A Rant after the Columbia Space Shuttle Accident

This is actually from an exchange with a friend somewhat involved in space exploration. It was shortly after the Columbia accident and we were ranting about all those folks that know everything better… I think it is worth to be reproduced as it explains quite some of my base motivations.

I think it is not really important if you are in this or that field [of space exploration]. Of course, if you know people in there and the procedures, things may be even more terrible. But I honestly think it is more an issue of what you believe in.

I have grow up with the quest for space and I have grown up with increasing  complex technology entering more and more into our everyday life. I have  seen those early and exotic “satellite broadcasts”. I have seen computers to come out of the data centers and enter the homes. I have seen international  communication becoming main stream. I even read today that it is just the 75th anniversary of the connection of the German and US telephone systems. 75 years ago, they had – on average – 3 calls from Germany to the US per *day* (each one billed @ roughly 160$ per 3 minutes…)!

I have seen the Hubble images. I have seen the world shrinking. I actually have seen the world. I mean really seen – that blue planet. I have been called a  dreamer some 20 years ago when I told my friends that I wanted and believe to be able to freely and quickly communicate with friends all over the world. I have seen all these idiot articles on space exploration not paying off. I know these articles were transmitted via satellite and probably had been printed with the help of some technology originally developed for space.

I see the explosion of knowledge and wealth all over the world (and I really mean all, although some people tend to deny this). I have to admit I always loved to watch Star Trek and I have to admit I have imagined if all or part of it could become a reality in a distant future. I even have seen some of this to influence the design of actual and useful products we use today.

I really believe that technology is our future. I believe in the “If we can dream it, we can do it” slogan. Hell, I have seen so many changes in my lifespan. And fortunately I can hope to expect some more years. Some few years ago I wondered how it was for my grandma to see all this rapid change happening in their time. Know what – we have by far beaten them already… I see young kids  logging on to computers and watching shuttle starts and space pictures and … I have noticed how normal it is for them to use a PC – to have all this technology available. I see the fascination in their eyes when they watches they NASA movies. I know they will wonder how we ever could exist without the Internet and space technology.

Yes, I do believe in technology. I am more than grateful for those that risk their lives while pushing us forward – as the astronauts do. I am ashamed that they are only brought onto the front page if things go really worse. And: I am deeply depressed to learn that technology has failed here. I really, really believe that technology will solve our problems. I am depressed that we overlooked a fatal detail (as it looks right now). I am depressed that those poor astronauts became heroes because they died – and not because the took the challenge.

But know what – I am not ready to surrender! Although I am depressed, I am sure we can move forward and we will move forward. I am sure the best thing we can do in the spirit of those died is to carry on the challenge. Take on new risks. Push the border further. I have to admit I am not the hero who would actually do this (even if I had the qualification, which for sure I do not have). Hell, if I look at the text I have written, I have to say it is me who is upset. I don’t even know with whom – but that doesn’t matter…