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Space Science

Space Shuttle Columbia Breaks Up Over Texas 2398

An anonymous reader writes "NASA lost communication with space shuttle Columbia shortly before its scheduled landing on Saturday. It was unclear whether there were any other problems." Various news programs have been showing debris falling from the sky, and NASA has declared an emergency.Update: 02/01 15:29 GMT by H : Confirmation has come - the shuttle has broken up over Texas while coming in for landing Florida.
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Space Shuttle Columbia Breaks Up Over Texas

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  • by black_widow ( 41044 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:46AM (#5203265) Homepage
    God rest their souls...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:47AM (#5203271)
    the friends and family of the crew. This is a terrible tragidy.
  • by pergamon ( 4359 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:47AM (#5203280) Homepage
    mod parent poor taste

    i can't believe slashdot sometimes
  • This is terrible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by march ( 215947 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:49AM (#5203301) Homepage
    This is terrible. Obviously, it is terrible for the team members on board and their families.

    But once we are done with the grief and morning for these great people, the space program will be severely hampered from further progress. We need this program to continue, and I'm afraid we've just killed it for twenty years.

    Very sad all around.
  • Please (Score:1, Insightful)

    by wirefarm ( 18470 ) <`jim' `at' `'> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:52AM (#5203333) Homepage
    Say a small prayer.
  • Don't Panic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by doggo ( 34827 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:52AM (#5203334) Homepage

    Sorry to lose the crew and shuttle. But I hope we don't suddenly halt the manned space program like we did after Challenger.

    Space exploration is a dangerous undertaking, and every astronaut is taking a huge risk every time they go up. We have to expect casualties, we've been very lucky throughout the history of the US space program. Not to minimize the loss of the crew, they're heroes, but we can't stop the program because of this. Surely investigation, but not a halt.

    Say a prayer for the crew, if you believe in such stuff.

  • Re:Very sad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smasherbob ( 634806 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:53AM (#5203349)
    Apparently it happened around 12,000 mph or thereabouts, at something like 200,000 feet. If something could be done, I pray that it was done.

    This is terrible news; it feels like the Challenger all over. Just as senseless, just as disturbing. These people risked their lives to better mankind, and it's terrible that this could happen to such noble people.

    I keep switching stations, and I'm tired of hearing about "6 Americans and 1 Israeli". 7 people were in that shuttle. It's frustrating that the media can't let go of war sensationalism even now, at a time like this.
  • Sigh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Alizarin Erythrosin ( 457981 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:55AM (#5203361)
    Looks like we've witnessed the end of the American (and maybe International) space program. Although I was still really young when Challenger exploded I remember that they didn't launch another mission for a long while after that. I suspect now that with the age of the current orbiters that it's gonna be put on hold indefinately.

    Anyways, there's already speculation that a piece of insulating foam from the fuel tank fell off on liftoff and hit the left wing and damaged the heat shield. NASA officially declared that the shuttle is lost.
  • by usurper_ii ( 306966 ) <<eyes0nly> <at> <>> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:57AM (#5203375) Homepage
    I live about an hour and a half from Dallas and my house shook around 8:00. I called my mother, who lives close by, and my dad said it was the space shuttle. About 5 minutes later my mother called back and said it had exploded. My wife was at a gas station getting gas. She said she saw it happen, but didn't hear anything.

  • Re:Please (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:03AM (#5203428)
    To be perfectly honest, I think solving the problem scientifically so it won't happen again will save more lives than praying.
  • by Confessed Geek ( 514779 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:04AM (#5203432)
    God Dammit! We don't yet have a singe reason to think that there was anything but a technical failure. I was getting pissed with all the news stations immediatly jumping around speculationg about security and terrorism, making worse a terrible tragedy and playing into the current propaganda machine. I'm disgusted to see this same sort of non-rational fearmongering here on slashdot.

    Wait. Watch. Pay attention. We don't need more noise in the signal.
  • by black_widow ( 41044 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:04AM (#5203438) Homepage
    Jan 27, 1976 []

    January isn't a good month for NASA
  • Re:Holy fuck (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chegosaurus ( 98703 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:06AM (#5203455) Homepage
    With something made of metal and ceramic hitting the atmosphere at 12,000mph, things like this can *always* happen.

    Space exploration is hard and it is dangerous, and there's always the chance of an accident. All the people on board new this, all their families and colleagues on the ground knew this, but *they did it anyway*.

    I just hope the powers that be don't use their deaths as an excuse to write off what's left of the space programme.
  • Re:Please (Score:-1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:08AM (#5203469)

    Say a small prayer.

    It was a scientific mission. Worshipping a deity as a solution? Puhlease.

  • by bourne ( 539955 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:12AM (#5203516)

    at an altitude of 200,000 feet (61km) and velocity of 12,000 miles per hour (19,000 km/h)

    That makes terrorism highly unlikely. That's too high and too fast for much of anything to hit it. It's more like a ballistic missile than an airplane at that point, and we all know how well the Star Wars project is faring [].

  • by jpatokal ( 96361 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:12AM (#5203517) Homepage
    Before y'all start foaming at the mouth about terrorism and Osama bin Laden's dastardly plots (now just how is al-Qaeda going to hit something moving at twice the speed of sound at an altitude of 200,000 ft, and if they've planted nasty things on board why not blow them up during ascent?), consider this bit from Spaceflight Now []:

    During a mission status news conference yesterday, Entry Flight Director Leroy Cain was asked about any possible damage to the shuttle's thermal tiles during launch. The tiles are what protect the shuttle during the fiery reentry into Earth's atmosphere.

    Tracking video of launch shows what appears to be a piece of foam insulation from the shuttle's external tank falling away during ascent and hitting the shuttle's left wing near its leading edge.

    But Cain said engineers "took a very thorough look at the situation with the tile on the left wing and we have no concerns whatsoever. We haven't changed anything with respect to our trajectory design. It will be a nominal, standard trajectory."

    Make of that what you will. Odds are we are looking at an all-too-natural catastrophic failure though; shuttles are insanely complex beasts, and rapidly aging ones at that.

    But the damage has been done: the astronauts are dead, and the U.S. space program -- which never recovered from Challenger's loss -- may soon be dead as well.


  • Re:oh no! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by motorsabbath ( 243336 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:13AM (#5203525) Homepage
    Columbia was never allowed to go to the Space Station due to its weight. it's one of the older shuttles and is much heavier than the new ones.

    This will probably be the last flight of the first generation of shuttles, the more recent generation will continue service until there's a replacement.

    However, this will (and should) raise some concerns as to the state of the shuttles. I wish we could pour money into our space programs instead of fscking around in other people's deserts...

    This really sucks. And now every TV channel on the planet will be covering shots of burning debris in the atmosphere all day. I grieve for the families of the men and women aboard Columbia.

    Raise one to them tonight, lads.
  • by PingPongBoy ( 303994 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:14AM (#5203531)
    Mark this day in your life. Oddly, I was reading slashdot when I heard then news.

    I hear that
    - Columbia is the oldest shuttle
    - The crew compartment can re-enter by itself allowing the crew to jump out. I wonder if anyone has tested this!

  • by farrellj ( 563 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:14AM (#5203533) Homepage Journal
    Maybe now, the Government will give NASA the money to build a new earth to orbit reusable spacecraft. Why do people have to die to convince the American Government to do something?!?!?!?!

    They are/were brave people who have created and flown in the Shuttle, but it is time to replace and retire the bird. Please presure your elected representatives to fund a new spacecraft so that we can have a safer vehicle to take us into space.


  • by imadork ( 226897 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:15AM (#5203536) Homepage
    Let them watch cartoons. Do they really need to know about everything bad in the world right when it happens, live?
  • by chegosaurus ( 98703 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:17AM (#5203555) Homepage
    If you were taking a strong radioactive source into space, wouldn't you have to shield it in lead? Isn't weight *very* important when designing anything to be launched into space?

    Would you want to put something very radioactive in a very confined space with 7 people?

    Would you want to launch a strong radioactive source on top of a chemical rocket which always has a (slight) possiblitly of crashing?

    Somehow I doubt it. People need to calm down. What happened is bad enough without trying to frighten yourself, and others, with wild speculation.
  • Feynman and Tears (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dosun88888 ( 265953 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:17AM (#5203556) Homepage
    In his book "What do you care what other people think?" he talks about the Challenger thing, and talks about NASA in general.

    Just a good book all around. Wish we still had Feynman around to see what happened this time.

    This is sad. Very sad. But not for the astronauts.

    I'll go out on a limb here and say that the astronauts themselves would trade their lives in a second to be in space, and to contribute whatever it was that they did on this mission. I know I would.

    So I won't waste a tear mourning them. I'll save the tears for their families and friends. I have no business mourning sad. Only remembering them.

  • Yes (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:18AM (#5203574)
    Today, thousands of children died of poverty, yet their lives were not as valuable as those on board that shuttle because media coverage was 0 (zero)

    Now act shocked

    Come on, mod me down as a troll
  • by Floyd Turbo ( 84609 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:20AM (#5203593) Journal
    The chances of STS108 launching on schedule are zero. It may not launch at all, this accident may ground the remaining shuttles permantently; they certainly won't fly again this year. The current station crew will have to use the Soyuz. That's what it's for.

