After Columbia, Continue to Boldly Go Forward, by Jerry Brooks


A New Visions Commentary paper published February 2003 by The National Center for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web Reprints permitted provided source is credited.

Being a pioneer in anything has always been a risky proposition. Throughout history, those who have dared the seemingly impossible have had to endure everything from doubters and ridicule to hardship and unforeseen dangers.

Christopher Columbus, the Wright brothers and Lewis and Clark are just a few examples of the numerous pioneers who risked everything – even their very lives – to create opportunities, expand our base of knowledge and discover new worlds. Their accomplishments were done so that humanity as a whole could experience what happens when boundaries are crossed, barriers are shattered and possibilities become realities.

For the seven brave souls of the space shuttle Columbia, their lives are a tribute to the ongoing human adventure of discovery and a testimony of the true meaning of courage. They knew the risks yet took the chance anyway – regardless of what could transpire. They will take their place in history amongst our greatest pioneers.

As President Ronald Reagan did when the Challenger tragedy struck on January 28, 1986, President George W. Bush became our nation’s chaplain-in-chief. He brought a measure of comfort to the sorrow of many Americans who mourn the loss of those seven intrepid explorers on February 1, 2003.

Some people speculate this may be the end of the American space program. I don’t think so. The advances that have been made in the arenas of technology and medical research far outweigh the risks that are inherent in the realm of space exploration.

An explorer’s curiosity and thirst for knowledge can never really be quenched. Therefore, our nation’s space program will continue. We will learn what happened to Columbia. Mankind and the machines he builds are not perfect, but we can always learn something new and do our level best to ensure that another tragedy of this magnitude does not occur again.

For David Brown, Commander Willie McCool, Kalpana Chalwa (who was born in India), Lt. Colonel Michael Anderson, Dr. Laurel Clark (a physician), mission commander Colonel Rick Husband and Colonel Ilan Ramon (the first Israeli in space and a hero in his native Israel), your enthusiasm, your passion for knowledge and the sacrifices you made will not go unnoticed or forgotten by this journalist, this nation or the world.

Future astronauts amd all Americans can learn a great deal from the Columbia’s crew. In spite of the potential dangers and problems that may arise, embrace the courage and the determination of the Columbia crew and continue to boldly go where no men have gone before. That would be a fitting legacy of the Columbia.

May God grant His comfort to the families of the crew, the nations of Israel and India and the American people as we honor these brave men and women for their sacrifice and courage.

(Jerry Brooks is a member of the National Advisory Council of the African-American leadership network Project 21 and a former television/radio/print political commentator in Portland, Oregon. He can be reached at [email protected].)

Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.

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