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That’s About Right


A reader reminds us that the Iraqi nuclear reactor the heroic Col. Ilan Roman helped destroy years ago was built by — who else? — the French.

Re: Children’s Dreams of Space


A reader writes:

Seventeen years ago my son was a three year old. We picked him up
from nursery school one day and the director told us he was playing an
interesting game with another youngster. He would climb on his buddy’s
back, they would both scream “BOOM” and crash apart, apparently
imitating the shuttle Challenger explosion.

Today he is a senior aerospace engineering student. He called this
morning from Houston, where he is on a college co-op assignment at
Johnson Space Center this semester. It was our first word of today’s
tragic news.


Ramon Not The First


Peggy is right about how eerily portentous, in a bad-novel sort of way, today’s events might seem in context of what’s going on in the world, but she makes a slight error. Ilan Ramon was not the first Mideastern astronaut; that honor, if I’m not mistaken, goes to a Saudi prince who went up as a shuttle payload specialist in 1995.

Web Briefing: April 24, 2014

Miracle and Wonder


Peggy Noonan writes on today:

“These are the days of miracle and wonder,” sang Paul Simon in the 1980s. It ran through my head all morning, from out of nowhere, and I think I know why. It has to do with the impossibility, the sheer implausibility, of the facts. We are on the verge of war in the Mideast, a war springing in its modern origins from the tensions of the Arab-Israeli conflict; our president, a Texan, believes we must move on Iraq. The space shuttle that broke up today carried, for the first time ever, a Mideastern astronaut, an Israeli who won fame when he led a daring raid on a nuclear reactor in Iraq, 20 years ago. The shuttle broke up over the president’s home state, Texas. The center of the debris field appears to be a little town called Palestine.

If Tom Clancy wrote this in one of his novels–heck, if Tim LaHaye wrote this in one of his Left Behind books–his editor would call him and say, “We’re thinking this may be too over the top.”


The Arab Streets


A car mechanic tells Reuters (same link): “Israel launched an aggression on us when it raided our nuclear reactor without any reason, now time has come and God has retaliated to their aggression.”

Dancing in The Streets


Here’s the Reuters story about how the Columbia tragedy was “God’s vengence.”

“We are happy that it broke up,” government employee Abdul Jabbar al-Quraishi said.

“God wants to show that his might is greater than the Americans. They have encroached on our country. God is avenging us,” he said.

Holocaust Relic


The image and story of the “Moon Landscape” drawing that was on board Columbia can be seen here.



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”.

Iraqis: You Deserve This


Dan Rather quoted a Reuters dispatch, datelined Baghdad, quoting Iraqis saying that the Columbia disaster was a great thing, that Allah was avenging Iraq. It’s probably better not to say what one really thinks when hearing that. But consider this: America and Israel both suffered tremendous shock and loss this morning. Yet it is good to think about the incredible technological and scientific progress made by free men and women in America and Israel, and the ways Americans and Israelis have put that progress to use for the betterment of their peoples, and indeed for all mankind. What Islamic country can make the same boast? What good have Iraqi scientists done for their country, and the world? Many of those states put their technology to use building virtually nothing but instruments of death, war and destruction. By their fruits ye shall know them.

He’s His Biggest Fan


American Enterprise Institute scholar John R. Lott, Jr., who has written for NRO, has been caught in an embarrassing spot. He invented a fake admirer to defend and advocate online for his book More Guns, Less Crime. A cybersleuth at the Cato Institute caught him posing as “Mary Rosh.”

Safely Home


Homeward Bound


“The crew of the space shuttle Columbia did not make it back to Earth, but we can all pray that they made it home.” — President Bush.

A Child’s Dream of Space


I was deeply moved to learn this morning that Ilan Ramon, the Israeli astronaut killed on the Columbia this morning, had taken into space with him a drawing made by a child in a Nazi concentration camp. It was the child’s conception of what Earth looks like from the moon. That drawing survived the Holocaust and its aftermath, and was kept in Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial site. Now it has perished, along with Ramon and six others, on its way back from space.

Think about that drawing: that Jewish child lived in a death camp, yet he was still able to dream of space, and these dreams no doubt brought that child some small measure of comfort in a world overwhelmed by tragedy, suffering and loss. My own son Matthew, who is three, told his grandmother on the phone this morning, almost cheerfully, “The space shuttle Columbia blew up, but that’s okay, because they’re going to build another one.” He’s on the floor now playing with some kind of foam lawn dart he’s turned into a rocket. “Five, four, three, two, one…blast off!” he keeps saying. Even this morning, he’s still going on, as he has been for the past couple of months (when he first became obsessed with Neil Armstrong) about how he wants to be an astronaut.

Kids and their deathless dreams. God bless them.

President Is Speaking At 2


High Flight


On this terrible, tragic day, it’s worth quoting the whole of the poem from which those lines from the Challenger speech were taken.

The poem, called High Flight, was written by John Gillespie Magee, a Spitfire pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force:

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds 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 hundred things

You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung

My eager craft through footless falls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace

Where never lark, nor 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.”

John Magee, the son of an American father and British mother, was killed in a flying accident in December, 1941. He was 19.

Remembering One of The Seven


Reader Paul Doolittle writes: “Dave (‘Doc’) Brown and me were instructors at the Naval Strike Warfare Center in Fallon, Nevada, in 1992-1994. I’m sure many of your other readers knew him personally as well. I can testify that he had focused his entire life on becoming an astronaut. You can rest assured that he had acheived his life’s dream and died doing what he loved.”

Israeli Reaction


It was a “symbolic” mission there. Some good news in a country used to death and destruction. The Jerusalem Post reruns parts of a lift-off editorial. More here.

The Challenge


Just as we rebuilt the Pentagon in record time, and must build something at the World Trade Center site (it’s taking too long!), we have to put Americans (plus an Israeli) in orbit again–and soon.

The Disaster


I’ve had a lump in my throat all morning. I remember watching the Challenger explode in 1986. I was walking home from my South Florida high school, where we’d been released early in the day because we were taking semester finals. Space shuttle launches are so bright you can see them from far away when the skies are clear. I saw the bright light, the white plume, and then–poof. It was obvious something was wrong. I raced home, turned on the TV, and learned the awful news. My parents were working, and one of the worst feelings was not being able to talk to anybody. I couldn’t even reach people by phone. This morning was different. Everybody was here, and after watching the stark footage for a few minutes, my son asked if we could go play with his knights and his castle. It was good therapy.

Columbia & Iraq


Col. Ramon, the Israeli aboard Columbia, was involved in the Israeli 1981 strike on an Iraqi nuclear reactor.


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