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The Green Hills Of Earth, Thread for The Shuttle.
February 1, 2003 | Luis Gonzalez

Posted on 02/01/2003 7:17:13 AM PST by Luis Gonzalez

The Green Hills of Earth

Let the sweet fresh breezes heal me
As they rove around the girth
Of our lovely mother planet
Of the cool, green hills of Earth.

We rot in the moulds of Venus,
We retch at her tainted breath.
Foul are her flooded jungles,
Crawling with unclean death.

[ --- the harsh bright soil of Luna ---
--- Saturn's rainbow rings ---
--- the frozen night of Titan --- ]

We've tried each spinning space mote
And reckoned its true worth:
Take us back again to the homes of men
On the cool, green hills of Earth.

The arching sky is calling
Spacemen back to their trade.
And the lights below us fade.

Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet ---

We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the friendly skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

Robert A. Heinlein

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: columbiatragedy; feb12003; nasa; shuttleexplosion; spaceshuttle
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We pray for one last landing
On the globe that gave us birth;
Let us rest our eyes on the friendly skies
And the cool, green hills of Earth.

1 posted on 02/01/2003 7:17:13 AM PST by Luis Gonzalez
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To: snopercod
You introduced me to this poem.
2 posted on 02/01/2003 7:20:30 AM PST by Luis Gonzalez (The Ever So Humble Banana Republican)
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To: Luis Gonzalez
That's beautiful, Luis. God is welcoming them home. What a terrible loss.
3 posted on 02/01/2003 7:22:13 AM PST by Bahbah
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To: Luis Gonzalez
Thank you Luis

God Bless

4 posted on 02/01/2003 7:25:12 AM PST by Fiddlstix (Tag Line Service Center: Get your Tag Lines Here! Wholesale! (Cheaper by the Dozen!) Inquire Within)
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To: Luis Gonzalez
Thank you both.


5 posted on 02/01/2003 7:25:32 AM PST by prisoner6 ( I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered! I am a FREE MAN!)
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To: Luis Gonzalez
Here's a toast to seven more heroes, who died pushing back the boundaries of our Final Frontier. . . .

Excuse me, I have to go off and cry now. . .
6 posted on 02/01/2003 7:28:38 AM PST by Salgak (don't mind me: the orbital mind control lasers are making me write this. . .)
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To: Luis Gonzalez
When I was in high school, I read "Green Hills," and thought about doing it in a poetry-reading contest in a local speech festival. However, I needed 5 minutes of total material, so I wrote Heinlein, asking if he had written any other space poetry. He replied promptly, on a postcard, saying no. That card is still a prized possession, and the quotation now is very fitting. Thanks.
7 posted on 02/01/2003 7:32:56 AM PST by BohDaThone
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To: BohDaThone

"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in thee my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of thy wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by." Psalms, 57:1

8 posted on 02/01/2003 7:34:55 AM PST by Luis Gonzalez (The Ever So Humble Banana Republican)
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To: Luis Gonzalez
I had forgotten. I'm just in denial right now, trying to ignore what has happened as if that will make it go away. I unplugged my telephone.

My heart especially goes out to Ray Knispel, the OTC who launched the Columbia (his first launch, I believe.) He and the other members of the launch team will have to carry this with them forever, and wonder if there was anything that they did wrong.

My heart also goes out to the tile techs and mechanical techs at KSC who will be wondering the same.

There is a lot of crying going on down there right now.

I knew this Forward Tech who was a member of the select "closeout crew". He quit one day and I asked him why. He told me "If I stayed, I know that one day I would load the astronauts into the crew module, and they wouldn't come back. I couldn't live with that."

9 posted on 02/01/2003 7:35:14 AM PST by snopercod
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To: Luis Gonzalez
There was a thread a few days ago about the first shuttle explosion. I meant to respond and say, "shut up!". I remember very well that day and it was not 17 years ago. Impossible, it was just a little bit ago. No way was it 17 years.

It got me to thinking. In general I don't think we pay all that much attention to the shuttle anymore.

Also, there's been no mishap for 17 years, which is good.

But it also got me thinking how in 17 years we are using the same technology. There's been no progress in space exploration or exploitation.

And just now I awake and see the sign of something very bad -- all channels have the same thing.

"Space shuttle loses communication" -- what are they talking about? What's this "loses communication while landing"? Where is it? But I figure it out. It burned up like a meteor. A long trail of smoke is all that's left. It's on all TV channels and it is gripping.

It's a sad day.

10 posted on 02/01/2003 7:36:08 AM PST by tallhappy
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To: Salgak
"Here's a toast to seven more heroes..."


11 posted on 02/01/2003 7:36:18 AM PST by Luis Gonzalez (The Ever So Humble Banana Republican)
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To: snopercod
"There is a lot of crying going on down there right now."

There's a lot of that going on right here right now.

Hard to type.

12 posted on 02/01/2003 7:37:36 AM PST by Luis Gonzalez (The Ever So Humble Banana Republican)
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To: Luis Gonzalez
As we pray, let us also remember the crew that is on board the ISS at this time.
13 posted on 02/01/2003 7:37:52 AM PST by mfulstone
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To: Luis Gonzalez
Nice touch.

