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Monday 3 February 2003

Space - The final frontier [lurks]

I wanted to say a few words in the aftermath of the Columbia incident that has just occurred. I think I can speak for everyone in expressing our sadness at the loss of the 7 lives aboard the Columbia and that our thoughts are with the families of these pioneers.
I probably have to tread a fine line to be within the bounds of decency to comment on this loss. So if I seem a little toned down in opinion, it's for that reason. Shuttle accidents are always a tragedy and it's a huge shame that space flight is a common enough occurrence these days that the only coverage one can expect in the media is when something goes wrong. Understandable perhaps, but a shame nevertheless.
Unfortunately, as Challenger proved, what happens as a direct result of all the media surrounding this accident is that it sets the space program back several years. Shuttle flights will be grounded, everything will be checked again from the ground up at a cost of billions of dollars. I'm aware some will argue this needs to be done, that there is not a price on life. Actually, I'm afraid I don't agree.
Cringing trekism aside, it's still true to say that space is the final frontier. It's a dangerous business being strapped on top of impossibly massive tanks of LOX, the ends lit and riding the flames into orbit. It always has been and it will be for a very long time yet. Is NASA being negligent? Jesus Christ no. Their standards are the highest bar in the world for technical redundancy.
No one at NASA wants a loss of human life or the billions of lost revenue of a stalled space program or important science being set back years such as the upcoming Mars mission.
In my view, it should be business as usual. I'm sure they'd be serious effort to find out what went wrong regardless. However the 7 brave souls that put untold hard work into achieving their dream wouldn't want us to stop. And for every one of them, there's a lot more that would take that chance at being an astronaut. I would, wouldn't you?
Can't we have one last risky frontier where our finest men and women volunteer to demonstrate humanity's finest hour?
I think we can. The people that died today are heros and will be remembered as such, as will be those that followed in their footsteps. Unlike some names scratched on a memorial in some past forgotten war, these people were achieving something truly magnificent and they volunteered for it. Their lives aren't cheap but shackling the space program isn't the answer - fly on boys, fly on.
On another slightly sour note, I was shocked by the yank interview with Buzz Aldrin I tuned to when the events unfolded. When asked what safety features the Shuttle possessed, Aldrin dodged the question completely and proceeded to plug his own company which has been tendering for business concerning ejection pods and what not. It was disgusting. This sort of gravy train skullduggery is the antithesis of what he did 30 years ago and I'm saddened that it should come to this.

1 comment:

  1. PIC: CNN's quality reporting.Although to be fair, Brit also found some woman's flange getting shocked with a 9V battery on the same site.