Yesterday evening at 6:22 p.m., my husband and I were outside enjoying the lovely fall weather as we waited to see the Antares rocket rise in the southeastern sky, bringing the ORB-3 resupply ship to the International Space Station. As we followed the count-down via my cell phone, our concerns were, in retrospect, trivial. We noted that we might not have a terribly good view, given the amount of light in the sky and the scattering of clouds. After so many years of watching space missions, going back to the days of the grainy black-and-white images accompanied by static-filled audio, I still get excited by our accomplishments in space.
Alas, yesterday evening was not a time for excitement or achievements. Six seconds after launch, there came the explosion.
With it came a reminder that human exploration is now—and always has been—a risky endeavor. Thankfully, this particular setback did not involve loss of life. When I think about the current age of space exploration in which we live, I am always reminded of the hundreds and thousands of years that we humans have sought to explore our world—every continent, the mountains and deserts, the seas, the depths of the ocean. Those expeditions formed the foundation for our own efforts to send out spacecraft to the moon, other planets, and deep space. When the outriggers and sailing vessels, and dog sleds, and other small expeditions set forth in centuries past, those back home waited months or years for word from them. Sometimes there was no word, no painstaking post mortem analysis of lessons learned. And yet, they went on. They tried again. As people do. As we always will.