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February 1, 2003

Bad news
Posted by Teresa at 09:47 AM *

Breaking news. We’ve lost another space shuttle, the Columbia. It broke up on reentry. Reports from Texas say it looked like it came down in three pieces, and that there was a loud crash.

I don’t want to turn on the television. This hurts.


More, 10:28

They were 200,000 feet up, doing about 12,500 miles an hour, when it happened.

Video footage of the shuttle passing over Dallas clearly shows it broken into three fragments.

More reports of fireballs and loud booms from (roughly) northeastern Texas. Reports are coming in from (incomplete list) Huntington, Palestine, New Boston, and Jasper and Moffett counties. That takes in a lot of territory.


Two links, via Electrolite:

A constantly updated summary of what we know so far, from Spaceflight Now.

NOAA radar picked up the debris track, terrible and clear, coming down in a WNW line just south of Shreveport.


Overall sense of comments I’m seeing:
1. Shock.
2. No, of course there weren’t any survivors.
3. No, of course it wasn’t terrorism.
4. More shock.
Initial reports say there was an incident at the start of the mission—a bit of debris came loose and plonked into the heat shielding on one of the Columbia’s wings. At the time, it was thought that the damage didn’t warrant aborting the mission.

Note: It has not yet been determined that that damage caused the crash. It may or may not be possible to determine exactly what caused the crash. We’ll undoubtedly hear a lot more about this.

The Columbia was our oldest shuttle, in service since 1981.


John M. Ford, posting to the comments thread here:
John M. Ford
February 1, 2003 11:05 AM:

I am following this on NASA TV, and the language has a surreal detachment, even by the usual standard; this is a “contingency during descent.” “All information and data relevant to the descent is being secured by flight controllers.”

The screen shows Mission Control in Houston; people are in small clusters, two or three or four, there are graphs (unidentifiable from here) on the big screens. There’s no sound, but there rarely is. Every five minutes or so, the messages are repeated.

“Any debris related to the shuttle’s contingency should be avoided, due to the toxic nature of propellants.”

There’s one man in a gray sweatshirt who goes offstage left periodically, returns with a pile of papers, has a long discussion with two people at consoles, goes off again. The mood is visible in the way people walk, how they put papers on desks, what they do with their hands while they talk. Someone has just passed through carrying a backpack, slowing to watch the screens, but not stopping on his way somewhere else; what were his last ninety minutes like?

“Further information will be released as it becomes available.”

The oddest quality may be that, unlike the typical “breaking story,” the crisis is now over. There are no survivors, not at Mach 17. There is no suspense. There is nothing significant to report and it is very unlikely that there will be for a long time, after the planetary skid mark is swept up and the bits sieved for meaning, all the video images scrutinized for the dark spot, the scar shadow, that might be a sign.

Already I miss Richard Feynman.


Tim Kyger, posting a comment to the thread on this story in Electrolite:
Tim Kyger
February 1, 2003 11:10 AM:

One other thought. Two words: Space Station.

There are three humans waiting on board *Alpha* for a ride home. Yes, they’ve got a lifeboat attached; a Soyuz. But they’ve been in free fall for about four to five months now (I forget the exact figure). The rentry g-load for a Soyuz is gonna be 8 to 9 gees (versus the peak 1.5 g load during a Shuttle landing — Story Musgrave stood UP during the entire rentry of his last Shuttle mission). I worry about their ability to get back without a lot of injury.

Comments on Bad news:
#1 ::: Jane Yolen ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 10:40 AM:

I was glued to the tv, running scenarios in my head, until the news came back from folks on the ground in Texas reporting debris. At that point, weeping prevented me from watching any more.

Jane

#2 ::: Greg van Eekhout ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 10:58 AM:

Those brave astronauts.

#3 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 11:05 AM:

I am following this on NASA TV, and the language has a surreal detachment, even by the usual standard; this is a "contingency during descent." "All information and data relevant to the descent is being secured by flight controllers."

