Chair Force Engineer

Monday, July 30, 2007

In Memoriam

It's taken me a while to put together anything to say about the Scaled Composites tragedy. Unlike a lot of the voices in the blogosphere, I never knew the men involved. That has made it difficult for me to add anything to the memorials that have already been delivered so eloquently.

I can only speak to what I have seen from the hard-working and dedicated technicians I have observed. Recently, I was teaching the Space Exploration merit badge to a group of Boy Scouts. One of the things I stressed was the role of technicians in making the world go 'round. For everybody who gets the glamorous job of "riding the rocket," there are a thousand people standing behind that astronaut and making sure that everything runs like it should. Eric Blackwell, Todd Ivens, and Charles "Glen" May stood behind SpaceShipOne as it made its magical campaign to win the X-Prize, and they poured their souls into its successor, SpaceShipTwo. It is in that spirit that we celebrate their lives, and the spirit in which we pray for the recovery of Keith Fritsinger, Gene Gisin, and Jason Kramb.

Some people have commented that this accident ends the honeymoon that space tourism has enjoyed, and that this emerging field had somehow lost its innocence. The horrific accident last week wasn't inherent in the nature of the space business. It was an industrial accident that could happen with anybody who was working with pressurized gas. It was indeed a tragedy, but it should not be exploited as a way of regulating into obscurity the cause that Eric, Todd & Glen devoted their lives to.

When Columbia was lost, I took note of God's covenant with Abraham, that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. I also like to interpret that covenant as a statement on mankind's destiny, that we will live among the stars. The tragedies we have faced since then cannot derail us from that destiny. At this time, I should add that we are giants, because we stand on the shoulders who have come before us. The first human to be born off this earth will owe a small token of gratitude to men like Eric, Todd and Glen. They lived on the leading edge of the new space revolution. Their sacrifice will not be in vain.