Friday, February 07, 2003

That said, the shuttle program is, quite literally, running laps. You can argue that that's what "shuttle" means. But the shuttle was shuttling before there was anything to shuttle to, only an Earth to shuttle from. The name finally had some meaning when we began to build a space station. NASA's shuttle program is perfect for building a space station: big payload capacity, spacewalk capability, reusability, durability. Yes, very durable. One re-entry accident in 20 years? That's a fine record. No, this accident won't shelve the shuttle. But, in a way, it should. Having these people go up and do some science work that could be done here is unworthy of the loss of life. I'll cut to the chase. The only reasons for the shuttle, the only reasons worth the risk, are maintaining the Hubble and building a space station. And, if that space station is not being built primarily as a launching point for a man-on-Mars mission, it should be scrapped too. I'm not interested in seeing the affects of zero-g on aging or any crap like that, except as incidental research on the long trips to other planets. We should be exploring, challenging ourselves. The shuttle we lost, Columbia, was named for Columbus, an explorer. But if Columbus had followed the same path that the shuttle program has, it'd be 1514 and he'd be running a middling spice-shipping outfit in the Caribbean. Bush needs, after the investigation, to decalre a Kennedy-esque goal: Mars by 2010. If we are to risk human lives in the exploration of space, let's get something in the bargain, other than an overpriced ride to high-Earth-orbit with some science-fair-style equipment on board.

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