Tribute to Columbia
I personally watched the US Space Shuttle Columbia lift off on it's very first mission in April 1981. We stood on the shore of the river only 3 miles from the launch pad and waited in anticipation. I had my astromomy telescope ready and zoomed in on the soon-to-be orbiter and then zoomed in even further on the engines, waiting for "Ignition Sequence Start!". Then the water-supression system started spraying, the Columbia's engines lit up and ran for five seconds, the solid rocket boosters lit off and the smoke and thunder increased. In a second she started pulling up in to the air, lifting off from the launch pad and off to the achivement of man's first reuseable space vehicle.
Like all the other people there, I watched it climb into the sky on a trail of flame and smoke. When it went too far downrange, I tracked Columbia with my telescope and watched it with my own eye as it streaked away. I even saw the solid rocket boosters fall off at what I think is 25 nautical-miles downrange.
Now, 28 missions later, she is gone. Like the Challenger before her, she has "slipped the surely bonds of earth and touched the face of God." Seven bold and courageous people died with Columbia on Febuary 1st, 2003. They were absolutely America's brightest and best. Their death was not their fault and will not be forgotten.
Tribute to Challenger
On January 28, 1986, a few hours after the descruction of the US Space Shuttle Challenger in the sky above the launch pad, President Reagan addressed the nation and said these words better than I could say:
Last modified: 16-March-2013