Shuttle reportedly explodes over Texas. Not thought to be terrorism, no indication of trouble. The shuttle appears to have broken up in flight at 200,000 feet. Looks like the space agency will be screwed for another three years.
You can keep track of the developments at Spaceflight Now. Thanks Solonor for the link.
UPDATE 1:01PM: I didn’t have much time earlier to say much about this as we had an appointment to keep this morning, but we’re back and I’ve had some time for this to sink in. I can remember the first shuttle disaster pretty vividly and the sense of shock I had at the time. I also remember how long it took before NASA started going back into space. The sense of shock isn’t here this time, just a sense of sadness at both the loss of the lives of the crew and the inevitable blame game that will further damage an already limping space program.
There was a time in my youth that I entertained the idea of being an astronaut. Upon realizing the amount of education, training, and just plain old fashioned determination it would require, well, being the slacker that I am I figured it wouldn’t be my destiny. To this day I would love to take a trip into space. Hell, if they asked me to go up on the next flight headed out tomorrow I’d still be willing to suit up even after this disaster. The space program still has a better flight record than any airline and it’s still safer than driving on the freeway. Space travel has always fascinated me and probably always will.
A lot of important things that make modern life possible are a side-benefit of the space program. We’ve gained a lot from it even if most of us have never been anywhere near the outer edge of the atmosphere. There’s a lot yet to learn that won’t happen if this ends up crippling NASA or even possibly bringing it to an end. The accident needs to be investigated. The reasons why need to be discovered, but we shouldn’t put the space program on complete hold like we did last time. Don’t allow these brave people’s deaths to be in vain. They knew the risks and they put their lives on the line because they believed what they were doing was important and beneficial. I doubt you’ll find an astronaut that doesn’t feel the same way.
UPDATE 2:08PM: Here’s what some others are saying about this tragedy. Northstar, Solonor, Richy C with even more here, deb, Robyn, Jason, Leigh, Scott, Michele who’s already found the conspiracy nuts working the story, Muse, GeekGrrl and Kat. These are just some of the folks I visit regularly, I’m sure everyone will be talking about this today.
UPDATE 2:18PM: Thanks to Robyn for pointing me to Samizdata.net where another blogger has offered up some thoughts on what might have happened. His analysis is easily better than anything I’ve heard on the news so far.
UPDATE 2:53PM: Scott provides us with yet another excellent link to this topic. This time to Transterrestrial Musings which is written by Rand Simberg who used to work on projects relating to the shuttle program. I should probably stop updating this entry and start making new ones soon.