  • by Moritz Moeller - Her ( 3704 ) <> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:20AM (#5203595)
    Realize that some people make jokes about tragedies. It makes them feel better.

    Just because YOU don't want to make jokes, you should not stop others from doing so.
    The world is cruel enough, it is better to laugh at hardships than to cry because of them.

    What makes me really sad, is that now ALL the US money they spent on the space shuttle will go out to the US military probably.
  • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:25AM (#5203642)
    I know a lot of you on Slashdot aren't old enough to remember when Challanger exploded at takeoff, and don't remember the uphoria and excitement that we all used to have when the Space Shuttle was new, or the excitement that a honest to God civilian was getting to go into space. In this era of any rich playboy with $20mil can get into space with enough effort, its hard to imagine what that was like for us, especially those of us who were young at the time.

    You also may not remember the emptiness when it became clear that NASA with public and short-sighted government pressure was shying away from manned space flight, and there was so much fear that it may never recover. This was a tragedy of epic proportions -- the possibility that we in the US (and as one of the major players in manned space flight) might shy away from exploration and adventure because it was dangerous.

    Things truely never recovered. The idiocy that is the Interational Space Station is a direct descendant of those events 17 years ago (almost to the day). The loss of our looking outward at greater feats, better manned spacecraft and the like are all descendant from that instant.

    Now we stand at the cusp of it happening again. This depresses me. People today just don't understand that taking risks is important to advancement, and death is part of taking risks... something explorers have understood for centuries, and a lot of people have seemed to have forgotten today.

    While part of me thinks NASA getting out of the manned space business, and dumping this massive waste of energy going into the ISS would be a good thing, because it may open up that exploration and adventure to those goverments or business who still have that sense of longing. I'm scared, though, that no one else will step up and take the reigns.

    I hope we as a nation can recognize this for what it was -- an unfortunate event, but an outcome that can be expected when pushing the boundaries. We should feel pride in the people who lost their lives here, and rise up, and continue to do what they gave their lives for. I hope we as Americans don't shrink away even more in fear.

    As potentially unpatriotic as it is to say, it makes me glad to know that the hope, energy and imagination of the billion people in China are there to step up, if we turn our backs on this important step in Humanity's future. It matters far more to me that we do this as a species then we do it as a nation. I hate the thought of what losing this would be a sign of for us as a country, though.
  • by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:26AM (#5203644)
    I don't want to sound cynical, because this is a truly terrible accident (I hope). But the truth is that manned space flight has been one expensive disaster anyway for the past three decades. The space shuttle has been a fairly massive waste of money, used more for PR purposes like sending John Glenn or the occasional Saudi or Israeli pilot up than for real science. I don't mean to impugn the bravery of the astronauts, but this is not the future of space travel, and neither is the ISS. The future of space travel is unmanned probes exploring every corner of the solar system.

    If the money spent on the ISS and the shuttle was diverted to projects like the Pathfinder, we'd have robots sampling Europa's oceans within the decade. Why risk human lives and billions of dollars on lower orbit?
  • High Flight (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Necron69 ( 35644 ) <.jscott.farrow. .at.> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:27AM (#5203656)
    Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds...and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of...wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
    I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air.
    Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
    I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
    And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space
    Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

    'High Flight' by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

    I wept in 1986 as a child, now I do it again as a man. Goodbye and Godspeed...

    - Necron69

  • Re:figures (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ponty ( 15710 ) <awc2@buyclamsonline.LIONcom minus cat> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:30AM (#5203680) Homepage
    Because when people die in the pursuit of peaceful international cooperation and science, it's always a tragedy. That's all there is to it.
  • by wolf- ( 54587 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:30AM (#5203681) Homepage
    I find it interesting, that others here are making claims against Bush and implying Bush has something to do with all of NASA's current money problems.

    Columbia was built in 1978, first flown in 1981. thats 3 years. Now, scroll the time back to the beginning of the design process. Even if Bush handed NASA an unlimited budget the day he made it into office, we wouldn't have a new shuttle to use today.

    Now, terrorism? Yeah, the terrorists have a missle that can hit a Mach20+ target. *sarcasm*

    Seven explorers died today. Get off your political high horses, and think about that. Accidents do happen.

    My thoughts are with the families of the crews.
  • by Psyko ( 69453 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:32AM (#5203701)
    Not to play down this immence tragedy, but while you are praying for everyone aboard the shuttle, don't forget about the servicemen that have recently been lost in military operations abroad. Both of these professions are highly dangerous and come with great risks, but when a squad of US troops is lost it only makes the front page for a few minutes.

    Life == Life.

  • by debrain ( 29228 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:34AM (#5203724) Journal
    It was "politicized" by the American media. Cowering in ignorance of the consequences of this will not help us prepare for them. Perhaps it was a bit troll of me to openly wonder of Bush's reaction, but in reality it is his reaction that will determine forever the vainity of this loss.

    Don't get me wrong, contrary to the perception I have put across, I like Bush, and in particular, I have great intrinsic respect for Powell and Bush's other aids. But the greatest crimes that could come of this are demeriting the space program, or using this as a jaunt for warmongering.

    To the media, terrorism sells, but it taints the memory of what these people died doing. I fear there is great opportunity to spoil the spirit of their purpose in life by using their death as ammunition for unrelated, even ruefully contradictory, causes.

    Not to assume their death; miracles happen. But hopefully their lives will be worth celebrating in what they have brought to humanity, and not what use they have as a political tool in death. But that is a terribly obnoxious thing to think and say; I am sure that Bush will honour their memory with reinvigorated interest in the exploration these people dedicated their lives to.
  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:36AM (#5203750) Homepage
    In a related note, I would venture a guess that this is the end of the Bush administration's attempt to revive nuclear tech in space with project prometheus.
  • Re:Please (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 1nv4d3r ( 642775 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:36AM (#5203755) Homepage
    Say a small prayer.

    Why is it always a small prayer? What is the proper ratio of prayer time to disaster magnitude?

    If prayer works, and only a small prayer is required, then why didn't you pray before this happened, you insensitive clod?

    What exactly will you pray for? Is the ship supposed to reintegrate now?

    Do me a favor and say a long prayer. Quietly. That should keep you busy for a while. The rest of us have work to do.
  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:37AM (#5203762) Homepage Journal
    Thousands die on the road every year, and we haven't closed down automobile travel, yet.

    Thousands die from tobacco-related causes...

    Thousands die essentially from poor eating habits...

    We have a poor sense of risks in our society.
  • by MarkX ( 716 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:41AM (#5203785) Homepage

    I find it interesting that many people here are wringing hands and bemoaning the space program. I would simply say that this is to expected. Accidents happen. Life happens. NASA is engaged in some of the most dangerous endeavours humans have ever undertaken. The reality is vehicles will be lost, people will die. It is the nature of things.

    All of us undertake serious risk in pushing forward our human lot every day. Just getting in a car and going to work places us in seroius danger of our lives. You could die tomorrow. NASA is launching people into space on the backs of rockets and plunging them back into the atmosphere at incredible speeds. All to improve the lot of our species, to push the envelope, to reach for greater achievements.

    Does this mean we should stop the space program? No. We should honor the lives of those lost and continue in the path they lead.


  • Re:Very sad... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Brian_Ellenberger ( 308720 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:41AM (#5203793)
    "It's frustrating that the media can't let go of war sensationalism even now, at a time like this."

    Yea, why would anyone want to kill an Israeli? Completely unprecedented. They are never kidnapped from Olympic games or blown up while worshipping on their holiest days.

    Look, I'm not saying it is terrorism. I highly doubt it. Blowing up an American Space Shuttle with the first Israeli astronaut would be a Extreme-Muslim Terrorist's dream.

    Brian Ellenberger
  • by trout_fish ( 470058 ) <chris_lamb&bigfoot,com> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:42AM (#5203799) Homepage
    The shuttles are 30 year old technology with an immense amount of development time gone into it. Replacing the shuttles completely will take many, many years to develop systems and software. 30 year old technology is often still in use because it works.
  • Re:Please (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KezMaefele ( 527550 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:43AM (#5203808)
    Of course we want to know what happened so that we can in the future avoid this catastrophe happening again, and that will provide comfort to the families of astronauts and the nations citizens, but prayer will also provide comfort and peace and understanding to all. Which helps heal more is a matter of debate I suppose, but is merely argumentative and pretty petty.
  • by EpsCylonB ( 307640 ) <{moc.bnolycspe} {ta} {spe}> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:44AM (#5203813) Homepage
    I'm watching the BBC, I don't think they are war mongering, they acknowledge the fact that there was an Israeli onboard because it was made a big deal of before the the shuttle took off. They have also had a nasa bloke on the phone who has said that he thinks it is very unlikely that it could be a terrorist attack.

    The fact that there was an Israeli onboard does mean that terrorism is a significantly more likely cause than it would be if there wasn't. The news people would be incompetent if they didn't acknowledge this fact.
  • Re:I heard it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aerog ( 324274 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:45AM (#5203822) Homepage
    Of course, the reason they want to kill you has nothing to do with their "tan colored skin" (and everything to do with their f*cked-up religion)

    Oh, now I get it! We're supposed to be discriminating against Muslims, not just middle-eastern people! Do you even stop to consider the fact that not every Muslim is a terrorist? It's like saying that every Catholic has 47 kids and will kill a Protestant on sight (a few of them do it in Northern Ireland, that must make it true). Same for Protestants, right? Or what about the undeniable fact that every Hindu either works in a convenience store or lives on the top of a mountain? Les't not even mention the Jews. We all know what THEY're like.

