I was five and a half years old when Apollo 1 burned on launch pad in 1967. That was the first time I realized that people could die in rockets. I thought they were supermen, invincible, and like the Phantom they were the men who cannot die.
But they did.
When Apollo 13- well, we know all about that. It was the most amazingly heroic thing I had ever heard. But memories of Apollo 1 hit me. I was 8 and the news reports of skipping into space, burning up on re-entry or everything else, worried me sick. *More* people were going to die! I cried because I didn't think they were going to live.
But they did.
I grew up with the space programme. It was established before I was born. My learn-to-read books were full of grainy B&W photos of splash-downs, launches, and LtCol. Ed White floating above the world tetherd to his spaceship by the thinnest of cords. All those books had the last chapter that speculated "To the Moon!" A lot of grown-ups said we'd never land there.
But they did and I turned 8 on that day.
Late January 1986, I was laying in bed wondering if it was worth the effort to sturggle through another day as a clerk for State Rail. The opressive heat had made it hard to sleep and I was waiting for the radio to come on to tell me to get up.
The radio came on.
I was out of bed and glued to the telly in seconds. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. 73 seconds... That can't happen! It's the SHUTTLE, for fuck's sake! They don't do
They replayed the same images over and over again. 73 seconds- blam! 73 seconds- blam! 73 seconds- blam! 73 seconds- blam! 73 seconds- blam! Wide angle shots, close-ups, slo-mo... Shuttles don't do that
But it did.
People have been going into orbit for almost 50 years, and it is still
not a routine mission. Things happen, ships fail, and people die.
And when they do we can do nothing but cry.