The L.A. Times today follows up science writer Robert Lee Hotz's six-day series on the space shuttle accident with a strongly written lead editorial:
The space shuttle should never fly again.
As Times staff writer Robert Lee Hotz showed in a series explaining why Columbia exploded during reentry this year, killing seven astronauts, the $1.8-billion spacecraft was a miracle of ingenuity constructed from "the raw material of the American character . It was America rising." But as Hotz went on to point out, it was also "by design unsafe a white butterfly bolted to a bullet."
It's too glib to blame NASA alone for the shuttle disasters. Congress relentlessly demanded cost cuts, and the public expected too many things of NASA that it provide inspiration, science and commerce faster, better and cheaper each year. In the end, a creaky, fearful bureaucracy bowed to its political masters and turned a blind eye to disaster in the making.
The space shuttle romance is over.
The Times also continues its annual December push to get major projects into the paper by the end of the year, and thus be eligible for prize consideration, with a reconstruction of the deadly Cedar Fire that swept through San Diego County. The website presentation includes radio transcripts of calls between firefighters and others.