The Friends of California Libre...

04 February 2003

Cosmic Yell

Greetings, many friends,
While inspiring so many grim flower-strewn memorials, the destruction of the Columbia is, at least, creating some debate about why we're in space, and why we're still sending up the Space Shuttle. Weren't we supposed to be on the Moon (and the bottom of the sea) by now?

This isn't just about science, but about what the purpose of our society is. We've already trampled all over this planet; now maybe it's time to go wandering to our neighbors. We will also soon come to the reluctant conclusion that Columbia was destroyed by a true accident, a flaw in its design (and yeah, the design of this planet) that could not be avoided; the crew wasn't murdered by faulty parts as the crew of Challenger was.

I suspect that if you had told the seven scientists on the Columbia, "and you won't be coming back", perhaps all seven of them would have elected to go regardless...this is what it means to be an adventurer. Here's a list of some of the people who served as my role models (until I became a sorry excuse for a boheme at UC Berkeley). They didn't die in the name of God or a particular country or cause, and they weren't murdered by an aggressive government or a tyrant. They died in order to advance the entire human race:

The first human being in outer space, Yuri Gagarin (March 1968, aircraft accident)
Test pilots for NASA:
Capt. Milburn G. "Mel" Apt (flying the X-2 research plane at Edwards Air Force Base on 27 September 1956; the first manned flight to reach Mach 3)
Theodore Freeman (October 1964, aircraft accident)
Charles Bassett (February 1966, aircraft accident)
Elliot See (February 1966, aircraft accident)
C.C. Williams (October 1967, aircraft accident)
Apollo spacecraft:
Roger Chaffee, Lunar Module pilot (27 January 1967, Apollo 1 fire)
Commander Gus Grissom (27 January 1967, Apollo 1 fire)
Edward White, Command Module pilot (27 January 1967, Apollo 1 fire)
Soyuz spacecraft:
Valentin Bondarenko (fire during training, March 1961)
Commander Vladimir Komarov (24 April 1967, re-entry parachute failure)
Viktor Patsayev (June 1971, re-entry pressurization failure)
Vladislaw Volkov (June 1971, re-entry pressurization failure)
Georgi Dobrovolsky (June 1971 re-entry pressurization failure)
Explosion at Site 41 during Soyuz rocket testing, Soviet Union, 24 October 1960; 74 people (57 military and 17 civilians) were killed on the launch pad, and 49 injured. With 16 more people, who later died from their injuries, the official death toll rose to 90 dead. Bodies of two soldiers were found outside of the perimeter of the Site 41 after the official list of victims had been submitted, bringing number of dead to 92 people (74 military and 18 civilians).
The Space Shuttle:
Commander Francis R. (Dick) Scobee (Challenger, 28 January 1986)
Pilot Michael J. Smith (Challenger, 28 January 1986)
Mission Specialist Judith A. Resnik (Challenger, 28 January 1986)
Mission Specialist Ronald E. McNair (Challenger, 28 January 1986)
Mission Specialist Ellison S. Onizuka (Challenger, 28 January 1986)
Payload Specialist Gregory B. Jarvis (Challenger, 28 January 1986)
Sharon C. (Christa) McAuliffe, teacher (Challenger, 28 January 1986)
Commander Rick D. Husband (Columbia, 1 February 2003)
Mission Specialist David M. Brown (Columbia, 1 February 2003)
Pilot William C. McCool (Columbia, 1 February 2003)
Mission Specialist Laurel Clark (Columbia, 1 February 2003)
Payload Specialist Michael P. Anderson (Columbia, 1 February 2003)
Mission Specialist Ilan Ramon (Columbia, 1 February 2003)
Flight Engineer Kalpana Chawla (Columbia, 1 February 2003)

Ferdinand Magellan and several members of his crew (killed during the first circumnavigation of our planet)
Juan Cabrillo, discoverer of California (died on San Miguel Island)
Henry Hudson (set adrift in a small rowboat in the middle of the Canadian bay named for him by mutineers, and never seen again)
Charles Francis Hall (died trying to reach the North Pole)
Salomon Andr�e (died trying to reach the North Pole by balloon)
John Franklin and his whole expedition (100+ men) (disappeared while trying to find the Northwest Passage)
Robert Scott and his team (died of exposure returning from the South Pole)
Roald Amundsen, the first to sail the Northwest Passage, the first to reach the South Pole, and the first to cross the North Pole by airship (disappeared in the Arctic on a rescue mission)
Alfred Wegener, German astronomer and meteorologist who gathered the first geological evidence for continental drift and plate tectonics (died of a heart attack during an expedition to Greenland in 1930)

Dr. Wolf Vishniac, a professor of biology at the University of Rochester, New York; designed an experiment used by the Viking probe to search for life on Mars (10 December 1973, fell 500 feet down an ice cliff in Antarctica retrieving slides of nutrients on which microorganisms might have been growing)
Jesse Lazear (died of yellow fever while researching that disease)
Clara Maass (died of yellow fever while researching that disease)
John Bevins, research biologist (11 October 1990, disappeared while radiotracking polar bears in northwestern Alaska)
George Menkens, research biologist (11 October 1990, disappeared while radiotracking polar bears in northwestern Alaska)

Giordano Bruno (burned at the stake for teaching that the earth goes around the sun, and that the stars are other suns)
Galileo, discovered the moon of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn (blindness in part by direct observation of the sun with his early telescopes; early death probably due to his imprisonment by the Catholic See)
Isaac Newton, discovered the laws of gravity and force (went mad due to mercury poisoning)

Marie Curie, discoverer of radium (died of radiation poisoning; her husband Pierre Curie was also dying of radiation poisoning but was killed by an ox-cart)
Georg Wilhelm Richmann (struck by lightning repeating Franklin's famous kite experiment; 6 August 1753)
Karl Wilhelm Scheele (died of exposure to hydrocyanic acid)
Karen Wetterhahn (died June 1997 researching the toxicity of mercury)
Louis Slotin (died quickly of massive radiation poisoning during the Manhattan Project; he saved many other people's lives by prying two blocks of plutonium apart with his bare hands)
Francis Bacon (died of pneumonia contracted while researching the use of snow to preserve food)

David Johnston, 30-year-old volcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey (18 May 1980, swept away by the catastrophic eruption of Mount St. Helens; he persuaded the authorities to limit access to the area around the volcano, and then to resist heavy pressure to reopen it, thereby holding the May 18 death toll to tens instead of thousands)
Maurice Krafft (died in a pyroclastic flow on Mount Unzen, Japan on 3 June 1991)
Katia Krafft (died in a pyroclastic flow on Mount Unzen, Japan on 3 June 1991)
Harry Glicken (died in a pyroclastic flow on Mount Unzen, Japan on 3 June 1991)
January 1993, 6 volcanologists and a number of other people were killed during a volcano workshop in Colombia when Galeras Volcano unexpectedly exploded
March 1993, 2 Ecuadorian volcanologists were killed by an explosion of Guagua Pichincha Volcano in Ecuador

No comments :

Facebook Blog Networks

Valid Atom 1.0!
To subscribe via e-mail, fill out the form at ; for RSS readers, use the feed link at FeedBurner , or this drop-down menu: