1 February 2003
This won't traumatize people the way Challenger did because (1) it's not the first time; and (2) we're at war now, and people's calculations of such things especially post-WTC are different. I hope, however, that we'll look at moving beyond the elderly and unreliable Shuttle now.
Rand Simberg should have something to say later today.
Meanwhile, prayers might seem to be in order.
Update, 10:50 am: Rand Simberg has checked in, and he's calling, once again, for some rethinking of the space program:
Until we increase our activity levels by orders of magnitude, we will continue to operate every flight as an experiment, and we will continue to spend hundreds of millions per flight, and we will continue to find it difficult to justify what we're doing. We need to open up our thinking to radically new ways, both technically and institutionally, of approaching this new frontier.
When I was growing up in the Jurassic period, it was taken for granted that space flight by 2000 or so would be routine. Obviously it isn't. Would more extensive experience have prevented this disaster? It's hard to say for sure, but it seems reasonable to me that if we'd done a lot more of these flights, we'd have a better grip on what can go wrong and what can be done about it beforehand.