Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Ignition.

And we have lift-off!

The shuttle climbs higher and higher, at first seeming to creep up into the air, but then, moving faster and faster. Finally, even those who are states away can go outside to see the vapor trail as the shuttle exits our atmosphere and becomes a space ship.

As we watch the shuttle fly out to the great beyond, we journey with the pilot and the crew in our imaginations. We can go to see the live feeds of views from space, and we learn the stories of the crew as they journey through the battle of living with only a shell between them and oblivion.

The ignition is the point at which there is no turning back. Once the spark hits the fuel, and they mix to become a force strong enough to lift the thousand ton shuttle, there is no way to shut it off.

It is the point of no return. The only way to return is to take the journey.

Sometimes the ignition, and the carefully controlled explosions of lift-off, are not quite right. Occasionally more fuel catches fire than it should. The ship explodes. The crew die in a frightening blaze of glory. All who watched the ship, who were expecting an exciting space-filled journey, end up with a gaping hole, and we experience the truth of the emptiness of space. And then we turn to the news anchors, searching for a foundation, for something solid that we can use to support us and keep us from drifting in times of sorrow.

In spite of the possible heartbreak, we continue to watch. We continue to build ships and dream of more ways to venture out. We remember the devastating disasters of the past, and we honor the memory of those who died by continuing in their legacy. We do not cease to explore. We continue to venture into the unknown.

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