Posted by: ilanasmith | June 17, 2005

Hero: It’s not just a big sandwich

At Kennedy Space Center, I was reminded how weird I found it when the victims of September 11th were referred to as "heroes".  (I’ll refrain from side-tracking on how I feel about "coward" being used to describe the terrorists.)  Most definitions of ‘hero’ include references to courageous action, and while this certainly applies to the passengers who caused the plane to crash in Pennsylvania, and to all astronauts, it seems inaccurate to ascribe it to all September 11th victims or to restrict it to only those astronauts who died on the Challenger and Columbia. 

The Columbia and Challenger astronauts were also martyrs, but after seeing the pyrotechnical footage of the failures of the early rocket testing, learning about the triumph of skill and luck over general fuck-up that was the first moon landing, and knowing about Apollos 1 and 13, Challenger and Columbia, anyone who steps into NASA machinery is acting pretty bloody courageously in my book.

Especially those Mercury 7 guys.  They heard "So we’re going to take an ICBM, strap you to the front and point it up instead of at Russia" and said "Okay then" and obviously have brass in place of genitalia.

Winston Scott was asked if he was ever afraid on his Shuttle missions – he said that he wasn’t, that ‘excited’ really described how he felt.  He seemed genuine, but I’ve got to think that the ten years between the Challenger Disaster and his missions helped a bit.  The crew that loads into Discovery next month for the first Shuttle flight since Columbia has a great reason to be a bit more nervous.  Overcoming fear about the repeated failure of the crappy old Shuttle technology is heroic.

As a girl-power side-note, I have to say that it seems they’re in the best hands possible.  At the helm will be Eileen Collins, first woman to pilot a Shuttle and first woman to command a Shuttle mission.  Apparently, since the first Shuttle launch, crews have been contributing to a pool to be awarded to the first "perfect" landing. Collins collected that pool on her debut as commander.



    Now it’s your turn :)
    ❤ Tahli

  2. Are you implying that heroism requires intent and awareness of risk? That cowardice implies a perception of danger and a self-interested action or lack thereof to avert it?
    Novel concept.
    Both words are all too frequently used as mere rhetoric – vacant superlative or childish name calling.  I guess the world is full of stupid poopooheads.

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