Tag Archives: Space

Columbia Crew R.I.P. 2/3/2003. A song…

Creative Commons. Phot by Jtesla16.
Creative Commons. Photo by Jtesla16.

Five days ago I posted a poem I’d written for my daughter who was born on the fifth anniversary of the Challenger’s explosion on take-off. These are the lyrics to a song I wrote on the day the Columbia broke apart on re-entry.

My notes on the lyric sheet: Begun on the way home from work as I was sure we would enter into an Iraq war.  Finished as I sat stunned with the news of the Columbia Shuttle.

Waiting for the Fall – Eve of War

Driving home on the eve of war, can’t see far ahead
The rain it falls in sheets and blankets us, I long for home and bed
Are we right or merely righteous?  How and who decides?
Will our leaders lead us into battle or stay on the sidelines?

Waiting for the fall to come, but not the season’s change
Just like it came to Rome, collapsing under strain          

I awoke to hear the news, seven more are lost
They were living all our dreams, I can count the human cost
“Would they do it all again?” you ask. I can almost see them nod
For the chance to break these bonds and touch the face of God?

Waiting for the fall to come, just like it came to Rome
Prayin’ that the angels are coming to carry them all home

Everyday now, I hear the words. They say the end is near
But all we have, all of us, is one day in one year

Waiting for the fall to come is such a waste of time
Utilize the everydays, to do not is a crime

February 3rd, 2003


30 years ago and 25 years ago today…

As a preview for April, National Poetry Month, when I will share ShuttleNasaPDmore poems.

I don’t write a lot of poetry, but I do write it when inspired. I wrote this six years after the Challenger loss. This was near another more pleasant anniversary, the first birthday of my daughter, Sheridan M. M. Slater. When the Columbia Seven lost their lives I wrote a song. I suppose these were intended to be song lyrics, too, but no music ever came. Columbia was eighteen years later, also in January, but I don’t recall anyone mentioning it two weeks ago. [Author note: Oops. 1/16/03 was the launch date, and the accident occurred on reentry 2/3/03.] I remember where I was for that, too. I will post the lyrics and hopefully a recording of the song.

Happy birthday to my daughter and Ad Astrato the stars for the astronauts. May their service not have been in vain.

Rocket Tears – January 28

I remember the day quite clear as if it were yesterday
A day that had dawned bright and clear, soon would be torn away
I walked into a room, full and hushed, stunned into silence and sorrow
Their spirits were broken and crushed as the blast took away our  tomorrow

Smoke clouds of billowing white; next few moments flash by in a blur
We see the fire as the engines ignite, then the unthinkable occurs
I see the flash and then hear the sound as it replays again on the screen
There I stand and ask why as she crashes down into the sea

There I stood and I cried. . . rocket tears
Sorrowful tears in my eyes
As rain from the skies
Obscures the clouds and our fears

Five years later on that January day, I drove to see a new life arrive
The clouds have now drifted away and now we once again strive
The birth of a baby brings hope of a renewal of life and of dreams
As for death use the pain for our growth, see what the future reveals

From death there will come life again as the phoenix arose from the fire
Please don’t let our dreams fade with the flames of the funeral pyre
Tell the story to daughters and sons of the lives that people have given
In the dream of pursuing the sun they’ll remain in our memories living

Here I stand and I cry. . . rocket tears
Hopeful tears in my eyes
As rain from the skies
Obscures the clouds and the years

January 1992.

Author’s Note: Yes, this is where my publishing company name, Rocket Tears Press, comes from. 

Time Traveling in a Capsule Slowly

Rough Draft of a Letter to the Future [To be placed in a time capsule in Ferndale, WA in 2014 to be opened in 2064.]

Future folk,
What could be more exciting to a writer of Speculative Fiction than to be asked to time-travel? It would be slower than one would like, of course, only one day at a time, and cut off from the real world like a cat in a box. But it would connect with you, who may not have even been born when these thoughts were placed on paper.

Fifty years ago, one hundred years for you, the Cold War, the threat of atomic anhiliation permeated our culture. The fear of communism fueled wars in Korea and Vietnam, a series of assassinations had begun adding to the fear and chaos. The Civil Rights act, banning discrimination on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, became law. Those rights were still something of the future, as were trips to the moon, cable networks and flying cars. In my present, 2014, Flying cars are still in the future, but we have electric cars like the Tesla, we have been to the moon, we have phones in our hands that have more computing power than a roomful of computers a couple decades past.

At the moment, our society is not optimistic about the future. Despite being the richest human beings in history in terms of the number of hours needed to feed ourselves and keep a roof overhead, we see darkness, apocalypses. We are afraid. My novel, All Is Silence, is my attempt to send the message that human beings have the capacity for good, to find and create family and happiness and safety out of horror, pestilence and darkness. I don’t want to be right about the apocalypse and I am optimistic about the future. Perhaps I spend too much time there. As citizen-astronaut Christa McCauliffe said, “I touch the future. I teach.”

I hope that in 2064 we will have solved the problems of hunger and thirst, of equity and tolerance, of ecological degradation and consumptive waste. I am not so optimistic as to think these issues will be eradicated, but I do hope for as great an improvement in these areas as we have seen in computer technology. I want to see a human settlement on Mars, on the moon or in space stations. When I was in middle school, 35 years ago, I designed generational starships. I gave speeches about ion drive technology. And I read as much as I could about the future. Now it is here for me.

I hope to still be around when this letter is read, but at 97 I may not be. If I am not, I ask that you please, be kind to each other, the planet and all its other lifeforms. Dream big and don’t forget to live.



Robert L. Slater


Superstition and Synchronicity

Well, it’s been quite a week. I woke up yesterday morning to an ARC request in my inbox from Don Sakers, the book reviewer from ANALOG SF.  I’ll be hanging out watching the Perseids with a bunch of PNW SF&F folks. My twitter feed is growing. My Mailing list is, too. I sent out my first newsletter with a link to the opening story from my fiction collection, Outward Bound: Science Fiction & Poetry. Responses have been good on the story. Finished four chapters on the “Final Edit” before line editing…


So, how much of my good news do I share?  All of it. Though I did think about it, I shared in spite of the evil eye and self-promotion.

Stay tuned for Special Offers coming soon: FREE SIGNED COPIES!