Benched, But Not Grounded appears to be missing. Blast! It's by far the hardest of the 7 and the one I least want to recarve, but recarve I shall.
Challenger 7 Park is partly in League City and partly in Webster and is a memorial to the STS-51-L space shuttle mission that resulted in the break-up of the spacecraft and the fatalities of all seven crew members. The space shuttle STS-51-L mission was a PR success story whose crew was chosen as part of NASA's new and controversial commitment to opening the program to women, civilians and to making it reflect a diverse America. In some ways, the crew reflected the new emphasis on space travel as scientific endeavor. In others, particularly in the choice of commander and pilot, it reflected the "right stuff" heroism of the daredevil test pilots of prior generations of flight. On board were two women - one a civilian high school teacher, the other a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering; a Hawaiian of Japanese descent; a brilliant African-American MIT physicist; two military ace pilots; and a civilian engineer employed by Hughes Aircraft. The world watched in horror as relayed footage showed the space shuttle breaking apart in midair, realizing the horror of its inexorable plunge back to Earth, and the implicit fact of the probable death of all seven astronauts. The accident was perhaps all the more tragic as teacher Christa McAuliffe's young students comprised many of the onlookers that day.
A little history will explain the images on the stamps.
**As Yonder As You Can Get**
//Off we go, into the wild, blue yonder
Flying high, into the sun// -- from the Air Force fight song
The spacecraft commander was **Francis R. (Dick) Scobee**. He was born on May 19, 1939, in Clelum, Washington. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after graduation and in 1965 completed a B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Arizona. He received his pilot's wings in 1966 and began a series of flying assignments with the Air Force, including a combat tour in Vietnam, where he earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal, among others. He attended the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, in 1972 and thereafter was involved in several test programs.
Scobee first developed his obsession for airplanes as a toddler, zipping around on a riding toy car with wings. In grade school, he sketched airplanes when he finished his other work. This morphed into the model airplanes that would later cover the ceiling of his bedroom. In high school, a misinformed guidance counselor quashed his dreams of attending the Air Force Academy. This merely lengthened the trajectory of his career, but didn't stop it. A "maverick" who entered flight school from the ranks of enlisted soldiers, it took him longer, but he got there eventually. His second-place class ranking ensured him the first selection of aircraft after graduating from flight school. To everyone's surprise, he chose to fly "heavies," cargo planes & bombers, a choice that had a certain unglamorous personality profile. He typified this, with his non-assuming demeanor and tendency to direct attention away from himself.
Nonetheless, he was a superb pilot, who, according to his wife, June, "didn't care about what plane it was. He enjoyed them all, every plane he's ever flown. The focus was on the job rather than the image." Later he beat out hundreds of applicants and was selected for the elite test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base. In coming to terms with the occupation that saw friends and colleagues die on the job, he and his wife "wrestled with it, [and] each day after that seemed to be a special gift to us. Each day was an extra day. And we both realized that not to do something that you enjoy could be a life and death situation . . . You resolve that we will all die sometime. . . Once you've wrestled with death and got that out of your system, you really become able to face life and enjoy life more." A test pilot's job is to test the endurance of the plane, to push the machine to its utmost, to approach and identify its limits. According to Dick, "You have to risk something to gain something." That philosophy did not extend, however, to Houston drivers. When he moved to Houston, wary of Texas drivers, he sold the motorcycle he used to ride in California.
Uncomfortable with praise, he wrote off claims of his heroism with the comment that he was just doing his job. "It's a real crime to be paid for a job that I have so much fun doing." Yet at the time of his death, the consummate pilot had flown more than 45 types of aircraft, logging more than 6,500 hours of flight time and 168 hours in space. It just doesn't get any butch-er than that.
