I found out about the Columbia tragedy at the gym on Saturday afternoon. Liz and I usually don't watch much TV on Saturday mornings, so we hadn't tuned in when we got up. And I only checked my e-mail; I didn't make my usual rounds of the big Internet news sites, so my first exposure to the news was when we walked into the gym and saw the upstairs cardio machine/tv area crowded with people working out and watching. I listened to Queen II while working out, but I don't remember hearing a note of the music. I was too busy following the news.
I clearly remember watching the Challenger explosion 17 years ago. I was in sixth grade, home from school that day because of snow. I didn't watch the launch live, but whatever I was watching at 11:38 AM on NBC was interrupted by the news of the disaster. It was just unbelievable, that something like that could happen. And now it's happened again. I've always been a fan of astronomy and science fiction, so the losses of two shuttle orbiters and their crews hit me in a tender spot. They are reminders that space exploration is a dangerous endeavour that will claim more lives in the future. But it's an effort that must continue. There are no frontiers left on this planet, and as humanity expands, we will need to look for new frontiers in space. NASA should take the necessary time and effort to fix the problem that destroyed Columbia, and then we need to resume shuttle flights as soon as possible. And then we need to give NASA the money it needs to develop a replacement vehicle for the shuttle fleet. Then let's go to Mars already.