did, I punched a few presets on the radio. I heard something about the tragedy which had befallen the space shuttle and immediately turned up the volume. I more or less drove on autopilot while we sat and listened to the tragedy and the news medias' attempts to unravel the available information.
I am struck by a couple of points. Matt closed his post with, "When the ship lifts, all bills are paid. No regrets." This is a quote from “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long,” a segment of the novel, Time Enough for Love, by Robert A. Heinlein . It is precisely suited as a fitting memorial for those brave souls who died while pushing the envelope of space travel, with all that implies.
Then, in 1969, the following line echoed across a quarter million miles of space when the Apollo 11 crew read aloud the plaque they left behind on the moon: "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon July 1969, A.D. We came in peace for all mankind."
I've been unable to confirm that Robert Anson Heinlein had any influence on the writing on the commemorative plaque. We do know that he was present at many NASA functions and that he was welcome in many project offices.
Yes, I'll toast the memory of Columbia and her gallant crew. And I feel much the same as Matt expressed in his closing. Put another way: “Let us not mourn the fact that they are dead. Let us instead thank God that such people lived.”