    Sir, you are a moron. The odds that terrorism is a factor in this tragedy are sitting at about 0.00000001% right now. They claim that some insulation fell from the shuttle when they launched. Well if my brief experience with thermodynamics is any lesson, it's that things (like space shuttles) get really hot when they have a lot of friction trying to stop their rapid movement (like when they're landing). If something did fall, then I'd be highly suspect that there was some sort of external problem with the shuttle which overheated and caused an explosion. Or maybe not. It's still a lot more likely than your "terrorism".
  • Re:Please (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SCHecklerX ( 229973 ) <> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:47AM (#5203840) Homepage
    I'm sure you are sincere, but I find it hard to believe in, let alone pray to, a God that allows such things to happen, when mankind is at its best.

    If God exists, all evidence shows that she is interested in us only as an amusement.

  • by billburroughs ( 264226 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:48AM (#5203847)
    My condolences to the families of these national and international heroes. They risked, and lost, their lives in pursuit of what everyone on this board lives for, science and understanding of nature and the cosmos.
  • by thamez ( 646498 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @11:51AM (#5203860)
    I just can't figure out how some people can be so pathetics.

    "Your're the same group that is defending Sadam".

    It reminds me of Bush saying: "You're with us or against us." There is no word to say how stupid, inconscious it is. In my first year of college, I learned in philosophy that saying such things is ridiculous. Some people would certainly needs more education.

    I even heard that some US medias began to make speculations about terrorism ! It is unbeleivable. All I have to say is: Americans, watch out, medias want you to get affraid of everything !
  • by cap'n foolsy ( 635911 ) <> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:01PM (#5203925)
    as soon as i saw the news on CNN, i immediately thought to myself, "how long before they blame even *this* on terrorism?" (sorry, i'm way too cynical to think that that wouldn't happen)

    it seems that the world beat me to the punch. people were blaming it on terrorists before they even knew what happened to the shuttle.
  • Re:Very sad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Catbeller ( 118204 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:09PM (#5203960) Homepage
    " 20 or minutes or so " to hit the ground... i have to disagree. nowhere near that long. a minute or so, at most.

    sorrow. remorse. anger at the u.s. for not building more modern designs and retiring that overdesigned piece of aerospace contractage.

    NASA will get all the blame, but those astronauts today died of terminal cheapness on the U.S.'s part. The Shuttle is a late-60's design, bastardized by Air Force demands into a flying boxcar. the tiles were a good idea 32 years ago, but we should have built a new shuttle from newer alloys, based on what we learned from what is essentially a prototype space vehicle.

    but all this for later. i fear the euopean and U.S. manned space program will be killed from this.

    rest in peace, people.
  • by Wingnut64 ( 446382 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:12PM (#5203973)
    30 year old tech has clearly failed twice.
  • Re:Reality Check (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:18PM (#5204014)
    I suppose there will always be posts like "Reality Check" that seek to deflate compassionate responses to events like this. "Oooh, look at me! I have an iconoclastic response to this! You people are all naive!"

    Get over yourself.
  • by wirefarm ( 18470 ) <`jim' `at' `'> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:32PM (#5204095) Homepage
    Do whatever it is that you do when faced with a deeply important and tragic event that hits to the very heart of any person with the soul of a scientist and the heart of a free-thinking person, yet is still caring and considerate enough to put aside your overly politically-correct knee-jerk reactions and feel actual sympathy for another human.

    A few ideas to consider before slamming me with your "Overrated" mods:

    Prayer is not always to God.

    People believe in many different gods. Or none. That's what makes us interesting.

    Sometimes people just pray.

    There is *nothing* wrong with praying, despite what "Anton LeVey" said.
    Prayer is often a precursur to real action - it makes you consider things carefully.

    You may be wrong about a great many things.

    I am not religious and I rarely ever pray, but I did today for these lost scientists. If you can't deal with that, go fuck yourself.

    I am rarely surprised by the shallowness and insensitivity of people.
    I sure was today.

    Ok, now feel free to mod this comment down and out of sight.

  • Re:Please (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zulux ( 112259 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:33PM (#5204105) Homepage Journal

    I hope,

    That five years from now, the wife of one of the astornauts will one day look up and see the bright stars, and smile.

    That ten years from now, one of the children of the astronauts will pick up one of the dusty flight-manuals out of a dusty box, and read one.

    That fifteen years from now, one of the husbands will look across the breakfast table at his daughter be proud, knowing that his daughter is entering flight school - just like her mom.

    That 20 years from now, there will be a small memoral, to the fallen. Placed on the soil of Mars.

  • by uncleFester ( 29998 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:35PM (#5204111) Homepage Journal
    the friends and family of the crew. This is a terrible tragidy.

    Keep everyone at NASA in your thoughts/prayers.. every person feels a sense of pride when a mission is successful, and likewise a sense of guilt when something tragic happens. I've read numerous books/articles/whatnot about the previous NASA tragedies and they not only affect the crews and families but the engineers and maintenance people who work with these vehicles and systems. The level of guilt (up to the point of some taking their own lives) is extremely difficult to handle.

    Think not only of the crew and families; think of the entire NASA family.

  • by The Ape With No Name ( 213531 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:35PM (#5204112) Homepage
    As potentially unpatriotic as it is to say, it makes me glad to know that the hope, energy and imagination of the billion people in China are there to step up, if we turn our backs on this important step in Humanity's future. It matters far more to me that we do this as a species then we do it as a nation. I hate the thought of what losing this would be a sign of for us as a country, though.

    Don't worry about being unpatriotic. This is the problem with America hit right on the nose. Profit rather than success and a sense of history is the motive for our endeavors. Rather, we equate profit with success. Every major religion points out that long term success is not found in riches, but in collective memory. Forget the war on terrorism. The war should be on short-sightedness. Short-sightedness on the part of a powerful nation like the US leads to the world we live in now. As Jose Ramon-Horta, East Timorese leader, says "The US has the potential to do so some good and clearly wants to do so. It just lets the interests of a callous few control its obvious means to greater good." America should be focusing on greater endeavors than the "War on Terrorism" -- Space is one of them.

    The Buddha said:

    "See yourself in others. How can you do harm?"

    It is hard to say that a totalitarian regime like the one in China could be more prescient than the US and realize that space is part of humanity's destiny. Maybe their understanding of intense privation has a lot to do with it. There has to be something better.

  • by shayne321 ( 106803 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:37PM (#5204124) Homepage Journal

    This is end of the a manned space program, at least for the short-term.

    I totally agree with this, but now NASA will be in a VERY tough spot. ISS's Expedition Six crew which went up in November I think are scheduled to return sometime in April or May. I couldn't imagine NASA ungrounding the shuttle fleet by then.. This brings about a whole round of questions... How long CAN the Expedition Six crew stay on the ISS? Can the Russian space program possibly return the astronauts to earth? Will NASA be forced to temporarily unground one shuttle for the mission, keeping everyone on pins and needles during the entire flight? This is a say day for NASA, space exploration, and humandkind in general.


  • by urbazewski ( 554143 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:39PM (#5204130) Homepage Journal
    It's not about the death of seven people. It's about our collective desire for exploration, for understanding and appreciating the vast vast universe that we inhabit. It's about attempting something that is larger than any one or any seven individuals, and watching as it literally disintegrate. Space travel should and can represent a common aspiration to explore space in peace and for the benefit of humankind. I know that the space program hasn't always fulfilled these aspirations, but it's our best effort so far.

    I, for one, felt a deep heavy sadness when I saw the news this morning, far beyond the deaths of seven human beings. Space flight is dangerous, and astronauts are brave and dedicated --- I think it's reasonable to feel differently about a group of people that die trying to achieve a worthy and inspiring goal than about the same number of people, or even the exact same people, dying accidentally. []

  • by LinuxParanoid ( 64467 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @12:41PM (#5204145) Homepage Journal
    [Taken from here []. Emphasis mine... --LP]

    President Reagan's Speech on The Challenger Disaster
    Oval Office of the White House
    January 28, 1986

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

    Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But, we've never lost an astronaut in flight; we've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

    For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we're thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, 'Give me a challenge and I'll meet it with joy.' They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

    We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

    And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them...

    I've always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That's the way freedom is, and we wouldn't change it for a minute. We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: "Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it."

    There's a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, 'He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.' Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.

    The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honoured us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'

  • by AtariDatacenter ( 31657 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:03PM (#5204234)
    After we grieve, we have to search for answers. One of the things that I saw, going over the crew bios, was that this wasn't one of the more experienced crews. This was the pilot's first flight. It was only the mission commander's second flight.

    I absolutely am not putting this at their feet. However, it obviously will be one of the questions raised during the search for answers.

