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The Next Frontier

A weekly commentary by Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer

When they told Harry Truman that Franklin Roosevelt had died, Truman said he felt as if the sun and the moon and the stars had fallen from the sky. And I guess a lot of us felt that way yesterday when we saw those television pictures of the shuttle breaking up and the pieces falling back to Earth.

I guess the first thought a lot of you had was the same one I had: Was this the work of terrorists? They say it wasn't, that it all happened too far up in the sky. But it is a sign of our times that when anything untoward happens, our first thought is, did terrorists do it? Terrorists have become so much a part of our lives we are surprised when they are not the cause of terrible things.

Space travel, on the other hand, has gone so well for so long that it's become routine. We take it for granted. It is anything but routine. We are, after all, the first people who have lived on this planet who have found a way to travel beyond it, which may be the most remarkable achievement of our generation.

The foundation of America's strength has always been the courage of its people to explore the unknown, to cross the river that has not been crossed, to go to the other side of the mountain. The men and women who died yesterday were the latest in a long line of Americans who have had the courage to lead us to the next frontier.

So even as the possibility of war looms, we must pause to remember their courage and the courage of those who came before. The stars did not fall yesterday, but we are ever closer to them.