Columbia disintegrated over Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma this morning.
This is only the second major disaster in the space shuttle program. I find that really quite amazing. Many people feel like NASA should have taken more precautions to keep things like this from happening, but I don’t think so. It’s really not possible to be safe when conducting space flight. If you think about it, in an accident like this, there is absolutely nothing that could have been done.
Why doesn’t the space shuttle have ejection seats like most aircraft? They fly so high and so fast that they would be useless. An ejection from a plane flying at more than Mach 1 is considered “extremely dangerous” and the pilot may or may not survive. An ejection at Mach 18.1 is impossible to survive. Not to mention they were at 207,000 feet. They would freeze to death and suffocate before they even got to an altitude that they could consider using a parachute. It’s just not feasible.
Astronauts know the risks they take, they know the dangers involved. They fly because they want to and because they are OK with that. Disasters happen, and society as a whole moves on. I personally am shocked but not at all surprised by today’s disaster. It goes with the territory. We need to get back up and keep moving!
Update: I found this quote on slashdot
“If we die, we want people to accept it. We’re in a risky business and we hope if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life.”
— Gus Grissom, Apollo 1 Commander