The screen shows Mission Control in Houston; people are in small clusters, two or three or four, there are graphs (unidentifiable from here) on the big screens. There's no sound, but there rarely is. Every five minutes or so, the messages are repeated.

"Any debris related to the shuttle's contingency should be avoided, due to the toxic nature of propellants."

There's one man in a gray sweatshirt who goes offstage left periodically, returns with a pile of papers, has a long discussion with two people at consoles, goes off again. The mood is visible in the way people walk, how they put papers on desks, what they do with their hands while they talk. Someone has just passed through carrying a backpack, slowing to watch the screens, but not stopping on his way somewhere else; what were his last ninety minutes like?

"Further information will be released as it becomes available."

The oddest quality may be that, unlike the typical "breaking story," the crisis is now over. There are no survivors, not at Mach 17. There is no suspense. There is nothing significant to report and it is very unlikely that there will be for a long time, after the planetary skid mark is swept up and the bits sieved for meaning, all the video images scrutinized for the dark spot, the scar shadow, that might be a sign.

Already I miss Richard Feynman.

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 11:12 AM:

Thank you.

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 11:22 AM:

Why I don't want to turn on the television:

The story is still sorting itself out. At this point in the cycle, if the news feeds have footage or photos they ought not be showing--the friends and family members in the stands watching the Challenger explode, the families waiting at JFK airport hearing the news from Lockerbie, the jumpers on 9/11--they won't have figured it out yet. I'll wait until they do.

#6 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 11:24 AM:

NASA TV, and indeed NASA PR in general, is generally dreadful. A strange holdout of an old engineering culture, bloodless and apparently joyless.

After this latest tragedy, that's going to have to change if they want any chance of a future.

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 11:37 AM:

Stefan, I'd watch NASA TV right now if I had access to it. I can translate out of engineer-speak. The people Mike's describing are being more precise and distanced than usual because they're awash in grief.

#8 ::: Seth Johnson ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 11:56 AM:

I've spent the first two hours since I heard the news searching for information, background, analysis. I've surfed the channels and the webpages and crossposted to my own. But the shock and pain are starting to come through. I'm clammy-cold, I'm shaking, and I'm suddenly back in junior high with a thoughtless classmate breaking the Challenger news to me in a crude joke. The Challenger was no joke, and neither is this.

I want to turn off the news, but I can't.

I want to make it go away, but I can't.

#9 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 12:06 PM:

Generally, there is a link at Space.com to a webcast of NASA TV - the javascript link is on this here -- I have it up right now and all it is showing is a static shot of mission control and a graphic that there will be a press briefing.

#10 ::: Dave Hemming ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 12:07 PM:

I just this minute read about this, in Unqualified Offerings (and its link to the msnbc story) and now the links here.

I don't know what it is about me (too long working with computers?), but such a senseless waste of life provokes in me anger rather than sadness - that the universe is so shoddily put together, that not every death serves some greater purpose. A pox on Murphy and all his murderous minions.

#11 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 12:13 PM:

And damn entropy while we're at it.

#12 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 12:57 PM:

I don't think there's any need to worry a lot about the astronauts on the Space Station, and the effects of the higher g-load for a Soyuz re-entry. This is something the Russians have a lot of experience with. Yes, there can be quite a few problems, but they're the people who've dealt with this before.

We're not forgetting Mir already?

#13 ::: Kristjan ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 01:03 PM:

From elsewhere, posted by a guy who actually knew McCool:

-----

These guys know the risks. A lot of them are/were test pilots. I used to think about this a lot.

Here's my take. From the point of view of a maintenance guy on the ground, there's 3 things that can get an aviator hurt. Aviator Error, Mechanical Failure, and Acts of God, Allah, Yaweh, Goddess, The Great Spirit, Dog, Fred, the entity of your choice.

Those guys are always going in with at least 1 out of 3 of those risks. The other two, you just don't know. It's up to the guys on the ground, that was me at the time, to reduce to as close to zero as possible, the risk of mechanical failure. That's why the good ones took our jobs seriously. Yeah, you could blow off an inspection or fuel samples and most likely, nothing's going to happen. But... it might.

