No Fear of Ice


They died heroes, yes, but

Did not die heroic deaths.

They died because “Wise Men” who

Should have been their guardians

Had no fear of ice.

There were no stirring fanfares as they died,

No battle-bloodied banners fluttering high

Against a stormy sky, but a crying

Out in rage and fear as all around them

Faithful, snow-white Challenger was torn

To jagged shreds; their heads, I’m sure,

Turned this way and that

In frantic search of answers

As thermal tiles spiralled

Past their windows before their weeping

Shuttle’s sweeping wings

Were wrenched from its shoulders

To tumble from that cloudless sky

Like sheets of tattered paper,

Flipping over and over, over and over

In so-slow motion before slamming into

The slapping waves, countless smaller pieces

Falling like charred confetti

All around, all around, all around…

I saw it moments later –

Almost live, just past five –

Sitting cross-legged by my TV, waiting

Impatiently to see yet another launch

Go flawlessly; waiting for the SRBs,

To quietly peel away, jobs done,

Leaving OV-099 to thunder

Onwards, piercing the balloon-thin

Atmosphere, leaving me and all

Earth’s woes behind, carrying Christa

To within a hand’s reach

Of the gleaming stars themselves –

Instead: an awful orchid bloomed above Cocoa Beach,

An ugly blossom of white and angry red

Painted on the sapphire sky

High above the wide-eyed, puzzled

Crowds, the only sound the click-

Clacking of that famous flip-chart countdown clock

That had read “73” when

Something Had Gone Wrong.

Obviously a major malfunction

A cold voice said, at last.

As if we hadn’t guessed that for ourselves.

In centuries to come their statues will stand

On the ruddy sands of Mars and in Luna City’s

Earthlit parks; one day sleek and shining starships,

Bearing their names, will enter orbit around

Kepler and CoroT’s closest worlds

And all alive in those golden times will

Speak their names with pride.

But that won’t change the fact that they died

Because “Wise Men” had no fear of ice.

© Stuart Atkinson 2011

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1 Response to No Fear of Ice

  1. Pingback: Remembering Challenger… « Cumbrian Sky

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