Friday, October 31, 2014

Lost in Space

It was already a bad week in the space business, with experts continuing to investigate what caused an Orbital Sciences Corp. Antares rocket carrying a Cygnus cargo craft to the International Space Station to falter just seconds after launch on on Tuesday. Range safety officers sent auto-destruct commands to the rocket, which caused significant damage to the launch complex in the subsequent crash and explosion.

At the time, the saving grace was that no one was injured or killed. Today, that all changed.

SpaceShipTwo, the prototype rocket-powered craft being readied for suborbital flights for space tourists, experienced what Virgin Galactic called an "anomaly" during a test flight and crashed. The pilot and co-pilot ejected, but the co-pilot died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.

I'm sure the debate over whether we should even be in space in the first place will rage even brighter in the wake of this accident. Detractors call it risky. They say there's no reason for mere mortals to put their lives on the line for little more than a high-speed thrill far off the planet.

Yet those same people think nothing of getting on a plane to head south for winter break. Conveniently, they forget that their routine flight on an Airbus A-320 to some beach resort was made possible by aviator sacrifices not unlike the one that played out earlier today in the skies over California.

Flight didn't become routine on its own. Neither did anything worthwhile in the history of humankind. Spaceflight should be no different, and I'm guessing those who test-fly the machines of tomorrow wouldn't want us to give up the quest just because it might end up in failure.

We learn. We move on. We raise the bar. It's what humans do.

Now, we have another pioneer to thank for all that we have, and will have.

Update: I'll be discussing this very issue live on NewsTalk 1010 with John Downs just after 9:30 p.m. Eastern. Listen in live here:


Tabor said...

It is dangerous to run into a burning building or to fight Ebola or ride a bull. A tragedy certainly, but he would want us to continue space exploration!

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

It would be nice if we could spend as much on fighting Ebola as we do trying to send rich people into space.

And it would be nice if the people fighting Ebola at great risk to themselves were not subjected to persecution by cynical right-wing politicians.