This is always a hard anniversary for me. I’ve talked about it before, And I find myself talking about it again, because 15 years later, the memory is just as vivid: I was 24. Still fairly-newly-wed. Working on grad school applications. Still thought I was going to be an astronaut someday. (“Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong.”)
It was a Saturday morning. I was plinking away on the internet in my pjs. I hadn’t paid attention to the flight schedule lately—I don’t think I was really aware there was a mission aloft at that moment. And then my mom called, tearful, to ask if I’d heard about the Space Shuttle. I got online and stared blindly at the photos coming in.
I ran to the NASA homepage to look up the mission. I read the crew manifest. I read it again. One name stuck out in particular, and it took me a minute to figure out why. I flew to my bookcase, grabbed my scrapbook of autographs, and there it was:
Rick Husband. That nice rookie astronaut I met in 1999. (I wrote more about that meeting over here.)
I remember staring at that autograph. Frozen. Nauseated. I don’t remember much after that, except a lot of crying. Grieving. I still mourn the loss of Columbia, and the end of the Space Shuttle Program. (Seven years now; I never really got over it.) I don’t mean to lessen the other two anniversaries with this long account, but this was the one that was most impactful on me personally.
For the 15th time: Godspeed Columbia, and her crew. Their names were Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, David Brown, Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Michael P. Anderson, Ilan Ramon, and Kalpana Chawla.