The aviators take on the risk of aviator error. They train, and practice and repeat and retrain so much. Emergency procedures become instinct. These men and women, let me tell you, are cool under pressure. I can remember sitting in the shop, listening to an aviator that was having problems. You'd think he was reciting the weather rather then asking to have the crash crew stand by with the foam.

And then there are acts of . Some mechanical failure could be put in this category, I think. But who can predict things that just happen out of the blue?

It's a risky job, but they do it. And some of them thrive on the danger. It doesn't make it any easier on the families of these men and women. It doesn't make it any easier on the people that know them. But, in some small way, I am comforted by the fact that they were doing something they loved. And that's not a bad way to go out.

----

#14 ::: Kip ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 01:05 PM:

At least got to go and have their time up there first. Small comfort, but it's something.

#15 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 03:08 PM:

Following up Dave Bell's comment, cosmonauts have come back from Mir via Soyuz re-entry after fifteen months in orbit, and on numerous occasions after nine months. Sure they had to be extracted by ground crews and carried away on stretchers for a week or so in hospital, but that was the muscle wastage and zero-gee acclimatization, rather than the re-entry.

Soyuz actually has a very good record. Soyuz-1 was a mess (numerous problems, then the parachutes failed and Komarov went into the ground at mach 0.9), and Soyuz-11 was a disaster (pressure equalization tube between ship and Salyut-1 left open on undocking; cosmonauts asphyxiated on way down), but since then I don't think they've lost a single cosmonaut in about 150 flights, despite having boosters explode while heading downrange at hypersonic speed after launch. Their disaster recovery techniques work.

And despite being disposable it costs a fifth as much as the shuttle per kilo of payload to orbit (and much less per astronaut, because the capsule-to-cosmonaut ratio is about 2 tons/body, compared to the 100 tons/seven astronaut ratio of the Shuttle).

#16 ::: LauraJMixon ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 03:46 PM:

"Damn entropy." You said it, honey.

That's what I was mumbling incoherently about when I said I had this big epiphany on info theory. Neg entropy, information capacity, free will, and the meaning of life.

My heart breaks for them and their families.

#17 ::: Paul Riddell ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 04:48 PM:

Lots of coverage out here: after all, most of that footage everyone's seeing was taken when Columbia flew over Dallas (this happens rarely enough that this was an Event, and the TV news included mention of this last night), and we're already seeing the ugly side of things. Fark.com just reported some assnozzle in Germany who claims to have shuttle debris for sale on eBay (the sale was shut down, thank Arioch). A goof in Plano (well north of Dallas) who claims that a chunk of debris landed in his yard, and most local reportage suggests he just wanted to get on television. Lots of mindless TV anchors spewing whatever comes to their little brains, including some of the most ridiculous speculation on "could terrorists have access to a missile that could go that high?" (Thankfully, KXAS, our NBC affiliate, has an anchor who actually knows something about aeronautics, and he did a bang-up job explaining the whys and wherefores of what little information he had, as well as admitting that he didn't know what happened. Mike deserves a raise.) I'm waiting for the Letters to the Editor in the "Dallas Morning News" that read just like the ones that appeared after Challenger: "If Gawd had meant for us to go to space, He would have given us a staircase to the stars!" (Because of my ongoing embarrassment of my fellow Dallasites, I'm almost glad that this happened on a Saturday, if only because of the number of soap opera addicts here that would be bitching because the coverage would pre-empt "General Hospital". I actually had a roommate who called the local stations to complain when the Challenger explosion cut into "Days of Our Lives", and I beg for forgiveness every day I let that woman live.)

And when I'm faced with that, I look instead at the intelligent, rational, heartfelt comments here, and figure that we're going to make it as a species after all. I know that I would have traded places with any one of the astronauts at a moment's notice, and I suspect that most of the people here would have done the same.

Here's an amazing concept: I'm now actually at a loss for words. Take care of yourself, everyone: we'll all get through this.