One of my favorite Heinlein stories.

14 posted on 02/01/2003 7:38:41 AM PST by The Iguana
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To: Luis Gonzalez



John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bounds of earth

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds - and done a thousand things

You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence.  Hovering there,

I've chased the shouting wind along , and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious, burning blue

I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace

Where never lark or even eagle flew.

And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

15 posted on 02/01/2003 7:38:44 AM PST by dts32041
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To: Luis Gonzalez

This word says so much and embodies the very best aspects of Mankind.


They embody the American Spirit. May God bless them and thier families and friends in this difficult time. And God Bless America.

From time immemorial, man has gazed upon, longed for, and sought the stars. These brave souls, though they have fallen succeeded in thier quest. Never forget that they strived for and achieved thier dream, finding the stars in thier long, bright, quiet beauty and dwelt among them for a time before thier fall.

16 posted on 02/01/2003 7:39:57 AM PST by Stopislamnow
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To: Luis Gonzalez
Like the poem "Flanders Fields"...

Thank you for posting this.

17 posted on 02/01/2003 7:40:55 AM PST by IncPen
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To: Luis Gonzalez
May God hold the crew in the palm of his hand and may He comfort those left behind. This makes me weep Luis.
18 posted on 02/01/2003 7:43:33 AM PST by McGavin999
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To: dts32041
"I'm not going to die ... I'm going Home like a shooting star!"
(Sojourner Truth)
19 posted on 02/01/2003 7:44:27 AM PST by Tax-chick (Christ has overcome the world!)
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To: Stopislamnow; dts32041
Where Never Lark or Even Eagle Flew

I grew up standing in the shadow of the future. Shadows cast by the rocket men and their dream machines; the long, sleek cylinders that would roar their war-cry and spit dragon-fire as they lifted into the sky, parting the very heavens on their way to immortality. Their names were the things legends are made of: Glenn, Grissom, Schirra, Armstrong................ so many more. The rocket men crowded my fantasies that summer as I sat on the warm sands, looking north along the shoreline to the launch pads etched on the horizon. I dreamt of lifting into the sky with them, of breaking free from my earthly confinement and touching the firmaments, of reaching the moon and the stars beyond it.

I came to Merritt Island in 1968, as the nation exploded with violence. There was war abroad and war at home. The explosion was everywhere that year and everything was about change. On TV, the images showed a nation awash with anger and strife, a people at odds with themselves. You could hear it coming from the radio of every Mustang convertible cruising the beach that summer, (……every place she goes is right, flies far, flies near, to the stars away from here) and from every open window. A magic carpet ride beyond comparison for the young refugee boy that was me then; a magical mystery tour of almost epic proportions, my rocket summer of so long ago.

I struggled with everything new, trying desperately to catch up and keep up simultaneously. Things moved so fast in the brave new world I found myself in, a crazy blend of a place left behind forever, and a town where everything seemed possible. Every day was an adventure, every day offered a new challenge and discoveries both thrilling and frightening.

And every day I thought about the rocket men.

Their presence was felt everywhere. Their legendary exploits spoken of in matter-of-fact tones by most everyone, you couldn't go anywhere without seeing their faces on a wall, or hearing their names. As a small family of immigrants observed the time-honored tradition of gathering in front of the TV every night after dinner, the rocket men and the next launch were the dominating topics of the conversation.

Now, years later, I was returning to the little town nestled between the rivers. The black ribbon highway stretched before me endlessly as the years fell behind. Old and familiar sights greeted me as I traveled in time to a better place; a place as alive in my heart this day as those days so long ago of my rocket summer; and slowly, the weight began to fall of my shoulders as I remembered……

The summer sun felt warm and wonderful on my face, and the ocean sent wave after wave to caress the shore. We waited, thousands looking to where the dream machine stood poised to conquer the sky. A perfect bullet borne of fantasy and American might, it was the answer to the questions the whole world asked that turbulent summer of 1968. America looked to the future even in times of uncertainty. The beach was the gathering place for the rocket faithful and the tourists then and we joined thousands, just days after my arrival, and looked to the launch pad and the rocket silhouetted against the horizon, awaiting the unfamiliar monotone coming from every radio around us. I counted down the final few seconds along with everyone else. "" Then everything stopped, nothing moved anywhere; it was as if the earth held its breath. And as the dream machine cleared its earthly confinement the crowd roared with one voice.

There was a subtle change in the pavement that told me I was coming to the exit off the Interstate nearest my hotel, but I decided to drive by it and take the next one. I was going east, to the ocean, the Port and my yesterdays. Everything had changed in the ten years since I had been there, all my old landmarks were gone or hidden behind dozens of new buildings. I had a difficult time making my way to the right spot on the beach, but I got there. I parked the rented Mustang and made my way around the high-rise that was once the best place to park with your sweetheart, to the waters' edge. The moon cast a silver glow on the ocean lighting the night as I stood shivering on the sand, my thoughts wondering once again.

