A terrible loss

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 3, 2003

It is sad and ironic that only a few days after our editorial remembering the Challenger appeared, we have suffered another tragic blow.

The loss of the space shuttle Columbia is a harsh reminder that although technology improves by leaps and bounds every day, it is not infallible and terrible accidents can still occur. Complacency and overconfidence can be dangerous, but, to paraphrase Robert Burns, even the best laid plans often go astray.

Now that the first shock has worn off, the conspiracy theorists and the finger pointers will bully their way to the center of attention. We must be careful while listening to their ideas and opinions, and wait for the truth to emerge from those who know, not just those who think they do. We must not let them take our thoughts and prayers away from those who need them the most - the friends and families of the seven astronauts, their co-workers, their countries.

We have heard comments from some that they knew the risks. Of course they did. Anyone driving his car onto an interstate ramp knows the risks. Anyone taking a flight from Montgomery to Chicago knows the risk.

Anyone who had ever seen the dramatic and terrible ending of the Challenger knew the risks.

But with each safe return - and all returns have been safe until this one –

the fear of risk and the expectation of failure lessens, and when the disastrous happens, it is devastating.

We will remember these seven – Rick D. Husband, Commander; Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist 2; William C. McCool, pilot; David M. Brown, Mission Specialist 1; Laurel Blair Salton Clark, Mission Specialist 4; Michael P. Anderson, Payload Commander; and Ilan Ramon, Payload specialist and the first Israeli astronaut. We will remember them as heroes and scholars and we will remember their legacy every night as we stare into the sparkling depths of space.