#18 ::: Janice ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 05:38 PM:

A bundle of tempestuous cloud is blown
About the sky; where that is clear of cloud
Brightness remains; a brighter star shoots down;
What shudders run through all that animal blood?
What is this sacrifice? Can someone there
Recall the Cretan barb that pierced a star?

--Parnell's Funeral, W.B Yeats

Rest in peace, Columbia.

#19 ::: PFish ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 06:45 PM:

Sigh. I was in third grade when the Challenger went down (I know that makes me a young sprout, a wee child compared to some of you, but I'm always in shock whenever I read people commenting that they don't remember the Challenger beause they weren't even born yet) and I remember how my friend, Becky, and I--both members of Young Astronauts--used to make up stories about how we took our imaginary yacht over near where the space shuttle debris fell, and how we picked the astronauts up out of the water and took them to our secret island to recover from the trauma. And how we could take them back to the mainland once they had recovered. We rationally knew that the astronauts had perished, but we still wanted to be able to save them. We made hundreds of "what if" stories during this period of time--I think it was part of the way we grieved. And every time some tragedy of this magnitude gets aired on national television, I always wonder if there are other children out there, making up the same stories. Making up stories about sneaking into the WTC debris and unearthing people or maybe finding an astronaut clinging to a tree in the middle of Texas. Childish stories, perhaps, but still full of hope.

I'm not sure when hope faded for me. I don't remember when I stopped drawing pictures of the space shuttle or the planets or the Voyager probes, or when I accepted that astronaut was not likely to ever be a good career choice for me. (I have bad eyesight and I've developed a really weird fear of flying over the last few years, which I don't remember having before.)

It all comes back though when something like this happens. Hope and despair both.

#20 ::: David Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 07:01 PM:

Adding to Charlie's comments about the Russian capacity, I don't think the men are the problem for the Station. It's whether the Station can be kept running without the capacity of the Shuttle to deliver the large loads, such as the major components due this year.

It doesn't need the Shuttle to keep a Station manned and supplied, but it isn't Mir, and I don't know if such things as the Progress supply craft can be used.

#21 ::: Dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 08:30 PM:

Used to work on the Shuttle program. The comments above about the Soyuz return vehicle and the attendant G's are right on; astronauts train for that much with the centrifuge. And it is also true what Paul Riddell and others say, that every astronaut knows the risks and takes joy in the work. In factm for the former test pilots, this is still, even after this morning, a safer job than their previous one. (Odd intersection of worlds here; I think he's an e-friend of my brother Alex's. That's one of the few good things tragedies do: bring worlds together.)

#22 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 09:34 PM:

Why you're right not to turn on the TV set, Teresa—at least for another day or so. In the confusion the talking heads are just filling the air space with too much speculation, to say nothing of inanity.

I didn't see it, but my brother, former Marine pilot, who turned 50 today and whose birthday we had all come out to celebrate, told me some nitwit on Fox news had been interviewing a NASA official and asked her—I kid you not—"so, there were no contingency plans for the crew to bale out?"

That's right: bale out at 12,000 mph. Where do they find these morons?

#23 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2003, 10:20 PM:

David Bell: Columbia was not capable of missions to the ISS, so the ability of the US to make missions to the ISS is not directly affected by today's disaster. Indirectly, of course, this means that the remaining (younger, lighter, more versatile) shuttles will have to do more work until a new shuttle is built, so it might have some effect.

#24 ::: David Bell ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 04:42 AM:

Kevin, it doesn't matter that Columbia was too heavy to reach the ISS: until NASA know why things went wrong, are they going to launch a shuttle?

#25 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 07:19 AM:

I have not turned on broadcast TV at all since hearing about this. Remember this: the TV cameras unable to tear themselves away from the faces of Christa McAuliff's proud, then stunned, parents.

#26 ::: dichroic ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 02:19 PM:

NASA seems to be doing a much better job this time of keeping reporters away from the astonauts' families. They are suspending launches until they figure out a bit more, but I think the presence of the Station will keep it from being a three-year shutdown this time. Also, I believe the Russians havejust launched (presumably a scheduled launch) an unmanned cratf with provisions for the Station.