**Benched, But Not Grounded**
The pilot for the fatal 1986 Challenger mission was **Michael J. Smith**, born on April 30, 1945 in Beaufort, North Carolina. Smith had been educated at the U.S. Naval Academy, class of 1967, and received an M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1968. From there he underwent aviator training at Kingsville, Texas, and received his wings in May 1969. After a tour as an instructor at the Navy's Advanced Jet Training Command between 1969 and 1971, Smith flew A- 6 "Intruders" from the //USS Kitty Hawk// in Southeast Asia. Later he worked as a test pilot for the Navy, flying 28 different types of aircraft and logging more than 4,300 hours of flying time. He was chosen as the shuttle pilot. This mission was his first space flight.
As a child, he built and flew model planes. Despite farm chores that started at daybreak, Smith found time to earn his pilot's license. His first solo was performed on his 16th birthday, ensuring that he had learned to fly before being licensed to drive.
As a freshman quarterback on a high school team struggling to prevent a season's first loss, Smith called a time out from the field so he could watch the ascent of a Marine Corp jet taking off overhead. His coach, losing all patience, hollered, "You want to play football, play football! And if you want to watch planes, you come over and get on the bench with me and you'll have all afternoon to look at them!" Smith's fascination with planes never wavered, and his habit of interrupting practice to watch the airplanes fly into and out of Cherry Point base was legendary.
Smith decided to join the Navy, because unlike those guys who landed on the ground, "I thought I might like to fly off aircraft carriers rather than off runways." During training for Vietnam, he learned to make hair-raising night landings on the carrier. To the men who flew these missions, "fatal risk became a matter not of chance, or bad luck, but a variable to be metered and mastered." (//Challengers// by the staff of the Washington Post, p. 75.) Absolute faith in their skill and a somewhat perverse sense of humor helped them face the very real risks, having "cheated death again in an aircraft built by the lowest bidder."
It seems inevitable that after serving in Vietnam, he would gain admission to the US Naval Test Pilot School. On a test of an F-4 Phantom, his co-pilot and friend, Hugh Wolcott, bored with repeated tests of how the plane recovered from a stall, said, "Come on, Mike, pull on it." Mike yanked the nose up and over the back of the plane and Wolcott found himself upside down. As he righted the plane, Mike said, "You mean like that?" In May of 1980, Smith, in line for command of the attack squadron, was offered a position at NASA.
"Whenever I was conscious of what I wanted to do, I wanted to fly. I can never remember anything I wanted to do but flying."
**Gregory Jarvis** worked as an engineer for Hughes Aircraft Company. He was a competitive man who hated to lose and had an insatiable desire for trying everything. He cycled, played squash, skied and took college courses in whatever interested him in the moment. He had a zest for life that during his college days manifested in hockey games in the dorm hallways with stale bagels for pucks. Says wife, Marcia, "That's what I liked about him. He never grew up. He could live to be 100, and he'd never grow up. Life was never dull." Never a Dean's List student, Jarvis succeeded through unflinching determination undeterred by failure. "He had to work to get grades. He was very intense about his work," noted his wife. When Hughes issued a low-key memo asking for applicants for an available slot on the space shuttle, 600 engineers applied. Jarvis, who had worked closely developing the Leasat satellites Hughes paid NASA 30 million dollars to haul aboard and launch, was chosen. Despite NASA's best intentions to mold them into professional y subjects, both Jarvis and another chosen cohort, Konrad, were as giddy as schoolboys. "They gave up on us pretty quickly," said Konrad. "We were a couple of engineers. Public relations wanted us to present ourselves as best as possible. But we were going to be ourselves."
The East Engineering building on University at Buffalo (SUNY) north campus was renamed Jarvis Hall after Gregory Jarvis' death. In Spring of 1986 when the university had not yet named the building in his memory, four students (Keith Tannenbaum, Jeffy Brenner, Joey Kuperberg and Space Mann) nailed a sign with the name "Jarvis Hall" onto the side of the building as a show of support for the deceased astronaut, and in 1987 the name was made official with a dedication ceremony. Jarvis Hall is devoted largely to Aerospace Engineering and engineering support services.
