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We just lost the Columbia

Turn on your TV if it’s off. About 17 years after the loss of the Challenger, the Columbia broke up on re-entry this morning.
We lost the first teacher in space on the Challenger, and the first Israeli in space on the Columbia.

I’ll probably reflect on it more later. But it occurs to me that there aren’t many commercial airliners the age of the Columbia in use. I’m no aerospace engineer, but I’d love to hear the opinion of one on what the operational life of one of these craft ought to be. This is one of those where-were-you-when-you-heard? moments in history, like the Challenger and the WTC disaster.

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9 thoughts on “We just lost the Columbia”

  1. Where were we ? Outside in our backyard at 8:00 AM in Plano, TX looking towards the Western sky for a glimpse of the shuttle. A few minutes later, we heard what sounded like sonic booms. Little did we know at the time…

  2. We were standing inside the mall waiting for my kids to take their karate test.

    For Challenger, I was standing outside my house in Guam.

  3. I was in my office, editing an article. I found out via e-mail. I sat there for a minute, then went to to verify it and turned on my TV.

  4. Well, Dave, actually I followed your directions. Yep, you really ruined my day, not that I “blame” you. Hit the stereo quick and a few seconds later I knew it was real.

    For Challenger, I was at work when somebody stuck their head in my office and told me. The same reaction both times – “You’re kidding!?!”

  5. It’s sad.

    Old shuttle, “green” mission crew. Disaster. ๐Ÿ™

    I found out by email. Still haven’t been by a TV to see footage of debris.

  6. Well, this is very saddening… It’s also sort of ominous, because lately I have been quoting Richard Feynman’s comments from the last Presidential Inquiry of a shuttle.

    Any loss of human life is a great loss, but to lose the people who are stretching to make way for future generations, and making the ultimate sacrifice doing it… that is very sad.


  7. I didn’t find out about this until around 11:30. It was a lazy morning, and I spent most of it reading. There was a chat going on at my favorite messageboard, and I thought I’d take a peak at the boards real quick before I got on IRC. One look at the topic listing and I yelled at my mother to turn on the TV. We’ve both been crying all day. We’re die-hard sci fi geeks and the exploration of space is a cause very near and dear to our hearts.

    “Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won’t just take us. It’ll take Marilyn Monroe and Lao-Tzu and Einstein and Morobuto and Buddy Holly and Aristophenes .. and all of this .. all of this was for nothing unless we go to the stars.” Commander Sinclair, Babylon 5

  8. The age of the Columbia had nothing to do with what happened today. NASA treats the shuttles like babies, keeping them upgraded and in tip-top shape. I remember seeing a documentary on the shuttles and one thing stuck with me. The windows on the shuttles are hand-polished for 8 hours straight before a mission to make sure they are as clean and scratch-free as possible. I’ve heard that things coming off the shuttle on launch and re-entry is rather commonplace, and I’m not surprised, given the extreme speeds and temperatures involved. The “inexperience” of the crew also had nothing to do with it. Remember this isn’t just a family of 7 going on a weekend flight. Astronauts have years and years of simulations and training before they’re allowed up there. I believe the youngest astronauts on STS-107 were 41.

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