#27 ::: Jim Meadows ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 05:09 PM:

Working today as a radio reporter, I attended a town meeting held by U-S Senator Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) at a high school in Champaign. 200-300 people attending.

At one point during a discussion of what the shuttle disaster meant to future space exploration, Fitzgerald asked for a show of hands on whether the federal government should continue to fund the space program. An overwhelming majority of people raising their hands wanted it to continue. He asked it again, noting the risk and possible loss of life, and got about the same majority. He did NOT ask whether the space program should concentrate more on unmanned flights --- although I heard one audience member mentioning that as hands were raised.

#28 ::: Jim Meadows ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 06:02 PM:

I erred in my earlier comment on Senator Peter Fitzgerald. His second question posed to a town meeting audience did NOT ask whether they supported the space program, in spite of possible dangers.

Rather, his second questions asked if people supported spending tax dollars on the space program, even if the benefits were not immediately clear. The majority of people responding with a show of hands supported continued funding for the space program.

Fitzgerald did not ask about the potential dangers of space exploration. However, he was responding to a question from a University of Illinois student, who had stated that if there were no dangers in space exploration, then we probably weren't pushing the envelope enough.

I apologize for the error.

#29 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2003, 07:50 PM:

What was I doing seventeen years ago? I was sleeping. Finally. I had had a night of nightmares, one following the other, waking up over and over as a charred, burning, Sally Ride chased me through the laundromat. She was wrapped like a mummy and looked like Sigourney Weaver, but she was Sally Ride. By morning, I was sick. I called and told work so, and finally fell into a dreamless sleep.

My husband called me a couple hours later. He said, "The shuttle's in the Atlantic Ocean." I yelledm. I wanted to know why he thought it was funny to wake me up after the night I'd just had.

He told me to turn on CNN.

I watched the shuttle blow up over and over again for 5 hours. The footage of the disaster was interspersed with talking heads saying nothing at great length, and grief-striken people reacting with dignity to having their privacy invaded, but what I paid attention to, and what I remember, was the shuttle blowing up, over and over, the solid booster rockets screaming up into a pure blue sky on parallel paths,leaving the white cloud that had been the shuttle behind, the cosmic "Y" traced by rockets brighter than the sun.

I didn't turn on CNN this time. I didn't watch the same, cruel, horrible images of the shuttle debris screaming towards earth, distinct pieces falling side by side, looking like a medieval idea of a catastrophic meteor shower which signalled the end of the world. I looked briefly at some video clips available on the msnbc website. Maybe it didn't help, staying away from the painful and pointless repetition; it seems that the images of Columbia's re-entry are seared on my eyelids. Maybe it has helped, though. One of the clips showed, briefly, the death of the Challenger, and I cried out loud when I saw it. It was like a physical blow.

In seventeen years, I wonder if the images of the debris of Columbia will still hit me as they did yesterday, as they do today. Do I want them to? Is there any nobility in absorbing the tragedy to the point where it becomes a physical trigger? In seventeen years, will I feel that awful, physical punch in the gut for the Challenger? Am I doomed to have the same reaction to the death of the Columbia?

They died doing what they love, and it's cold comfort, but it's some comfort. They died doing what I love, too. In a strangely impersonal way, I feel like I've lost another little piece of my heart. I didn't even know they had gone up; I wasn't paying attention. I knew nothing about the crew as people until after the disaster. It would be foolish for me to claim that I'm grieving for the crew members. I'm not. I'm grieving for my dreams -- but my dreams were also their dreams.

#30 ::: ers ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 12:08 AM:

I agree with Mr. Ford: I miss Richard Feynman. I hope someone with Feynman's values, with his spirit, with his chutzpah, and with his credibility is part of the investigating body. Let truth, not blame, be sought.

Sigh.

My sweetie is a dual American/Israeli citizen, so I had the benefit of sharing his perspective on the loss of Israel's first astronaut. Israel took such joy and pride in Colonel Ramon; he embodied hope for the future for many of his fellow citizens in that troubled land.

