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Commercialization

Rising Above Tragedy – It Has Happened Before

By Keith Cowing
November 5, 2014
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Past Transit Tragedies Point to a Way Forward for Virgin Galactic, Smithsonian
“Private spaceflight hit a large bump in the road to orbit last week, with Orbital Sciences’ rocket explosion followed days later by Virgin Galactic’s fatal spaceplane crash. But if early aviation and aerospace efforts can teach us anything, it’s that the key to surviving such tragedies is transparency and learning from any mistakes. And in a counterintuitive twist, the disasters may even increase public support for spaceflight and space tourism.”
Keith’s note: Video of Challenger’s and Columbia’s loss is seared in our collective consciousness – both accidents caused prolonged self-examination and questioning as to whether it was all worth doing. Even commercial advertisements comparing consumer items to the shuttle were pulled. Yet NASA returned to flight – twice. When the shuttle fleet was retired there was exceptional interest and heated debate and overt food fights about who got the remaining shuttles – because of what they represented in people’s minds. Indeed huge portions of the population demanded that NASA keep them flying. Remember the flyovers and parades? Major cities stopped everything – just to watch. Yet these very same shuttles that flew over America to such acclaim are identical to the two shuttle vehicles we all saw torn apart with their crews on board. A symbol of tragedy – twice – is now a symbol of American pride.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.