It was bitter cold that December in 1968, at least to me anyway. I was standing on the beach in the coldest winter in my life; I had never felt so cold back in Cuba. There were tens of thousands standing around me, everyone looking north to the pad and to the Apollo rocket.

The dragon-fire exploded under the beast as it roared into life, the sound arriving in waves that penetrated my body to the bone. Then it began to rise, breaking free from the constraints of the launch pad. After what seemed an eternity, the voice on the radio said "We have a liftoff", and all hell broke loose. There was shouting and cheering, and people jumping and hugging one another as we watched the rocket men leave on their way to the Moon. I stood with my eyes fixed on the dream machine carrying the bold adventurers until it disappeared from sight, wishing I were traveling with them.

A light shone on my face interrupting my daydreaming, building security informed me that I was standing on private property and I had to leave. It was late and I needed to find my hotel, so I apologized and made my way back to the car. I had to be up early the next morning and needed some rest, but a thought crossed my mind and I turned back to the middle aged uniformed rent-a-cop. My question took him by surprise.

"Were you here then?"
"What was that Mister?"
"Were you here back in the day?"
"Look, I have no idea what you're talking about. You need to move on."
I pointed north, to the spot in the dark where I knew the launch pad had once stood and asked the question again.
"Were you here then?"
Slowly, his face changed. All the suspicious concern over the stranger asking the nonsensical question faded and a hint of a smile began to surface.
This time he asked the question.
"Were you here then?"

We spoke for a while; he had lived on the Island his entire life. He filled me in on the details of the going-ons in the ten years since my departure. The slow erosion of interest in the launches, the lay-offs and the shutdowns, we talked about the beach and the surfers, he had been one back then, and how they had both changed. He was upset by buildings like this, restricting beach access ""But I have to make a living" he said "so I work here and surf when I can." He said that only the hardcore faithful bothered to come to the beach to watch the launches anymore, but tomorrow's launch was big news, and every hotel room was sold out along the Space Coast.

"It's gonna be like old times ""he said.

The thought of my hotel room being sold to someone else brought the conversation to an abrupt end. We shook hands and said good-bye like old friends.

The room was..........well, it was a Holiday Inn. I sat on the bed watching the news for a while, unable to sleep. I came to the realization that there was going to be no sleeping this particular evening, I had of late learned well the signals of a sleepless night, so I dressed and headed out the door.

I drove to the old house where I had sat and watched Armstrong walk on the moon, the house that had been our first home in the US looked small and plain now. I imagined looking in the window and seeing all of us sitting there, in front of the hand-me-down black and white TV set, watching Neil write history with one small step. I drove by the old shops and the schools, by old friends and lover's houses. I drove looking for that which was lost to me.

The rising sun found me at the beach, and with the first signs of light the faithful began to arrive, the ones that will always be there came to find their perfect spot on the sands, wearing their mission patches like medals, with pride in the history they had helped write. I spoke quietly to the man setting up next to me, and he offered me a cup of hot coffee. He had once been a flight engineer and remembered well the rocket men. We watched the trickle of tourists turn into a flood and I realized I looked like them. Everyone had the same comment to make; no one wanted another day's delay.

The silhouette of the space ship dominated the horizon, and it was bitter cold, like that day in 1968 when I watched the rocket men leave for the Moon. Some of the old feelings came back as the familiarity of the scene washed over me. I was home.

Every radio around me crackled with the familiar monotonous cadence..............."Ten.... nine.... eight.... seven...six...(someone standing next to me asked if I knew the names of the crew members, I could only recall the teacher's name ""It''s McAuliffe, the first name is Christa" I replied as the voice on the radio droned on)……five...four.... three.... two.... one.... zero." Then everything stopped, nothing moved anywhere; it was as if the earth held its breath.

For seventy-three glorious seconds, that cold January morning in 1986 was my rocket summer again. And then I watched it die forever.

The silence was deafening as we struggled to understand what we were seeing. Then the man that had given me the coffee sobbed, and someone in front of him fell to his knees in prayer. People hugged one another and cried soundlessly as we all watched the trails of smoke fall into the ocean.

The crowd left slowly and quietly. What little talk there was, conducted in hushed whispers. I sat there until I was practically alone. Then the tears came in a flood, and I prayed.

I prayed for the seven souls that manned the Challenger, I prayed for their families. I prayed for the technicians and the ground crews then and now whose hard work and dreams had exploded in mid-flight. I said goodbye to my yesterdays, faced my today and prayed for a better tomorrow.

I walked back to my car, hunched against a cold that came from within and turned to face the shore one last time. Standing there on my beach, I saw, in my mind's eye, that wide-eyed young boy I had come looking for, laughing the laughter of untarnished youth, waving goodbye to the rocket men, and to me.

The Challenger crew reached the heavens that morning, never to return and walk among mere humans. They are still up there today. Up there standing in the shadow of His wing; alive in the hearts of all men, women and children who dream of the stars.

Up there "where never lark or even eagle flew".

Luis Gonzalez, written for the fifteenth anniversary of the Challenger explosion.

20 posted on 02/01/2003 7:46:27 AM PST by Luis Gonzalez (The Ever So Humble Banana Republican)
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