    MSNBC [] has the crew profiles embedded in their story.
  • by uhmmmm ( 512629 ) <uhmmmm@[ ] ['gma' in gap]> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:05PM (#5204246) Homepage
    sometimes people need a little humor to get through things like this. They're not poking fun, but just dealing with it in their own way.
  • by robbo ( 4388 ) <> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:17PM (#5204302)
    Disaster magnitude? Hmm. Do you measure that in dollars, lives lost, or shaken public confidence? My first thought this morning was: why don't I get this upset over a downed twin-engine aircraft with seven passengers? Somehow this is bigger, but I hope it's not just because the plane they were flying was a lot more expensive..
  • by wildchild07770 ( 571383 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:25PM (#5204343)
    It's called levity, in the face of horrible tragedy people need to laugh. This may be one of the worst disasters in space exploration ever. It's going to set space reaserch and exploration back YEARS when we're already decades behind where we should be. It's tragic that this happened, i'm sorry for the families and NASA who has tried so hard to maintain despite budget cuts and 30 year old technology. Now we're going to blame them and their lack of foresight. In short this was a tragic day, but people still need to laugh, there's no reason not to make a joke from time to time to lighten the mood when something this bad has happened.
  • by Some Bitch ( 645438 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:30PM (#5204364)
    The Green Hills of Earth

    Let the sweet fresh breezes heal me
    As they rove around the girth
    Of our lovely mother planet
    Of the cool, green hills of Earth.

    We rot in the moulds of Venus,
    We retch at her tainted breath.
    Foul are her flooded jungles,
    Crawling with unclean death.

    [ --- the harsh bright soil of Luna ---
    --- Saturn's rainbow rings ---
    --- the frozen night of Titan --- ]

    We've tried each spinning space mote
    And reckoned its true worth:
    Take us back again to the homes of men
    On the cool, green hills of Earth.

    The arching sky is calling
    Spacemen back to their trade.
    And the lights below us fade.

    Out ride the sons of Terra,
    Far drives the thundering jet,
    Up leaps a race of Earthmen,
    Out, far, and onward yet ---

    We pray for one last landing
    On the globe that gave us birth;
    Let us rest our eyes on the friendly skies
    And the cool, green hills of Earth.

    -- Robert A. Heinlein

    The seven astronauts were explorers and would have understood, even though there was always a chance they wouldn't get their 'last landing' they did what they had to do. Others will take their place, the 'arching sky' will always be calling us, there's too much still unknown to give up now.
  • Re:I heard it (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:31PM (#5204371)
    Oh, now I get it! We're supposed to be discriminating against Muslims, not just middle-eastern people!

    Yes. Discriminate. Not prejudice, but discriminate. You clearly cannot understand the difference between the two words. Hindus, animists, and Lutherans don't have a history of using violence against US assets. Muslims do. Those middle-eastern people who are not muslim haven't attacked us, and therefore can be discounted as a threat.

    Do you even stop to consider the fact that not every Muslim is a terrorist?

    Do you stop to consider that just about every Muslim DOES advocate terrorism against Israel (whether they call it that or not; they do not recognize Israel's right to exist), and that an Israeli was aboard the shuttle?

    Sir, you are a moron. The odds that terrorism is a factor in this tragedy are sitting at about 0.00000001% right now

    You are clueless. To immediately discount terrorism is as idiotic as immediately assuming terrorism. The probability of the event being terrorism is low, but it is certainly not nonexistent (pre-launch sabotage of the tiles or aerodynamic systems could cause an event identical to what was observed), and you are a fool to suggest otherwise.

    They claim that some insulation fell from the shuttle when they launched

    Idiot. That was insulation off the external tank, and the probability of it damaging the shuttle to a sufficient extent to cause this incident is even lower than the probability that this was terrorism.
  • Re:Shuttles. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:31PM (#5204373)
    Clearly you don't. I never heard anybody muttering about what a bad idea the space shuttle was an hour after Challenger exploded.

    Leave the politics alone for a few days, right now you can't accomplish anything other than the creation of ill will towards you.

  • by Embedded Geek ( 532893 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:34PM (#5204389) Homepage
    Data point []: Of the 270 men (some sites on the 'net say 237) who set out with Magellan, only 15 made it home.

    What would have happened if exploration had been written off as "too risky" after that? I guess those of us here in the New World (at least, those of European descent) are lucky that our ancestors were greedy enough to continue onwards despite those risks.

  • by Embedded Geek ( 532893 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:36PM (#5204411) Homepage
    Data point []: Of the 270 men (some sites on the 'net say 237) who set out with Magellan, only 15 made it home. Magellan didn't.

    What would have happened if exploration had been written off as "too risky" after that? I guess those of us here in the New World (at least, those of us of European descent) are lucky that our ancestors were greedy enough to continue onwards despite those risks.

  • by ar32h ( 45035 ) < minus language> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:36PM (#5204412) Homepage Journal
    If the money spent on the ISS and the shuttle was diverted to projects like the Pathfinder, we'd have robots sampling Europa's oceans within the decade. Why risk human lives and billions of dollars on lower orbit? Simple: Robots do not have the popular interest that humans do among the general population. If you take out the human interest you take out the popular support. The best thing Bush could do now is announce a program to get a team on mars like what JFK did for the moon(a side effect of which would naturally be a replacement for the shuttle) nothing gets support like a triumphant recovery from tragedy.
  • Tragedy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fudgefactor7 ( 581449 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:38PM (#5204424)
    Peace be unto them who reached for the stars in the name of knowledge. This is twice now such a horrendous event has taken a Space Shuttle. I pray there is no third time in my lifetime, at least.

    Compared to this sacrefice, all my life's accomplishments are naught. My heart goes out to the families of the astronauts.
  • Re:Please (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rking ( 32070 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:39PM (#5204431)
    Do us all a favor and go kill yourself. I don't fucking care if you are religious or not, you don't have to attack those of us that are.

    Reread his post and then your response and see if you can work out which of you was attacking someone. He very mildly responded to a request that everyone pray. You suggested that he kill himself. I assume that your religion isn't one of the ones that advocates tolerance?
  • by The Snowman ( 116231 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:44PM (#5204461)

    Three now. Four including the original Enterprise. I wonder if they'll retrofit her now, to replace Columbia?

    Unlikely. The Enterprise was never meant to go into space and is only for training inside the atmosphere. Retrofitting it would probably be more work and money than building a whole new shuttle. Enterprise is also very old, and it is likely that Columbia's age played an indirect part in this accident. If I were an astronaut, I would not want to fly on a retrofitted Enterprise.

    How about the whole ISS project anyway? Is this going to toast that for good, too?

    I expect rocky times ahead for the ISS. The United States is the primary financial backer and provides basically all of the manned missions. Without our support, the ISS is toast. I expect not only NASA to investigate and put things on hold, but also Congress. They are the ones that apropriate funding to NASA. Expect a lot of Congressional debate about our space program in the near future. I would not be surprised if this accelerates plans to privative NASA, an idea that our government has been kicking around for a while. We already contract out a lot of work at NASA.

  • Politics... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aardvarkjoe ( 156801 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:47PM (#5204481)
    Well, at 900 comments, probably nobody's going to see this, but if you do: this has the potential to destroy the space program. We live in a time when nobody considers space flight to be particularly important. The loss of the shuttle would be a perfect excuse to put NASA more on the back burner than it was before.

    So talk to your friends, tell them why space flight is important, and even more importantly, tell your congressmen what you think. They are the ones that control the money going into the space program. If nobody lets them know that we want space flight to continue, we might lose it entirely.
  • Re:Very sad... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rocjoe71 ( 545053 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:49PM (#5204489) Homepage
    ..Sorry, mate, but if a so-called terrorist had a weapon that could travel 12,000mph (that's 2 MILES per SECOND)-- they're going to point it at stuff alot more interesting than a Space Shuttle.

    Just think of the amount of fuel you'd have to use to propel something from the Earth to the Space Shuttle at a velocity high enough to actually hit it-- probably the only thing fast enough on this planet that could carry that much fuel would be another Space Shuttle.

    Look, even if you remove every terrorist from the planet, bad things are still going to happen-- even to Americans.

  • by bozone ( 113268 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:49PM (#5204492)

    the U.S. space program -- which never recovered from Challenger's loss -- may soon be dead as well.

    This appears to be a very common thought in the question is why? Airplanes have crashed, boats have sunk, and cars have had accidents yet we have not abandoned them. As flying to outer space an inherently more dangerous and risky proposition, why the shock that an accident has occurred and the concession to forgo further space exploration?

    Many people have died exploring the earth, yet humans pressed on. Let us grieve for the families of the fallen, honor the astronauts for their bravery and desire to better human kind....and let us continue to press on.

  • by mr100percent ( 57156 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:50PM (#5204506) Homepage Journal
    The Space Program is NOT a waste. It takes less than 1% of the US budget, and provides a zero-gravity environment that has incredible potential. Drugs have been developed in this environment, new chemical structures that just can't form on earth. We're studying the effects of bone decay and effects of life in microgravity. If any of this helps YOU live longer or better, would you still want to cancel it?

  • by DCZX ( 640106 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:51PM (#5204507)
    I will be praying for those who CAN figure out what went wrong, as I can't. I will pray for the families of those aboard, everyone at NASA, and everyone who's heroes and dreams died in this mission.
  • Re:I heard it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by freedom_leffo ( 605662 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:51PM (#5204511)
    No, you're wrong. If you would have been travelling through Middle-Eastern countries the last couple of years you would, too, see that the majority of the muslim population is against terrorism.

    The problem is that Western MEDIA doesn't show us this. Clearly you can understand that.