Wife Marcia had been his partner in all his adventures. Of the many things they tried, bicycling was something both he and his wife reserved most of their time for, joining the biking club, L.A. Wheelmen. Every year, they biked from Malibu 90 miles to Ojai. They vacationed with friends and biked 1,000 miles across Canada on a tandem bike. Every year, Jarvis and his wife biked to the staging area of the Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, CA. Once they arrived, Jarvis immediately went to find the Clydesdale horses. "Greg used to say if he were ever reincarnated, he'd like to come back as a Clydesdale," Marcia laughed. "They were so pampered and so taken care of." After his death on the Challenger mission, Marcia remarked, "Maybe next year I'll go up there and see a big horse with a grin on its face."
**Dr. Judith A. Resnik** was one of three mission specialists on Challenger. Born on April 5, 1949, Resnik was educated in public schools before attending Carnegie-Mellon University, where she received a B.S. in electrical engineering in 1970, and the University of Maryland, where she took at Ph.D. in the same field in 1977. Resnik worked in a variety of professional positions with the RCA Corporation in the early 1970s and as a staff fellow with the Laboratory of Neurophysiology at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, between 1974 and 1977.
Selected as a NASA astronaut in January 1978, the first cadre containing women, Resnik became the second American woman in orbit during the maiden flight of Discovery, STS-41-D in 1984. During this mission she helped to deploy three satellites into orbit; she was also involved in biomedical research during the mission. Afterward, she began intensive training for the STS-51- L mission.
Raised by divorced parents, her accomplishments represented the differing goals they presented in their expectations of her. Mom insisted on piano lessons and knowing her way around the kitchen. She approached both these skills with her typical intensity, becoming a gourmet cook and a classical pianist. "I never play anything softly," she said.
Her father fostered and encouraged her mathematical and scientific aspirations. It is perhaps because of his influence that she so patently declined to credit her position as astronaut to a lasting contribution of the women's movement in securing opportunities for women.
At her ease in the company of her colleagues, Resnik displayed a playful side, holding a "Hi Dad" sign for the camera filming their exercises in weightlessness, for example, or advertising candidly her crush on actor Tom Selleck with a sticker of his face on her locker at NASA. She in fact invited him to the launch.
This was in marked contrast to her relationship with the media, where her frustration was often readily apparent. She wanted to talk about the technical aspects of the mission. They asked her instead about how she would wear her hair in space and the possibility of onboard romance. It has been speculated that this inability to humor the press was the reason she was the second woman in space and not the first. It's not hard to imagine why a PhD. in Electrical Engineering would take offense at questions about her hair and dating prospects at work.
"I want to do everything there is to be done. . . I'll never get old." She fulfilled this prophetic sentiment, dying at the age of 36 on her second mission to space.
**The Ultimate Field Trip**
**Christa McAuliffe** attended Framingham State College in her hometown, graduating in 1970. She took a job teaching in the secondary schools, specializing in American history and social studies. In 1982 Christa took a teaching post at Concord High School, and in 1984 learned about NASA's efforts to locate an educator to fly on the Shuttle. The intent was to find a gifted teacher who could communicate with students from space. A highly accomplished teacher who had developed her own curriculum, Christa was a staunch believer in experiential learning. As a result, she was well known for accomplishing this by providing her students with field trips.
Selected from among more than 11,000 applicants from the education profession for entrance into the astronaut ranks, as a youth she had registered excitement over the Apollo moon landing program, and wrote years later on her astronaut application form, "I watched the Space Age being born and I would like to participate." NASA selected McAuliffe for this position in the summer of 1984 and in the fall she took a year-long leave of absence from teaching, during which time NASA would pay her salary, and trained for an early 1986 Shuttle mission. She had an immediate rapport with the media, and the teacher in space program received tremendous popular attention as a result. It is in part because of the excitement over McAuliffe's presence on the Challenger that the accident had such a significant impact on the nation.
