Almost there...

Monday, February 03, 2003

I've been thinking about the Columbia for the last couple of days. I'm not feeling it as the enormous tragedy that the media and George Bush is playing it out to be. It doesn't hit very hard because it's almost expected. In fact, it's amazing that they've gone this long without more than 2 major accidents.

There's some other alleviating factors as well. Unlike Challenger, where it was the first time something like this happened, and where they blew up on launch, these folks all got to go out there. They got to see the Earth from space. And they knew space travel was a risky business, but they still fulfilled the dream and unfortunately they died on their way home. But dammit, they got to see it!

Second, I guess I've been waiting for something like this to happen. I don't drive an old car from 1982 because technology has changed, safety features have advanced significantly, and cars just aren't designed they way they were then for very good reasons. My first car was a 1982 Datsun King Cab diesel truck. Driving it once after purchasing my first Saturn was an experience I won't forget. It suddenly felt so old and dated and... well, rickety. Since then I've purchased another new car, and my old Saturn felt dated after driving the new one. And if I were still driving that old Datsun, I wouldn't expect it to make a cross country roadtrip repeatedly without breaking down, no matter how many parts I'd replaced or how careful I'd been about maintaining it. The space shuttle is long overdue for a redesign. That we've made it this long without a major accident is a miracle.

So I'm sad for the astronauts and their families, but it's not much worse to me than hearing that someone I didn't know died in a car crash. The only difference is that I fear that instead of taking this as a head's up and giving NASA a big chunk of money to build a better spacecraft, the Shrub will take this as an opportunity to call for the cancellation of the space program, cutting funding down the to bone, cancelling our involvement in the international space station, and redirecting all of the money to our oil war. The only reason he might not do that is that space shuttles use a lot of rocket fuel, which is made out of oil. Either that or he'll just be too busy picking fights with other nations to notice NASA's pathetic budget.

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