I hope the shuttle tragedy will at last force America to abandon its romanticized perception of the environment beyond our planet. Sending human beings into space for exploration is not only unnecessary but ultimately useless.
NASA selected a schoolteacher, a "typical citizen," to ride along and demonstrate how easy and commonplace space travel has become. Fate intervened to prove that it takes astronomical effort to get humans off the Earth while keeping them alive, and that the tiniest flaw can bring it to a horrible finish.
There are those who fancy living in space or colonizing other planets. Why aren't these people rushing to colonize Antarctica first? It's a lot closer and far more hospitable than any place science has found within reach in space!
Hey, I grew up with the space program. It always seemed adventurous and fun to send people into space. It's important to understand our universe. But lately I've realized that Buck Rogers, Captain Kirk and Luke Skywalker are dead. The truths of the universe--the cold, dead moons, the brutal gasses and radiation, the incredible distances--are not something we can conquer and use like a stretch of prairie. Space exploration continues to prove that the most valuable blue gem in our universe is our own sweet Earth.