Her mission for STS-51-L was to teach lessons from outer space to students watching on Earth, "Project Classroom Earth." Essentially the prototypical Ms. Frizzle, McAuliffe was to offer American children the ultimate field trip -- taking the virtual school bus into outer space.
"I touch the future... I teach."
**The Pure Land**
Lt. Col. Ellison S. Onizuka, USAF, was the last of the three mission specialists. Born in Kealakekua, Kona, Hawaii, on June 24, 1946, of Japanese-American parents, he attended the University of Colorado, receiving B.S. and M.S. degrees in engineering in June and December 1969, respectively. Onizuka served on active duty with the Air Force until January 1978 when he was selected as a NASA astronaut. He was a mission specialist on STS-51-C, taking place 24-27 Jan. 1985 on the Discovery orbiter. The Challenger flight was his second shuttle mission.
"Ellison always had it in his mind to become an astronaut but was too embarrassed to tell anyone," his mother said in a //Time// magazine tribute by Paul Gray. "When he was growing up, there were no Asian astronauts, no black astronauts, just white ones. His dream seemed too big." Onizuka kept in contact with his scoutmaster, long after he awarded the honor of Eagle Scout. But even he scoffed at the idea that Ellision could become an astronaut. Ellison was the first Asian-American in space. His part of the mission was to film Halley's comet, which had not been seen since 1910, with a handheld camera. "I'll be looking at Halley's Comet... one of the best views around."
Ellison was a practicing Buddhist. In his faith, the Pure Land refers to a spiritual state in which one is awakened to the everyday world around oneself. Onizuka carried a hanging wisteria medallion, a symbol of the Jodo Shinshu sect to which he belonged, into space on his first mission. Of that experience Onizuka once said, "I saw the Pure Land...it is the land of 'no boundaries.'
"Many things that you take for granted were considered unrealistic dreams by previous generations. If you accept these past accomplishments as commonplace then think of the new horizons that you can explore. From your vantage point, your education and imagination will carry you to places which we won't believe possible. Make your life count -- and the world will be a better place because you tried."
** Music of the Spheres**
When his peers carried Afro combs as expressions of their heritage, **Dr. Ronald E. McNair** carried a slide rule. In a posthumous tribute to him in //Ebony// magazine for August 1986, a former classmate said, "We all knew that Ron was smarter than the rest of us. We all knew that he was going to get that 100 on a test. However, his determination made the rest of us eager to study hard to at least get a 99."
McNair was a physical fitness advocate and pursued athletic training from an early age. He was a leader in track and football at his high school. He also became a black belt in Karate. After completing his Ph.D., he began working as a physicist at the Optical Physics Department of Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California, and conducted research on electro-optic laser modulation for satellite-to-satellite space communications.
Ronald E. McNair was the second of three mission specialists aboard Challenger. Born on October 21, 1950 in Lake City, South Carolina, he achieved early success in the segregated public schools he attended as both a student and an athlete. Valedictorian of his high school class, he attended North Carolina A&T State University where in 1971 he received a B.S. degree in physics. He went on to study physics at MIT, where he specialized in quantum electronics and laser technology, completing his Ph.D. in 1977. As a student he performed some of the earliest work on chemical HF/DF and high pressure CO lasers, publishing path-breaking scientific papers on the subject.
This research led McNair into close contact with the space program for the first time, and when the opportunity presented itself he applied for astronaut training. In January 1978 NASA selected him to enter the astronaut cadre, one of the first three black Americans selected. McNair became the second black American in space in 1984, by flying on the Challenger Shuttle mission STS-41-B. The 1986 mission during which he was killed was his second Shuttle flight.
He was a performing saxophonist and martial arts instructor, a black belt in karate. He worked for months via //telephone!// with Kurt Heisig to overcome obstacles associated with learning to play a soprano saxophone (he typically played tenor) and to overcome the obstacles in force in space. With typical tenacity, he worked on an original composition with Jean Michael. It was intended that he would record his saxophone solo on board the Challenger. Though he had been the first to perform in space during a prior mission, there was a radio blackout, and the world missed it. This time would have made McNair's solo the first original piece of music to have been recorded in space.
