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Pioneers gave lives for space

Guest Column/Peter H. Diamandis




Yesterday seven pioneers gave their lives, dying, as have many frontiersmen of the past, in pursuit of personal ideals and goals. Their dream, shared by many in the MIT community, was to bring the day closer when space is accessible to everyone, the day when the full benefits of space can be realized for all mankind and human culture is finally transplanted from the cradle of Earth out to the stars.

At this time, more then ever before, our efforts in space must continue boldly. We can pay these astronauts no better tribute than to carry out the dreams for which they died. All seven astronauts understood the sobering danger they faced, yet each freely volunteered and would do so again.

In the wake of this tragedy, I fear that some will rally around the disaster like vultures, pointing to the space program's cost and inherent dangers, demanding that we slow down or cease our space activities. It is true that the vehicles do cost over a billion dollars apiece, and do ride on the most advanced computercontrolled explosion to date; but it is also true that we accept the costs and risks because of the vast benefits which we believe outweigh them. The space program is still in its infancy, barely 25 years old. As with every epic adventure, our journey into space is bound to encounter hardships.

As Americans, we owe the very existence of our country to the thousands of brave pioneers who died in the 16th and 17th centuries, struggling to colonize a new land. Like those early settlers, we must persevere. This tragedy must not become the downfall of our space program, but the event which focuses our commitment to make the exploration and development of space a reality.

(Editor's note: Peter Diamandis G is the founding chairman of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space, an international organization.)