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Re-reading those lines by Magee, it is their sheer sense of fun that is so striking:

“Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, -and done a hundred things/You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung/High in the sunlit silence.”

Speaking on Fox News, one of the reporters has just been reminiscing about interviewing the Columbia crew as the shuttle circled our planet. The astronauts were, she recalled, exhilarated, “giggling,” excited, “like kids in a candy store”. Yes, we go into space to learn, to satisfy that urge to explore and to know that is one of mankind’s finest features, but, for all the dangers (of which we have been so tragically reminded today) we go there to play too.

There’s an echo of that in a comment by Yuri Gagarin on his return to Earth after that first, glorious, orbit back in 1961:

“I could have gone on flying through space forever”.


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