In 1985, my father decided to apply to the journalist-in-space program. We knew he'd have no chance of being accepted, but the fact that he could apply to be an astronaut was just too good to pass up. So he filled out the paperwork, got a bunch of recommendation letters (including one from Isaac Asimov), and sent it in.
Finally, he received a postcard in the mail telling him that his application was complete and that they would begin processing it. The date he received that was January 28, 1986. The day of the Challenger tragedy.
On January 21, 2003, I discovered that NASA was restarting their educator astronaut program. Being a teacher, I decided to apply. The only sticking point is that although I have two Physics degrees and have been teaching for many years, I don't have a state license, which NASA requires. So on Friday, January 31, I discovered that I could get a provisional license if I pass two exams. Problem: the deadline to register for those exams was 5 PM Friday January 31st.
That afternoon, in a fit of rushing, I registered on-line, downloaded a PDF, and signed and faxed a form so I could take those tests this month, in time to get a license for my application to NASA. Like my father, I have no serious belief that I would be selected, but I felt the need to apply. Why? As Nomi put it, "Because it's cool."
And then, this morning, as we were enjoying shabbat, one friend called and another stopped by to tell us of the tragedy. I'm a news junkie, and even on shabbat I want this information. So I'm glad they thought of telling us.
But the news was horrible. I've been following the story of Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut, with great affection and interest, down to the Torah scroll he carried with him from a Holocaust survivor. And now he is gone, along with six fellow crewmembers.
May they rest in peace.