A black day

About two hours ago, as i write this, the NASA space shuttle Columbia lost contact with mission control while coming in for a landing. As of this writing, it is known (CNN link) that the space shuttle, with seven astronauts on board, broke up above central Texas at approximately 9 AM EST.

What more can I say?

The crew of the Columbia are Americans Col. Rick Husband, USAF, commander; Comdr. William McCool, USN, pilot; Lt. Col. Michael Anderson, USAF, payload commander; Capt. David Brown, USN, mission specialist; Dr. Laurel Clark, Comdr, USN, mission specialist; and Kaplana Chawla, mission specialist; and Israeli Col. Ilan Ramon, IAF, mission specialist.

> _We pray for one last landing
> On the globe that gave us birth;
> Let us rest our eyes on friendly skies
> And the cool, green hills of Earth._
> Robert A. Heinlein, The Green Hills of Earth

Update:

It has turned up in my readings of commentary on this event that a CBC Newsworld interviewer took this event as an opportunity to whip the "American Arrogance" horse again (from The Ghost of a Flea):

CBC Newsworld just interviewed writer Robert Sawyer for his reflections on the shuttle program and potential causes of the disaster. The Newsworld interviewer asked Sawyer whether the cause was "arrogance" on the part of the U.S. government. (Sawyer said no.) This is one of the most odious questions I can imagine. It took minutes for the CBC to twist a tragedy into a politically motivated theatre of hate. Talk about manufacturing consent.

I don't know how to respond to this... CBC is supposedly the Canadian perspective. But that's just beyond the pale. I am going to reserve further comment until i see the interview, or read a transcript thereof, for myself, but...

Words fail me.

But they didn't fail Jeff Fecke (Blog of the Moderate Left):

Well, if this is arrogance -- exploring space for science, pushing the envelope of the human experience, doing what our species has always done -- then I support it. If it is arrogant to want to learn, we are arrogant. If it is arrogant to want to explore, we are arrogant. If it is arrogant to risk our lives for the possibility of a better future for all mankind, we are arrogant.

Mankind is arrogant. We believe foolish things--that we may one day cure cancer, that we may one day develop new forms of energy, that we may one day walk on Mars. We believe these foolish things, and we dedicate ourselves to achieving them. How ridiculous. How arrogant.

And people die for these things. And people are injured for life. The astronauts of Apollo 1, and the Challenger, and now, sadly, the Columbia have died for the arrogant belief that we can be more than we are, that we can walk on the moon, that we can touch the stars.

This arrogance is not American in nature. It is human. It is human arrogance that led us from the veldt of Africa to the ice-bound wastelands of Europe, across the Bering Strait into the Americas, across oceans to Australia and Oceana. It is human arrogance that leads thousands of people to live in the frigid environment of Antarctica, that leads explorers to dive miles under the oceans in bathyscapes.

This arrogance is our species' birthright. It is what defines us. If we were not arrogant, we never would have flown. We never would have domesicated the horse. We would have died in the caves, unwilling to strive to be more than we are.

So call us arrogant for building the space shuttle. Call the men and woman who gave their lives today arrogant for believing they could fly to space and return to tell about it. But don't call us wrong. For this arrogance defines humanity. And I would rather our species be arrogant than afraid.

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