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Saturday, February 01, 2003

More Columbia Musings-Jeffery Collins seems to be the go-to guy for coverage. Collins talks here about this possibly doing in the shuttle program but not the space program. The shuttle's disco-era technology and an upgrade is due. We need something better than the shuttle for the long haul. I look forward to Rand Simberg's take on this once this has a few days to shake out. Here's his quick take from this morning
The entire NASA budget is now in a cocked hat, because we don't know what the implications are until we know what happened. But it could mean an acceleration of the Orbital Space Plane program (I sincerely hope not, because I believe that this is entirely the wrong direction for the nation, and in fact a step backwards). What I hope that it means is an opportunity for some new and innovative ideas--not technically, but programmatically. Once again, it demonstrates the fragility of our space transportation infrastructure, and the continuing folly of relying on a single means of getting people into space, and doing it so seldom. Until we increase our activity levels by orders of magnitude, we will continue to operate every flight as an experiment, and we will continue to spend hundreds of millions per flight, and we will continue to find it difficult to justify what we're doing. We need to open up our thinking to radically new ways, both technically and institutionally, of approaching this new frontier. Anyway, it's a good opportunity to sit back and take stock of why the hell we have a manned space program, what we're trying to accomplish, and what's the best way to accomplish it, something that we haven't done in forty years. For that reason, while the loss of the crew and their scientific results is indeed a tragedy, some good may ultimately come out of it.
We'll likely limp through with the shuttle and extra Soyuz help from the Russians, but this will speed up the question of what to do next with manned space flight. Jeff also has the President's eulogy up-this is good
The cause in which they died will continue. Mankind is led into the darkness beyond our world by the inspiration of discovery and the longing to understand. Our journey into space will go on. In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see there is comfort and hope. 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." 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. May God bless the grieving families, and may God continue to bless America.
I didn't hear the speech; we were in a museum at the time, but that set the right tone for the President's job as Chaplain-in-Chief. I was thinking of how good Clinton was at that job; as much as you wanted to wring his neck, he could give one moving eulogy. I don't know where the seven stood with God this morning; I remember hearing some nice things about Col. Husband's faith. However, you don't question the corpse's salvation at a time like this; praying "that they are all safely home" is the eulogist's safety valve. We'll mourn their loss for a bit and move on. We'll continue to go deeper and longer into space and lose more people. Curiosity might kill a cat, but not all felines. [Update 7:30 2-2:I saw the president's eulogy last night-he was clearly stunned at the news but resolute. There are times where simplicity is more eloquent than high prose-this was such a time.]

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