  • Re:Very sad... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by macmurph ( 622189 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:55PM (#5204528)
    I keep switching stations, and I'm tired of hearing about "6 Americans and 1 Israeli". 7 people were in that shuttle. It's frustrating that the media can't let go of war sensationalism even now, at a time like this.

    If this upsets you, get rid of your TV! I got rid of my TV in 1997 (and haven't owned one since). It's one of the smartest decisions I've ever made.

    Even if you dont own a TV you will be exposed to the media, but TV pervays the worst prepared, most informal 'journalism'. In other words, its largely useless as a source of information. What information you do glean from the TV, you can find in more trustworthy print media sources and internet sources.

    Maybe you like TV because of its shoddy presentation of facts and sensationalism. Some people enjoy getting angry at the TV. I often wonder what my dad would do if he couldn't yell at his omnidirectional sludge box.
  • by oh2 ( 520684 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:56PM (#5204538) Homepage Journal
    Aside from being a personal disaster for the families of the killed astronauts the Columbia failure is a major potential setback for the space exploration efforts of the western world. ISS is dependent on the STS for deliveries. Even if Columbia was unable to do go there she did other important work freeing up the newer shuttles for ISS-related activities. The sensible thing would probably be to buy a few progress, soyuz and heavy lifter sorties to temporarily replace Columbias workload.

    The long term solution (circa five years)would be to completely replace the STS with a new, cheap and safe reusable launch system.

    Expect the cancellation of "Prometheus" shortly, the billion will be needed to replace the Columbia instead.

    Expect massive criticism and the selection of a NASA scapegoat by US congress, some of your congresscritters will want to destroy the entire space effort.

    Expect speeches by Bush Jr and President Cheney about the necessity to beat the Red Chinese and the former Soviets from being the only ones with a space presence.

    Space is too important to give up because of an old and slowly decaying STS. Replacements can be cheap and fast. If any of you have read "Encounter with Tiber" by Buzz Aldrin and Steven Barnes you know what Im talking about.

  • Re:Very sad... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by The Snowman ( 116231 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:57PM (#5204542)

    Yes... The report earlier this morning on NPR mentioned that a tile had dislodged on launch, and struck a wing. There was supposedly no serious damage at the time.

    A piece of insulating foam broke off the external fuel tank and hit the left wing of the shuttle during liftoff. The chances of this causing problems is highly unlikely, given the titanium shielding along the leading edge of the wing and the super-strong construction of the airframe's wings.

    But maybe it did cause a problem. Obviously something did. We will find out in due time.

  • Re:Space Shuttle (Score:5, Insightful)

    by buswolley ( 591500 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @01:58PM (#5204551) Journal
    maybe if we supported nasa with money and REFORm we wouldn't have to fly an absurdly old space shuttle. The crew deserve better than that. Give them the equipment they need.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:03PM (#5204593)
    Common sense sense to implies that it is - after all, a few innocent people are dead in their prime. Let us look at the big picture though.

    Space travel is a tricky business, for it involves physical extremes thoroughly hostile to human life. Accidents are bound to happen, every so often. Is this worth the while? I think so. Space travel is an exploration undertaking that will dwarf anything we humans have accomplished before in the exploration endeavors. The price in human life is therefore likely to be large.

    As far as the deceased astronauts are concerned, I envy them. What a magnificent way to go! Just think about it: those guys were living what is very likely the most exciting exploratory activity nowadays. More likely than not, they loved what they were doing.

    It is of course regrettable that the effort cost them their lives. But I can't think of a better way to go than doing something you really care for, you really enjoy. I am sure that they and their families were aware of the risks involved, and accepted them.

    The bottom line is, I hope that this will not put the brakes on space traveling again. We must accept that deaths are going to happen, and just keep going. If we take no chances we won't get anywhere.
  • Re:Don't watch FNC (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gilroy ( 155262 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:07PM (#5204619) Homepage Journal
    Blockquoth the poster:

    Instead it's more crap about Saddam. Ever hear of subliminal messages? Anyway, I know war is inevitable but my feeling (and apparently the feeling of every other news channel except FNC) is that for a few brief hours the looming war is what's irrelevant.

    God help me, but I'm about to defend Fox News Channel... IMHO, they're using the ticker in exactly the right manner. The main story occupies the main window, but other news doesn't suddenly stop happening. I don't know if what they're running really counts as "news", but that would be an appropriate thing to run.
  • by torpor ( 458 ) <<ibisum> <at> <>> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:08PM (#5204624) Homepage Journal
    Here's my standard argument to this question; would that I need not have mentioned it in the light of this utter tragedy:

    Why keep putting humans into space?

    If we can develop the technique of moving Life into Space, we can better manage the resources of this planet.

    Being able to keep a Human alive in space is kinda like trying to grow massive crops of useful resources - corn, weed, etc.

    If we can master this, we can stop raping Earth.

    Imagine if we moved all of our heavy, dangerous, high-pollutant based industry to a place in space where super-dangerous materials of Earth magnitude are puny compared to what's natively there ...

    Not to mention delivery is just a drop away.

    It's cheap to move shit in Space, once you get up there and work it out!

    A lot cheaper than here on Earth.

    Face it, Space won't happen until we make it valuable, and the intrinsic values are too numerous to imagine right now.

    We get more from looking at things directly, sometimes - or at least being close to the things we're looking at - than the devices we use to look in our place.

    A good way to get the tech we need to actually put Life into Space, is simply to accept the challenge - and defeat it - of putting Human Beings happily in Space, able to survive.

  • Re:Hrmmm... mars? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by buswolley ( 591500 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:09PM (#5204636) Journal
    tasteless? How so. Don't be rediculous. This is a very valid question. After the challenger we gave up on space. Of course he feels for the crew, and their familes. But he is obviously scared that NASA will become too scared to take risks, ever. The challenger did that for years. These pilots risked their lives to be space pilots. They knew of the risks. They went willingly into those risks. Yes we should mourn. But we should realize that these pilots loved space, and to honour them we must explore space.
  • by Floody ( 153869 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:11PM (#5204649)
    BTW, I hope they launch an *extensive* investigation into NASA's current MO, and upgrade the whole shebang for more safety and efficiency. They need some kind of failsafe to preserve these people's lives if disaster strikes.

    You know what, I'll just go ahead and say what I've been wanting to say for AGES about manned space flight. It's fucking dangerous. It's one of the most dangerous operations that any human can be involved with. No amount of investigation, upgrading, efficiency, or what not is going to change that basic nature of the equation. The energy involved at certain critical points (launch, reentry) is of such a high order that it simply isn't feasibly to introduce life-saving components. When something occurs at such critical points (which of course, is when it is most likely that something WILL go wrong), everyone is going to die. Period.

    The Russian and US space programs have known this for ages, but the US public just doesn't want to accept the fact that their are serious risks involved with putting human beings in orbit and getting them home safely. The complexity of the systems required to do such is of such an order of magnitude that it's just impossible to create any orbital delivery system that is completely failsafe.

    This isn't, by any account, to say that NASA shouldn't attempt to figure out what happened and prevent it from happening in the future. Of course they should, that's their job. But to expect that accidents will never occur is naive beyond reason.

    We need to either accept the inherent risks or quit putting people in orbit.

  • by fuxoft ( 161836 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:13PM (#5204664) Homepage
    Also today: 40 killed and 60 wounded [] in Zimbabwe car crash. What about a little prayer or something for them? Or at least mentioning them on the CNN?
  • Silver lining? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fly766 ( 634059 ) <> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:14PM (#5204668)
    I just had a thought that runs counter to pretty much everything I've read on here today. As horrible as it might be to say, this catastrophe might be actually end up being a good thing for the future of the space program. The general populus has forgotten about the space program for years now. This disaster puts them back in the news, along with the portrayal of astronauts as the brave adventurous scientists that seek to bring new advances to the people of their country and of the world. The folks who lost their lives today will be shown as heroes to Joe Sixpack once again, and might serve to rekindle a sense of adventure and pride in them. Also, it shows that this program has been forced to use old technology and scrape by on minimal budgets for far too long; and that with proper funding, this tragedy could have been avoided. Perhaps this will serve as a wake up call to Congress that we need to properly support this vital piece of the scientific advances that this country and this world needs. I just don't see us abandoning manned space flight, and more funding is the only viable alternative.

  • by Brian_Ellenberger ( 308720 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:24PM (#5204737)
    What about simple sabotage? Everyone is noting how complex a Space Shuttle is. Cut a line here or there. Change the adhesive used to attach the tiles.

    One again, as I said highly unlikely to impossible. I believe it was a mechanical failure of some sort.

    But flying 2 jumbo jets into the Twin Towers, destroying the towers and killing 1000s of people was unlikely too. So I retain some skeptism of "accidents" especially on such a large target.

    Brian Ellenberger
  • by clarionhaze ( 641956 ) <> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:29PM (#5204777) Homepage
    Some don't realize why their deaths in particular have such a great magnitude on society. Sure hundreds of others will die today and any other day. But those that lost their lives on that shuttle lead lives dedicated to knowledge and bettering humanity as a whole. So I guess you could say they died for their country, you could also say they died for their world. To think otherwise, as far as I've thought it through, would be plain ignorance.
  • Keep going! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:29PM (#5204778)
    As well as being a long time aviation buff, I'm also a racing fan. One thing that I know for a certainty is that no pilot, driver, or rider ever wants to stop in spite of tragedies or the loss of freinds and peers.