Efforts such as the space program, especially when they involve multinational crews or organizations, give me *some* hope for our wretched species. If only we could focus on exploration and research, on *bettering ourselves* (as ST:NG kept phrasing it) instead of on power struggles and destruction.

#31 ::: Roger Burton West ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 04:04 AM:

One plus point: a blue sky with a contrail in it isn't a "killer video clip", the way the spiralling SRB from Challenger was - or the way the second plane flying into the WTC was. The media can show it again and again, but it doesn't have the impact that those did. Thank goodness they didn't have cameras capable of resolving to that height and speed.

Of course, this does rather point out that the Shuttles were supposed to be retired by now - I can't remember the exact date, but I'm sure someone here will have access to the information. 1990? 1995? They are very impressive 1970s technology, no question, but we know a lot more about high-speed high-altitude flight now...

The enforced government monopoly on space exploration doesn't help matters, of course; it means there's practically no diversity. All the American launch systems are hugely expensive, designed not to fail, but if they fail at all do so catastrophically. The Soviets had a more practical attitude: sometimes it's not going to work, so we'd better plan ways of recovering from it when that happens.

Last Tuesday I reread Feynman's appendix to the Challenger report. I do that every year. I see no sign that NASA has learned its lessons.

#32 ::: Elizabeth Bear ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 12:02 PM:

re: Feynman....

Oddly enough, before coming to read this thread, I just mentioned in my own journal how much I missed Feynman. But let us not forget that Feynman was led to his conclusions--that people within the agency very carefully gave him the information he needed to put two and two together.

There is all kinds of bravery, and some of it is very quiet. Here's hoping, if it's thesame sort of awful, inexcusable bureaucratic incompetence this time, that similar bravery will prevail.

#33 ::: Bob Webber ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 12:34 PM:

Since questions of NASA possibly covering up safety issues are becoming widespread, perhaps it's worth noting that none of the reports of rejected safety suggestions included worries about the insulation on the external liquid-gas supply breaking away, and that the window of opportunity for ground controllers to decide to scrub the mission was much shorter (less than 40 seconds, as I understand it) than the time available to management to decide not to launch Challenger.

If the destruction of Columbia turns out to have been related to structural failure in an impossible-to-inspect part of the airframe or defective control cabling, then NASA's shortcomings in safety management and shuttle maintenance become quite relevant.

Accidents do happen to even well-maintained systems, though, and on the face of it a routine event at the launch of STS-107 did more than usual damage (or usual damage in a particularly vulnerable spot) which led to catastrophic failure of the vehicle on reentry. There's still room in a tile-damage scenario for contributory failures or maintenance, and a possibility that a poorly-maintained shuttle might have rung enough false alarms in the past that a real alarm was passed off as a wiring fault, but it seems to me that a failure of thermal protection during reentry was probably an inevitable prelude to destruction and death.

Another author to read at this time is Henry Petroski, particularly his somewhat aged but excellent book To Engineer is Human. Sometimes engineers and engineering management take shortcuts which cost lives, as with Challenger, sometimes our knowledge or imagination just fall short of what is needed to succeed and to preserve lives, and I think Petroski does a good job of discussing both kinds of engineering failure. From current evidence publically available, Columbia appears to be in the latter category.

#34 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2003, 01:13 PM:

I got up Saturday morning to watch Columbia as it flew over Arizona. I said Wow. Neat. A little tear of pride crossed my eyes. Then I went back in and put on my Renaissance clothes. No TV. No radio. The Arizona Renaissance Festival opened Saturday and I was off to see my friends.

Leaving for the fair an hour later, I heard vague analysis of shuttle landing modes and the word 'abnormal'. Turned around, ran in the house. One look at the pictures on CNN and I knew there was nothing to be done. I shut the TV off and went about my day. NPR had nothing new to say, and they said it over and over again as I drove.

Now all that's left is to pick up the pieces and learn from what happened. Hopefully build the next better thing - we could really use a smaller Shuttle for crew replacements on the space station, for instance - and go on.

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