STS107-S-002 (October 2001) — The seven STS-107 crew members take a break from their training regimen to pose for the traditional crew portrait. Seated in front are astronauts Rick D. Husband (left), mission commander; Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; and William C. McCool, pilot. Standing are (from the left) astronauts David M. Brown, Laurel B. Clark, and Michael P. Anderson, all mission specialists; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist representing the Israeli Space Agency.
STS107-735-032 (16 January – 1 February 2003) — The STS-107 crewmembers strike a ‘flying’ pose for their traditional in-flight crew portrait in the SPACEHAB Research Double Module (RDM) aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. From the left (bottom row), wearing red shirts to signify their shift’s color, are astronauts Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist; Rick D. Husband, mission commander; Laurel B. Clark, mission specialist; and Ilan Ramon, payload specialist. From the left (top row), wearing blue shirts, are astronauts David M. Brown, mission specialist; William C. McCool, pilot; and Michael P. Anderson, payload commander. Ramon represents the Israeli Space Agency. EDITOR’S NOTE: On February 1, 2003, the seven crewmembers were lost with the Space Shuttle Columbia over North Texas. This picture was on a roll of unprocessed film later recovered by searchers from the debris.
Later, there will be tears, and perhaps even an understanding of what happened and why. Now, there is only the dull numbness of shock.
The stars, and our dreams of reaching them, have always held – and hold yet – a deep and special place in our hearts. The way there is difficult, achingly so. Our searching spirits have soared in times past. Today we have taken a grievous wound to the soul of that quest. Pray fiercely that it is not a mortal injury, and take every opportunity to lift your eyes high and skyward.
Pray for and bless too, those seven explorers now lost to us. In many ways, there have been connections between us, Elfquest, and the American space program. In 1997, Elfquest was privileged to participate in a small but fulfilling way on the STS-87 mission. To us, today’s disaster is doubly tragic – for Kalpana Chawla, mission specialist aboard STS-107 served the same duty aboard that earlier flight, her first, which was also the Columbia. This mission was her second. Though we never met any of the crew of STS-87, still we felt as if we knew them and shared a kind of bond via Elfquest.
These are troublesome days for all the world, but never lose sight that every trial is also a message being given to us from somewhere. We only need listen deeply to find answers. And the stars continue to shine – and beckon.