Through a bizarre twist, all three of NASA’s accidents causing loss of life to astronauts happened within 7 calendar days of each other. Apollo 1 in 1967, Challenger in 1986, and Columbia in 2003. It was the loss of Columbia that led to me writing Space: What Now?
On this tenth anniversary of Columbia’s loss, I stand with Rand Simberg, who points out that important things are worth risking human life, accepting that the risk will sometimes lead to loss. Efforts must be made to minimize the risk, but not to the point of stopping the activity, either through fear of loss or excessive cost due to overspending on safety. If space isn’t important enough to accept the losses of a few people who voluntarily participate, then it shouldn’t be done at all. Consider the activities we’ve done in the past and continue to do with a cost in human life: built the Panama Canal, crossed the ocean by ship, or even traveled by car.
Rand is working on a book about this topic, and I’m scheduled to get a copy in some form when it’s done.