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They rose on wings as eagles

CALGARY, Alberta, Canada (BP)–To help you think back to the tragedy of Feb. 1, 2003, when the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart in the sky above Texas, here are 10 questions.

1. Three days before the disaster, crew member Kalpana Chawla, India’s first astronaut, took a rest from her work to take in the stunning view of the Earth at sunset. According to Genesis (2:2-3), on what day did God rest from his work of creation?

2 Shuttle commander Rick Husband was featured in the 1996 television documentary, “Circle of the Earth,” which profiled a number of Christian astronauts. What Old Testament book mentions the “circle of the Earth” — Genesis, Isaiah or Job?

3 The Columbia disaster came 17 years after seven Americans died in the explosion of sister shuttle Challenger during launch. President Ronald Reagan said of the Challenger crew: “We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them … as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'” What poem did Reagan quote?

4 The Columbia crew included Israel’s first astronaut. Name him.

5 What Old Testament prophet did President George W. Bush quote in his Feb. 1 statement to the nation following the Columbia tragedy?

6 Most of the shuttle Columbia’s charred debris was strewn 160 kilometers across Bush’s home state of Texas and into Louisiana. What Texas town in the crash area takes its name from the historic region on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea, comprising parts of modern Israel, Jordan and Egypt?

7 On Feb. 2, worshipers at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in New Orleans honored the Columbia crew with a variation of a well-known hymn, singing: “Save all who dare the eagle’s flight/ And keep them by thy watchful care/ From every peril in the air.” Name the hymn.

8 Also on Feb. 2, members of Temple Israel in Miami recited the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead. Name the prayer.

9 At the Feb. 4 memorial service in Houston for the Columbia astronauts, Navy rabbi Harold Robinson prayed, “Eternal God, when we view our little planet from out in space we learn the unity of all humanity here on Earth.” Where in the Old Testament does it state that the earth is suspended in space?

10 In Matthew (5:4), Jesus says: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” — one of eight sayings that begin with the word “blessed.” Collectively, what are these sayings called?


1. The seventh day (Saturday) — observed by Jews and Seventh-day Adventists as the Sabbath.

NASA administrator Sean O’ Keefe remarked: “She [Kalpana] told us from the flight deck that the entire Earth and sky could be seen reflected in the retina of her eye. She called her crewmates to come over to see this amazing sight. It is this image — the image of Columbia’s crew joyfully joining Kalpana to see our beautiful planet reflected in their friend’s eye — that we will remember and treasure forever.”

2. Isaiah (40:22): “He sits enthroned above the circle of the Earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. …”

Husband said in the interview: “Apart from God, I’m really nothing. And only through God can I really do anything worthwhile. … I hope that through the course of my life I will be able to do the things that God wants me to do, because I love God. He is the most important thing to me.”

Circle of The Earth is available from FamilyNet Television in Fort Worth, Texas.

3. “High Flight” by John Gillespie McGee Jr. — an American who came to Britain in October 1940 during World War II and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. McGee flew in a Spitfire squadron and was killed at age 19 on Dec. 11, 1941, during a training flight. He wrote the poem on the back of a letter to his parents.

4. Col. Ilan Ramon, whose mother and grandmother survived the Auschwitz death camp in World War II.

During the flight, Ramon carried a small drawing titled, “Moon Landscape” by Peter Ginz, a 14-year-old killed at Auschwitz. He also carried a Torah and a first-century coin that said on one side: “For the redemption of Zion.” Ramon’s military career included the bombing of the unfinished Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981.

5. Isaiah. Bush said: “In the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.'” (Isaiah 40:26).

Bush continued, “The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to earth, yet we can pray that all are safely home.”

6. Palestine, from Palestina, meaning “land of the Philistines.” The name Palestine was revived by the British who governed the area beginning in World War I.

7. “Eternal Father, Strong to Save” (also known as the “Navy Hymn”) heard during the memorial service in the movie “The Perfect Storm” (2000).

8 The Mourner’s Kaddish. As the tragedy had occurred on the Sabbath (Saturday), many Jewish congregations held special services on Sunday.

9 Job (26:7): “He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the Earth over nothing.”

10 The Beatitudes, from the Latin beatus, meaning “blessed.”
Copyright 2003 by David Buckna, author of “The Pop Gospel,” a regular quiz feature in the Observer/Faith & Reason section of the Calgary Herald (Alberta, Canada). Editors: To obtain permission to publish in any print or online format,
contact David Buckna at [email protected].

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  • David Buckna