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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Discrediting Space Tourism Insults the People Who Risk Their Lives for It

•, By AnnMarie Thomas

On Tuesday Orbital Science's Antares rocket, en route to the International Space Station with supplies and scientific experiments, exploded. On seeing the first images from Wallops island, my thoughts went to the ground crew on site at the launch. It was with great relief that I read that no injuries were caused by this explosion. Just three short days later, I saw the horrible news of the crash of SpaceShipTwo which, unlike Antares, was a vehicle with a crew. It wasn't long before there was confirmation that one pilot had been killed and the other was en route to a hospital. A few hours later, I watched my husband (wearing an astronaut costume he had planned weeks earlier) trick-or-treating with our daughters, and it was impossible not to think of the family whose test-pilot father isn't coming home. As an engineering professor I also spent time thinking of the team of engineers who had worked on the vehicle in which he died.

When things go right, we sometimes applaud technology, engineers and the entrepreneurs that help fund these innovations. More often, we don't even notice. (Here I should point out that SpaceShipTwo had previously flown over fifty times. I, and likely many of you, had not followed more than a handful of those flights; I had to do some digging to find the total number.) When things go wrong, our reactions are much more varied, and often much louder.

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