Flame-out

Challenger now that was a real national tragedy

I felt evil in my desire to want to club the reporters with space junk.

This was media hype. Then, the next day, the Arizona Republic upped the ante with an eight-page supplement.

But you can't blame these poor schmucks. Everything we've been taught suggests that when astronauts blow up, it's time to bring Walter Cronkite back from the dead.

Challenger was a national tragedy, so why not now?

For 45 years, NASA has been America's home team. Now, the Soviets aren't Away.

On Saturday, the jarring disconnect between what news-gatherers wanted us to believe and what we actually believe became evident.

Challenger blew up at a time when reusable spacecrafts and civilians in space were exciting ideas. Since the remains of the first teacher in space were scattered off Florida, there have been 87 shuttle flights. With Challenger, everybody was watching coverage of the event. When Columbia met its tragic end, only a few space geeks in the flight pattern were watching it attempt to rocket to its Florida landing strip.

The ratings during the flight say more than the ratings after. The shuttle no longer represents our best shot at the frontier of human endeavors. When the idea of Columbia becomes less engaging than video games, it is either time for a grander exploration, or it is time to give up exploration.

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