    Same with engineers. Something doesn't work right, then get it right the next time!

    That said, the people that put out the most effort in this kind of endeavour are the ones that should decided whether or not there is to be a cessation of exploration! Taking the time to ponder the reasons for the failure is one thing, and any good engineer would do so. But an outright halt to the space program isn't going to happen.


  • Re:Don't watch FNC (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:39PM (#5204873) Homepage
    Just because there's been a tragedy doesn't mean that news concerning a war (which will be fought; if you think war is anything but inevitable, you're deluded) is irrelevant.

    Nothing in politics is inevitable. People can always make the difference. In this case we have essentially a single individual, George W Bush who is the advocate of this war. Without him there would be no war. In a constitution of checks and balances individual power is seriously limited.

    The numbers of casualties in the war are likely to dwarf this disaster. It is likely that the civilian casualties alone will be tens of thousands. The number of US troops killed is unlikely to be less than hundreds.

    I don't agree that the war is inevitable though. Blair just got an extension of six weeks to try to convince other allies. In particular they really need permission from Turkey to use bases there. Blix has stated that the Bush administration deliberately misrepresented his report. The diplomatic initiative could well swing against Bush and his chickenhawks.

    It is one thing to say you will start a war with no allies, no UN support and little domestic support. It is quite another to actually send the troops in for a land invasion.

    What is very likely to happen is a prolonged bombing campaign launched from air craft carriers and Diego Garcia. The real issue will be whether Bush can keep the attacks going long enough to get Saddam before the news reports of hospitals, schools etc. being bombed take their toll. The British press don't think Blair will last more than a few weeks if there is a war, he does not have party support, even the Tory opposition, Thatcher's party is opposed.

    The bulk of the US casualties would come from an actual land invasion. Bush may habe the theoretical ability to launch an invasion with no other support, in practice there are real limits to his authority. It is very unlikely he could launch an invasion if there was serious opposition to the war and people such as Schwatzkof and Powell went to Congress and said that there would likely be thousands of casualties if the land invasion went ahead.

    The GOP has set a very dangerous precedent with their frivolous impeachment of Clinton. It would only take a small number of disaffected Republicans to bring an impeachment.

  • by EEGeek ( 183888 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:41PM (#5204893)
    I don't think I can say anything that hasnt been posted already. I just want to express my deepest condolences to the crew, their families, and to the American people. Being a canadian engineering student, I have always dreamed of working for NASA in the USA, a lifelong dream, that I one day hope to accomplish.. although working for the Canadian Space Agency would also suffice. This is a very sad day on so many levels. On the level of the loss of life, as well as on the engineering side... as the Challenger explosion in 1986 set back the American space program... I can only hope that NASA presses on, and that congress doesn't stifle funding even more. Also a sad day to the American people, as well as here in Canada... astronauts were my childhood heros, and still are. Godspeed STS-107 crew... Godspeed.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:42PM (#5204896)
    "If we die, we want people to accept it. We're in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life."
    - Gus Grissom, responding to a reporter, at a press conference for the first manned Apollo mission.
  • by Tenebrious1 ( 530949 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:43PM (#5204905) Homepage
    You are a bad parent. If you can't bring yourself to override your children in a case such as this, you're going to raise a bunch of self-centered losers. Consider becoming an adult. Children need that in a parent.

    Idiot. Do you know why they are called children? Why they are considered dependents? Why kids cannot vote, why they can't drink, why they can't agree to contracts?

    Because children are not mentally nor emotionally capable of handling the grim realities pumped out by the media. The job of the parents is to protect children from these horrid images until those kids are mature enough to understand. It is the job of the parents to shelter the kids from the harsh realities of life. To take the raw data and figure out how to put it into terms that the kid can 1. understand and 2. not scar them mentally or emotionally.

    If you want to fuck your own kids up, that's fine, but don't tell other parents how to raise their own kids.

  • by Dukeofshadows ( 607689 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:46PM (#5204927) Journal
    All 7 astronauts are now in a better place. Let us honor their memory by calling a halt to the 25-year-old shuttles currently in use and building 7-10 new shuttles, perhaps naming one for each of the fallen stronauts from today's accident. This would also help our ailing economy while preventing accidents like this in the future.
  • by fimbulvetr ( 598306 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:47PM (#5204932)
    Take a moment to think of all the people that died while going west to the americas back in the day.

    Sure, you might say we have more technology, but by no means do we have the technology to travel to and from the cosmos like we do to cross the oceans now.

    Alot more lives will be lost, and there will be nothing we can do about it, except hope we learn from our mistakes.

    Everyone knows there is a higher risk of death or injury to these brave people.

    But that is just a chance you have to take.
  • by cptgrudge ( 177113 ) <{cptgrudge} {at} {}> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:51PM (#5204963) Journal
    Why don't they report on it? The same reason the space shuttle launches don't get reported anymore. They are routine.

    It is bad, of course, when anybody dies. But car crashes, including bad ones, happen hundreds, if not thousands of times a day, over the entire world.

    It isn't everyday that a NASA space shuttle is destroyed upon re-entry. It is everyday that bad car accidents occur. Look for space accidents to drop off in reporting once commercial space flight takes off in a hundred years.

  • Re:$DEITY? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @02:55PM (#5204979)
    I'm sorry, but is this really the time for petty squabling about the most politically correct wording for a sentiment that everybody is feeling right now?

    He didn't squabble; he just used the term he was comfortable with. You're the one who seems to want to make an issue out if it, for reasons I can't imagine.
  • Re:Photos (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wackybrit ( 321117 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @03:08PM (#5205040) Homepage Journal
    It's not about the fucking shuttle, dude. It's about the 7 people on board.

    Calm down. It's called the freedom of speech. People can say insensitive things and they're allowed to do so, it's the great thing about the US.

    And, please, what makes this any more sad than 7 people dying on the streets tonight? What makes this any more important than the prospect of hundreds of thousands of people dying in a forthcoming war?

    This is a sad event, and will rock the nation, but still.. it's 7 people. If Bush has his way, thousands more will be dead soon, and I bet you won't be crying into your hankies then.

    And because I believe in these rights to free speech, I'm not hiding behind the Anonymous Coward either.
  • Safety Record (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @03:09PM (#5205044)
    During its history, 4 people died onboard Soyuz spacecraft during the 36 years of its service. Both accidents (1 and 3 cosmonauts dead, respectively) happened before the commencing of the Shuttle program. The bottom line is 25 years of service without fatal accidents. None of the last three major modifications of Soyuz were involved in any.

    The Shuttle program has a shorter history of 22 years of spaceflight, killing 15 people in two fatal accidents (8 and 7 respectively). If I were an insurance company, I would recommend Soyuz.
  • by io333 ( 574963 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @03:14PM (#5205061)
    That is extremely unlikely. Multiple redundant warning systems would have set off a warning in the cockpint of there was locking failure of the bay doors. If one did come off, I would speculate it was due to internal pressure from a different source than failure to lock.

    Even the simplest private planes with folding landing gear have redundant systems to warn of gear lock failure.
  • Re:Please (Score:1, Insightful)

    by j3ss ( 632376 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @03:17PM (#5205073) Homepage
    Do us all a favor and go kill yourself.

    In that one sentance you pretty much some up my feeling on the way most religous people think. You claim to be religous and then you tell someone to go kill themself because they have offended you.
    Why is it that the non-religous generally have higher moral standards and more integrity than the average religous person?
  • by BigBir3d ( 454486 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @03:22PM (#5205092) Journal
    The public reaction is based on the Shuttle Program itself. Seriuosly outdated hardware that is starting to fall apart at the seams. The program was fine for the 80's but it is 20 years later...

    I feel deeply for the families and friends of all of those involved in this horrible tragedy.

    It is time that we give up on the Shuttle Program and create/use something better.

    We are a planet of one race... I think it is time we start acting like it.

    Unity. Peace. Exploration. Knowledge.

  • by Synn ( 6288 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @03:23PM (#5205094)
    In skydiving it's not uncommon for someone to get killed. Typically when that happens the people at the dropzone continue to skydive on that day, not out of any disrespect of the person that died, but because dying is just another part of life and it should not interrupt what people do.

    Similairly when a person in skydiving has a near death event, it's also typical that they immediately go back up and do another skydive as soon as they're able to. It's kind of a cliche, but "getting back on the horse" is an important part of life. When people don't go back up, it's not uncommon for them to leave the sport entirely, ie. give in to their fears.

    Space travel is dangerous, and shit's gonna happen. No matter what decisions are made, how safe you play the game, eventually somewhere somehow something bad will go wrong and with the dangers and forces involved with space travel that will usually mean people will die.

    But that should not cause any interruptions in the space program. Just because a shuttle went down doesn't make them unsafe. In fact considering how often they go up, I'd say 1 shuttle down every 18 years is pretty damn good. NASA needs to get another shuttle up and get back on the horse ASAP.

    Unfortunately what will probably happen is that the space program will be suspended while everyone plays the blame game. Fingers will be pointed, a lot of If's will be thrown around: If they hadn't dismissed the damage done to the wing at launch - If they had rehauled the shuttle more carefully in '99 - If more money was spent on the program - If we weren't using 20 year old technology - If, if, if...