TO THE BOXES:
Challenger 7 Memorial Park is a busy place, so you will do some bushwhacking for the boxes. Watch for thorns. I did not see poison ivy, and the plants that DO have leaves of 3, though they are not poison ivy, do sport thorns. I felt the bushwhacking was a sort of muggle burglar alarm. Boxes are small and matte green, so please replace as described. Music of the Spheres has the only logbook for the series. Please know that if stealth is not your thing, or the need for secrecy in this hobby is news to you, these boxes are not your thing yet. This is a busy place and a couple of the hides are near enough the trail that it's possible to be seen if you're not careful. Please do not be seen scouting for, retrieving, stamping into or replacing the boxes. This park is a year-round mosquito hatchery.
Follow the road all the way past the pavilions to the yellow gates on the right just before the boat ramps. Hopefully they are open for you and you can take the narrow asphalt road all the way back to a small parking lot beside the Mother Earth sculpture. If not, you'll have to park across the street & hoof it. Just follow the well-placed signage to the Mother Earth sculpture.
When you've finished pondering the sculpture (it is indeed ponderous) head down the trail toward the boardwalk. When you reach the boardwalk, you want to walk to it and take the trail directly perpendicular to the start of the boardwalk (not the one running parallel to it, and not the one far right that starts farther on. Walk 30 steps to a leaning oak on the right. The Pure Land is in a hollow at its base.
Come back to the boardwalk and continue down the main trail leading from the sculpture. This will be to the right of you coming from the sculpture. Walk until the trail splits. Just as you get to that point, you'll note a mown clearing to the right. Walk along the left edge of the treeline in the clearing to a lone cedar on the left. From the backside of the cedar, head 340 degrees to an oak tree. As Yonder As You Can Get is very small and rests in a nook at the base to the right of the tree.
Back to the trail you were on (right branch off main trail), continue until you can see that the trail is winding left ahead. There are 2 cedar trees just off the trail to the right. Under the 2nd one, on the left side, is Benched, But Not Grounded. There is currently a small opening in the underbrush, but do take care to step over the thorns. If you continue on this trail, you will end at the fishing pond and the large knoll commemorating the astronauts. If you're smarter than I at that sort of thing, you can park by the pond, walk from the parking lot to the trail opening on the left side of the knoll and work the clues backward. And brag about it later.
Back to the first intersection, only this time, you want the left branch. Walk until you come to a large clearing with a huge gorgeous oak shading a swing. From this first triple intersection, take the rightmost trail. You will note the tree with the red graffiti on the right of the trail. From there, count 40 steps. Look left to a close grouping of oak trees. There is a hollow between the trees, but it holds water, so L.A. Wheelman is on the level at the base of the one closest to the trail. (My STS-51-L letterbox is in this area as well.)
Back at the intersection with the live oak and the swing, stand on the main trail parallel to the swing and take 64 steps down the middle trail. The trail goes around a tree (with a "G" on the backside) to avoid some roots in the main path. From this tree, look right to a live oak where you will find Ultimate Field Trip, smallish, and covered with a palmetto frond and sticks.
Continue on this trail until you arrive at a 3-way intersection; take the far right trail, count 135 steps from where the trail enters treeline to a large, vine-covered oak just to the right of the trail. Eleven steps past this and 11 steps to the base of a tree on the right is Mrs. Selleck.
Back at the oak tree/swing intersection, head down the left trail this time, 39 steps to an oak tree 12 steps off the trail to the left for Music of the Spheres. Perhaps you'll want to swing and stamp in. Perhaps you'll want to muggle the geocache in the rather obvious tree behind the swing. Or swap swag. (Say that fast 3 times.) In any case, you've come to the end of the series and a moment of silence is perhaps in order. (For the astronauts, not the boxes. :) )