January 28 – “Not Because They Are Easy”

Today’s factismal: It is National Astronaut Remembrance Day.

This morning, at 11:39 EST, work stopped at NASA. Every NASA center, no matter where it was in the world, went silent. Every NASA worker, no matter what their job, stood quietly. And they all remembered a lesson that NASA has sworn to never forget. They remembered that exploration does not come without cost – and that the cost for a moment of inattention on their part could easily be the life of a colleague and friend.

Today is National Astronaut Remembrance Day. Today was chosen in honor of the Challenger Seven. These bold explorers were headed for space when a series of errors caused in the end by NASA management’s hubris led to the destruction of their spaceship. Sadly, they were not killed when the rocket exploded. Instead, they lived for another two to three minutes as the crew capsule slowly climbed before arcing over and plunging into the ocean. As would be the case for the Columbia crew seventeen years later, they survived the  accident long enough to know how they had been betrayed by those they had trusted to keep them safe. And so, today everyone at NASA stood. They stood to remind themselves that even though we must “do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard” we must not do these things in a way that puts our friends, our loved ones, our honored explorers in harm’s way just because it is easier.

And today I ask you to join those who are standing at NASA. Stand for a moment and recall everything that we have gained from this venture into the final frontier.  And then stand for a moment in honor of those who ventured into that frontier and never returned. Stand.

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