    If you skydive long enough, you'll see people die. The forces are extreme enough in the sport, that small mistakes can become lethal. Space travel involves forces even more extreme: here we had a craft screaming through re-entry into earth at 12,000 miles per hour. I can't begin to imagine the kind of stresses those forces put on a space craft.

    Eventually the odds are going to catch up with those involved, something nobody thought of will happen and with such extreme forces involved, people will die.

    But death doesn't mean you put all life on hold.

    When you push the limits of human experience, the price is risk. But life without risk is meaningless.
  • by Aanallein ( 556209 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @03:34PM (#5205151)
    Why risk human lives and billions of dollars on lower orbit?
    Because humans are not coldly analytical beings. We need to keep dreaming. We need to have projects that capture our interest and imagination, projects that make us want to give everything we have, to strive just that tad harder.
    Not because this in itself is a goal, but because it is an essential ingredient for a future with a world we might actually someday be proud of.
  • by starseeker ( 141897 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @03:35PM (#5205154) Homepage
    You measure it in dreams. This is a dream of humanity - to travel to the stars. It's as old as humanity, but its strength waxes and wanes with the tides of fortune. For thousands of years, humanity dreamed. Then, in the 20th century, they actually did it.

    I don't think we can understand how profound that step was. This dream is older than us, older than our civilization, and older than any history or record that survives the ravages of time. And now we've made it real. We've seen birds fly, but nothing living on this earth above the level of virus has ever ventured beyond it. That is a unique human achievement, perhaps in a sense our greatest.

    That is why this is a greater disaster. Because it hinders our pursuit of the dream. People do not stop flying because a twin-engine plane goes down. But there is a real chance our resolve will weaken, and we will let this dream slip back to the shadows. Mankind needs a dream, to reach for the unimaginable. Space is our dream. We cannot afford to lose it, or we lose much more than lives.

    We all have to die. The tragic part of this is that these people will not get to see their children grow up, and their families suffer one of the greatest losses they can suffer. But if I were to pick the way I would die, daring the exploration of the stars is a great way to go. Better to die daring greatly, then remain always what might have been. That is our risk, and that is humanity's risk - that we become what might have been. We make mistakes, we suffer loss, but we dare greatness. That is what makes humanity worthwhile.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 01, 2003 @03:52PM (#5205262)
    Yeah, but your way is the orthodoxy of submitting to a jacked-up theocratic autocracy that has served to keep mankind in fuedal slavery for thousands of years, and would turn the clock back in a moment if it had half a chance. It represents one of the core malign influences on human progress that (unfortunatley) be with us for ever, because fucking preaching cunts like you are two stupid and arrogant to give it up.
  • by Minna Kirai ( 624281 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @03:59PM (#5205293)
    "Is space worth the risk?"

    No, it's not. More precisely, manned space travel isn't worth the risk. (Unmanned missions are risk-free by comparison)

    Just look at the kinds of leading edge science this crew died to perform: []

    Manned space flight (both shuttle trips, and the International Space Station) are today worth neither the risk nor the money. I like what John Pike [] said about the ISS: "The value of the science that can be done on the Space Station is trivial compared to the cost of the Space Station. Piloted spaceflight is about politics."

    Let's look specifically at the ISS, which is the destination for most of the recent shuttle flights. Keeping humans supplied in space takes many extra trips up and down: all the air, water, food, living space, and exercise equipement takes up valuable cubic meters. And all of the provisions for safety and gentle re-entry further reduce the fuel efficiency of the rockets.

    The ISS program, and the supply flights to build & support it, will have a total price tag of at around $100,000,000,000.

    Scientific-notation kinds of fundage ($1e11)!! You'd have to be a NASA researcher just to count it all.

    Virtually all of the science and maintenannce done on Shuttles and the ISS could be accomplished by semi-autonomous robots. Sure, today maybe our robotics and AI technology isn't good enough to substitute for some of the tricky things where a dynamic, flexible human is needed. Well, try investing a fraction of the $1e11 budget into researching those systems, and then tell me how well they work!

    Developing better robots to operate space equipment won't only make extra-planetary research safer and cheaper- it'll also produce technological advances that will benefit civilians around the world!

    (Rocket-boosters are only needed by astronauts and admirals. But reliable robot manipulators could be useful to anyone)

    I fear for the public reaction agenst NASA and space traval from this day forward.

    I hope the public wises up that manned space flight is an expensive and dangerous form of esteem-boosting entertainment.
  • by mrscott ( 548097 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @03:59PM (#5205297)
    There are frequently posts about happenings in NASA posted on Slashdot - ie - Mars, asteroid sitings, etc. If this story isn't "stuff that matters", I don't know what is.
  • by Perrin-GoldenEyes ( 4296 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @04:00PM (#5205304)
    I agree with you that the guy was an asshole for posting that comment. It was totally out of line. But that is, unfortunately, the kind of immature crap that will crop up frequently on internet boards.

    OTOH, I do think it might be better for kids to watch the news in this case. I very clearly remember watching the footage of the Challenger disaster and the subsequent memorial service when I was in third grade. It was heart-breaking, but I wouldn't trade that experience (even as young as I was) for anything.

    Just my $0.02.
  • by ces ( 119879 ) <> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @04:06PM (#5205339) Homepage Journal
    But manned flight is essential if we want to live in space long term.

    I for one want to see a Moon colony, Mars colony, etc.

    We aren't going to get off this rock if we only send robots into space.
  • by fygment ( 444210 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @04:24PM (#5205462)
    ... flights by humans. Remember: the Hubble repairs and upgrades. Just as we can't perfectly send humans into space, we also can't perfectly send robots or equipment. And as probes get more sophisticated, their size will mandate their construction in orbit. Humans will be needed for that.
  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @04:38PM (#5205546) Journal
    Then the disaster is one of information, not rocketry. The space program is not all about politics, but ocasionally needs to play politics to retain its funding. And it is the farthest thing from a disaster. It is has been utterly invaluable in inciting the development of technology, and the procedures for maintaining relatively excruciating safety for extremely dangerous operations involving hypercomplex devices.

    Astronautical research created the way our world works, and saves lives in the air and on the ground daily.
  • Re:Reality Check (Score:2, Insightful)

    by carlos_benj ( 140796 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @04:40PM (#5205555) Journal
    Whatever it was that failed, didn't need to fail, and if the problem can be identified then this needn't happen again. It is "easily-avoidable" death.

    While it's likely true that whatever failed didn't 'need' to fail that doesn't mean that these deaths were "easily-avoidable" by any stretch. There is no system, mechanical, biological, electrical in this world that is perfect. There will continue to be people who die as a result. The odds are against us as the statistic is that ten out of every ten people die. Some die due to biological malfunction, while others might die in accidents.

    Don't try to over simplify the problem or the answers.
  • by Mark Programmer ( 228585 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @04:43PM (#5205567) Homepage
    That's sort of the ironic thing about today's events... by many measurements, spaceflight IS safe. Just look at the number of man-hours spent in space vs. the death toll... even factoring in the Soviet space program, you're looking at a pretty small death / success ratio. I don't have the statistics, but I would hypothesize that spaceflight is safer than automotive travel... of course, it's just a hypothesis, so don't take this at face value without some confirmation :)

    Of course, voters may see it differently... but I still hold out hope that NASA won't have to ground the fleet for more than a month or two. I don't forsee a regression of the kind that happened post-Challenger for NASA this time... it isn't feasible. At the very least, someone will have to go retrieve the crew of Space Station Alpha very soon.

    But beyond that, space exploration is part of what we as humans do... exploration. When Challenger exploded in the 1980s, people felt a little safer, NASA's STS was untouchable... people rationally knew it could fail, but in many ways it was assumed in their hearts to be infallible. This time, people know the STS isn't perfect, but you know what? These two tragedies plot a safety record that's extraordinarily good for the complexity and the intricacy of the machines, tasks, and environments involved.

    NASA has lost its innocence for another generation, but I think this may be a much less innocent generation than the one of the 1980s... I hope the voters in America will recognize that if we want to do anything great, risk is involved. The astronauts know that, NASA knows that... it's time Americans knew that again, too.
  • by Minna Kirai ( 624281 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @04:45PM (#5205578)
    And why exactly would you want to do that?

    Go build a plexiglass dome in Antartica and live there for a few years, to see how moon life would feel. Remember to keep it sealed, so you can't have any additional air, water, or food. Only sunlight gets in. If you survive, then we can talk about extraterrestrial colonies.

    "Getting off this rock" is a good goal- for a 100+ year timeframe! This discussion is science-fiction terrirtory.

    There's no need to start moving off-planet yet. Sure, it's arguably overpopulated already, and it'll get more crowded as the century goes on- but the most barren, desolate wasteland on earth is a paradise compared to what you'd find on the surface of Mars or Luna!

    To live in space soonest, we should fork the research into 2 branches:
    • The space element: developing rocket boosters, atomic engines, and robot-drones to perfect interplanetary travel techology. Once the robots have managed to erect a powerplant and radio array on the moon's surface, then we can start to build habitats.
    • The human element: learn how to keep people alive in a self-contained environment for a decade at a time. Essentially, keep repeating the BioSphere [] experiment until it finally works.

