STS-107 disintegrates during re-entry.
Credit: Amateur video
these are the laws of physics
immutable as those of Medes & Persians:
you, frailness of flesh & skin
wrapped in only blueprints & hope
to plunge through furnace of plasma
burning, blasted, luminous beyond mach-molten:
torn molecules, pink & purple,
cremating you as sati to the sky.
if all goes well, you shall fly
as a butterfly bolted to a bullet.
if not, your only grave shall be
Schlieren lines across a shocked sky.
your death shall be as beautiful as fireworks.
but to those who knew you:
a rain of metal tears
upon the land.
that contrail became cenotaph:
a wreath we laid
on our voyage to worlds.
plasma - air or anything heated to several thousand degrees, tears apart as individual atoms, ionised, electrically charged.
sati- Hindu custom of widow throwing herself on husband's funeral pyre.
"Columbia was a butterfly bolted to a bullet"
- Robert Lee Hotz, Los Angeles Times December 2003.