Question for you car owners out there: how frequently would you drive if there was a 1% likelihood that you would be killed in a car accident? Personally, I'd limit it to absolute life-or-death emergencies. Still might be inclined to drive? Well, now assume the model of car that you drive has a 40% chance of blowing up while performing its most routine procedures. Actually scratch that 40% - it could be as high as a 50% chance, given that the silly car company who makes your fine automobile actually decided to increase production when 25% of its outstanding models had blown up in action. At which point, another 25% of its remaining vehicles on the road blew up. Still think it's worthwhile to drive?
Of course not. But then, you, Dear AofG Reader, are a rational entity and NASA, in all of its glorified porkiness and obedience to corporate America, ain't. Which is why, even with a very real and publically acknowledged possiblity of having yet another catastrophic disaster on its hands, NASA officials are moving ahead with the launch of the Discovery shuttle, consequences be damned!
The Space Shuttle program is all well and good for 10 year old science students to gawk at, but when it comes down to brass tacks, it's a colossal waste of money, given the very slight value the program has added in its 25+ years of use. I was and am as pro-science as they come, but my thoughts on the Shuttle were forever changed, first by this prescient article, written in 1980 by Gregg Easterbrook and by his follow-up to the Columbia disaster in 2003, reprinted here. We don't need to waste any more money or lives on this failure.
Now, for some positive thoughts on space travel, I give you William Shatner and Stewie Griffin.