February 1, 2003

contemplation/disaster

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at February 1, 2003 9:12 PM I woke up this morning and checked Plastic as usual; I was posting in a particular discussion last night so I went straight there and didn't read the other headlines. I happened to see it at a glance, though, just before the page switched: something about the space shuttle, what'd that say, breaks up on approach?

I then had to head off to lab and only had a chance to read the Plastic summary; it took a while for the news to sink in. As it turned out I had some down time soon after getting to lab, so I caught up on the situation. I ended up spending a lot of time with the New York Times' coverage; they had several different articles up including one about the reaction of Israelis and one about past safety oversights in the shuttle program. The tragic aspect of the whole thing really hit me with the Israel article. The last one I linked was enlightening in a different way - after reading that I strongly suspect that these issues of rushed tests and falsified test documents are the cause of today's disaster. I find it hard to believe that the system was sufficiently improved to remove these elements after Challenger, or at least to remove them permamently.

I read the transcript of the President's speech. I'm struggling with whether my irritation at the strong Christian overtones is justified. (One of the astronauts was a woman from India, probably not a Christian. Doesn't Christianity say that she is in hell now? Given this, how much does her family appreciate Bible quotes in Bush's remarks?) One Plastician remarked that what is really so annoying is that Bush cannot seem to talk about anything without mentioning God. Didn't Jesus have something to say about public displays of religiosity? On the one hand, Bush is entitled to his beliefs and I respect that (really!), but on the other hand, I wish he'd remember that he is supposed to be representing all Americans, not just the majority. Reagan, who was supposed to have been a very religious man himself, did a much better job in his speech after the Challenger incident. Sure there's a reference to God, but it's more poetic and metaphorical than explicitly Christian, and therefore has a broader appeal.

Slate also noticed this difference between Bush's and Reagan's remarks.

One final thought on this: I cannot imagine what is going through the minds of the engineers, programmers, and support crew who were responsible for maintaining the shuttle. Even if one had done everything correctly I think it would be impossible to dismiss the nagging doubt, that maybe it was really my fault. I guess I can be relieved that there are no human lives relying on my electronics and software, just expensive equipment. Tags:
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