(adapted from "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot)

The legend lives on from the Rio Grande beyond
Of a lone star that hangs over Texas
The star, it is said, proudly shines overhead
In the skies o'er America's nexus
With a payload bay store twenty-eight thousand pounds more
Than the shuttle Columbia weighed empty
That good ship returned as a falling star burns
In the heat and the flame of reentry

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from a midwinter mission
As the orbiters go, she was older than most
With a crew and commander well chosen
De-orbiting burn gave no cause for concern
As they turned belly-forward for landing
And later in flight toward the morning light
Could it be the left side that was dragging?

The launch-tracking tape took on ominous weight
As the foam hit the wing of the shuttle
The engineers knew, as the ground crew did, too,
That the damage unseen could mean trouble
The dawn came well as the orbiter still fell
Like a brick through the atmosphere smashing
Her landfall complete, she was feeling the heat
In the face of a blast furnace flashing

At five before nine Ground Control came on-line, sayin',
"Flight, MMACS, we're losing our sensors."
At 8:59 the left side went off-line; he said,
"Flight, MMACS, we've lost tire pressure."
The commander called down but his signal was drowned
And the ship and crew's seconds were numbered
And later in flight when her track fell out of sight
Came the wreck of the Shuttle Columbia

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the wait turns the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they'd have made Canaveral Cape
If they'd put sixteen minutes behind her
They might have burned up or they might have vaporized
They may have broke up and lost pressure
And all that remains are the faces and the names
Of a crew that gave full of their measure

Apollo yet burns as the Earth below turns
With the Moon her eternal companion
Young Icarus flies through the brightening skies
To challenge the ramparts of heaven
And farther below, wrapped in fiery glow,
The chariot of Phaeton dismembers
And the astronauts train for the missions that remain
With the fallen of winter remembered

On a bright winter's day down in Houston they prayed
At the Johnson Space Center memorial
The Navy bell chimed 'til it rang seven full times
For the crew of the Shuttle Columbia
The legend lives on from the Rio Grande beyond
Of a bright star that fell over Texas
The star, it is said, ever shines for the dead
In the heart of America's nexus

Return to