    Once those 2 research branches have been followed through to independent success, true space colonization research can begin. But trying to develop both the spaceflight technology and the human sustainment skills at the same time- as the ISS program is doing- is an expensive, dangerous folly.
  • by Alizarin Erythrosin ( 457981 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @05:04PM (#5205708)
    The Russian and US space programs have known this for ages, but the US public just doesn't want to accept the fact that their are serious risks involved with putting human beings in orbit and getting them home safely

    I agree 100%. Space flight is indeed dangerous. But one also has to look at the statistics of NASA's shuttle program: 107 launches, 2 failures (losses?). That's a pretty good record for this type of thing. There's gonna be speculation out the ass about what caused it... maybe it was old age (structural failure) or that insulation thing they're thinking about that damage the heat shield. I don't know.

    The energy involved at certain critical points (launch, reentry) is of such a high order that it simply isn't feasibly to introduce life-saving components.

    In a case such as the re-entry breakup in question, I actually feel that it would be feasible to have a life saving component here. Perhaps they were going too fast but then again, people have free-fallen from very high altitudes and survived. My first though was maybe some kind of expandable, I don't know let's call it an air brake, on the crew capsule that can be deployed once they pass the firey part of the re-entry procedure in case of an emergency. Couple that with some parachutes and it might actually work.

    Regardless, the lessons learned from this tragedy will help to prevent another one in the future. I think NASA needs to "get back on the horse" as the expresison goes. The crew change and additional module for the ISS should go up on schedule, unless this is found to be a structural failure of some kind that affects all shuttle orbiters, or they decide to implement some sort of system in the crew capsule.
  • by Bandman ( 86149 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `namdnab'> on Saturday February 01, 2003 @05:24PM (#5205827) Homepage
    Idiot. Do you know why they are called children? Why they are considered dependents? Why kids cannot vote, why they can't drink, why they can't agree to contracts?
    Because children are not mentally nor emotionally capable of handling the grim realities pumped out by the media.

    I have to disagree with you. It completely depends on the individual child whether or not they can handle the stresses that life brings. I remember watching the news of the explosion in 1986...I was 7 years old, and I understood the magnitude of what had happened. It didn't "fuck me up". It was a realization that bad things happen, and when they do, there isn't always going to be a happy ending.

    The job of the parents is to protect children from these horrid images until those kids are mature enough to understand. It is the job of the parents to shelter the kids from the harsh realities of life.

    I hope that your children don't end up sheltered from reality to the point that when they do have to face it, they come running back to you so you can make it better.

  • by vanyel ( 28049 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @05:39PM (#5205938) Journal
    It's not unreasonable to quibble over exactly how we go into space, but it's absolutely imperative that we continue going there. If we were to stop entirely just because the current direction isn't optimal, it would be that much harder to get going again once we were able to agree what "optimal" might be.
  • Re:$DEITY? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Iguanaphobic ( 31670 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @05:49PM (#5206045)
    and people seemed to just stop buying stuff

    Sad commentary on society when that's what it takes to get people's attention. When was the last time that this happened??

  • by cybercuzco ( 100904 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @06:54PM (#5206500) Homepage Journal
    Venturestar looks great until you actually start running the numbers on it. Any single stage to orbit craft has to have an insanely low structural mass fraction. something like .05-.1 What those numbers mean is that for ever kilogram of payload, structure, engines, people etc, you need 10-20 kg of fuel. Things get better if youre dropping structure and fuel tanks off along the way, like the shuttle. Howevwer, if you had to carry the SRB's and the external tank all the way to orbit, the shuttle would be twice as big as it currently is and still have the same payload capacity. Venturestar tried to get around this with new efficient engine technology and carbon fiber fuel tanks. The Carbon fiber fuel tanks would have significantly reduced the tank weight. Unfortunately, fuel leakd throguh the carbon skin and into the honeycomb underneath. When the tanks emptied the fuel vaporized and popped a hole in the tank. Not very good for reusability. Engine performance can only be tweaked so far. The limits are the chemical energy that is released from a given reation. Ultimately all rockets get killed by the rocket equation. dV=g0*Isp*ln(mf/m0) g0=gravity=9.81 m/s^2 Isp= the specific impulse of the fuel (depends on the fuel) the best we can get is about 450-460 for liquid oxygen-liquid hydrogen ,mf=final mass of your vehicle m0=initial mass of your vehicle. dV= total change in velocity for the vehicle. Orbital velocity is about 7600 m/s plus you need to add on a bit more for drag as you go through the atmosphere, and the energy you need to actually reach altitude. A good number is 10000 m/s Run the numbers yourself and see how much mass you need in fuel to launch a certain mas of craft. Keep in mind that as you increase the amount of fuel you increase the amount of tank mass and other masses like wiring and computers.
  • high flight (Score:2, Insightful)

    by black_widow ( 41044 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @07:03PM (#5206552) Homepage
    "High Flight"

    Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
    And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
    Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
    Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
    You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
    High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
    I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
    My eager craft through footless halls of air.
    Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
    I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
    Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
    And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
    The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
    Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

    John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

    Pilot Officer John G. Magee, Jr.

    High Flight was composed by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was born in Shanghai, China in 1922, the son of missionary parents, Reverend and Mrs. John Gillespie Magee; his father was an American and his mother was originally a British citizen.

    He came to the U.S. in 1939 and earned a scholarship to Yale, but in September 1940 he enlisted in the RCAF and was graduated as a pilot. He was sent to England for combat duty in July 1941.

    In August or September 1941, Pilot Officer Magee composed High Flight and sent a copy to his parents. Several months later, on December 11, 1941 his Spitfire collided with another plane over England and Magee, only 19 years of age, crashed to his death.

    His remains are buried in the churchyard cemetery at Scopwick, Lincolnshire.

  • by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @07:11PM (#5206605) Homepage
    In today's press conference a NASA official dismissed the importance of the debri that hit the left wing on launch. After all it happened in two of the previous three shuttle missions, and nothing happened.

    This brought back memories of a paragraph from the Feynman report after the challenger disaster which warns precisely about this:

    We have also found that certification criteria used in Flight Readiness Reviews often develop a gradually decreasing strictness. The argument that the same risk was flown before without failure is often accepted as an argument for the safety of accepting it again. Because of this, obvious weaknesses are accepted again and again, sometimes without a sufficiently serious attempt to remedy them, or to delay a flight because of their continued presence.

  • by tmortn ( 630092 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @07:33PM (#5206747) Homepage
    Lets just say the tiles caused it. That critical tiles where somehow displodged by the foam on take off.

    There was nothing they could do about it. They could not repair any damage. They couldn't meet up with Station, They couldn't stay on orbit much longer, Certainly not long enough to mount a rescue. The only choice they had was attempting re-entry and landing. They couldn't launch the Soyuz on the pad for a rescue because soyuz is not capable of making shuttles normal orbit, not to mention that is a progres module and not one designed for re-entry and even if it were it could only hold 3 minus anyone needed for launch ( normally 2 )..Choices where

    A) Stay in orbit and die when life support failed. B) Hope it held together on re-entry.

    and thats if they discovered an issue before they went for de-orbit burn. If they found out after that there only choice was hoping it held together on re-entry.

    The same applies to almost any problem which may have developed of a structural nature.
  • by Zhe Mappel ( 607548 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @07:48PM (#5206896)
    Well, it is too early to say what went wrong. It's also too early to know if the defunding of NASA -- which has generated warning after warning for years -- is to blame. But it is not to early to observe what is going on in this:
    "The same creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today," Bush said, his eyes glistening. "The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth but we can pray they are safely home."
    The president whose people generate a plan to lob 400 cruise missiles per day into civilian Iraq is not someone from whom I will buy such opportunistic sentimentality. You can't deal cheaply with human life and expect people to believe you when a speechwriter sticks a few lines worthy of Rod McKuen in your hand.
  • by DunbarTheInept ( 764 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:04PM (#5207756) Homepage
    You missed the relevant detail - it blew up during the re-entry phase where it normally is on fire. Missing or faulty heat tiles could also cause the breakup. A bad angle could cause the breakup. I guess it was like this: Some heat tiles failed or were missing on one spot, causing one small part of the shuttle to overheat and possibly even melt. If the failure of that part caused the shuttle to be unable to maintain its orientation, then it could tumble into an angle where the top of the craft (where there are no heat tiles) is exposed to the re-entry burn. At that point it would just get ripped to shreds since metal gets soft as it nears its melting point.

  • by DunbarTheInept ( 764 ) on Saturday February 01, 2003 @10:35PM (#5207913) Homepage
    No. Only one shuttle failed, not two. Challenger worked perfectly on January 28 of 1986. It was the solid fuel booster rocket *attached to it* that failed. Why is this relevant? Because the boosters don't get the same amount of re-use as the shuttles themselves, and the boosters are interchangable. The booster that failed on Jan 28, 1986 was not part of Challenger and may vary well have been used previously on Columbia, Discovery, or Atlantis or all of the above.
  • by TomParrett ( 646763 ) on Sunday February 02, 2003 @02:41PM (#5210913)
    Today's New York Times calculates the risks: 2 failures in 113 flights, about 98 percent success rate, which is thought by NASA acceptable -- or at any rate realistic -- for space flight. Who would go on a business trip with a 1 and 56 chance of dying? We have come to take astronauts for granted. They are extraordinarily valiant, the bravest of the brave.

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