Just a quick post about the Space Shuttle Discovery.
At 5:12am PDT this morning, Discovery touched down. Like many across the country, I was worried about potential problems that may arise with re-entry. Considering the numerous problems that have come to light since Columbia’s disaster 2½ years ago, the successful landing at Edwards Air Force Base this morning was a borderline miracle. Thankfully, unlike the sick joke that made its rounds after the Challenger accident in 1986, NASA does NOT mean Need Another Seven Astronauts.
I remember being in school in late January of 1986 when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded mid-flight killing the first seven astronauts. Prior to launch, it was a momentous occasion with the addition of teacher Christa McAuliffe as part of the crew. I was in sixth grade at the time. I remember our teacher bringing a TV into the classroom and watching replay after horrifying replay the destruction of what was then heralded as one of our most innovative accomplishments of the NASA space program. The image of the fireball that erupted 73 seconds into launch is burned into my memory forever.
I also remember watching the devastating Columbia tragedy on February 1st, 2003. I was at work monitoring our computer network on our screen wall when the images of Columbia’s disastrous re-entry were, again, replayed ad infinitum on CNN. The subsequent grounding of the Space Shuttle program was supposed to facilitate massive changes to program as a whole. Many changes were made, but I wonder if it’s not time for a near-complete redesign of the Shuttle orbiter. One would think, with the advances in technology since the first shuttle was launched in April of 1981, that we could resolve the lingering issues surrounding an aging fleet of Space Shuttles.
With all that said, however, I’d like to give three cheers to the crew of Discovery and the NASA engineers on the ground who guided the crew’s repairs in space. Let’s hope that more scrutiny is placed on the space program and its much needed revamping.