Forgot to note the difference between real life and the movies. In the movies, they would have discovered the damage in time and the heroes would have survived one way or another. In real life, some committee of engineers said it seemed safe enough, and all of the astronauts were blasted to smithereens. Assuming this latest disaster was due to the tile damage on takeoff, and if the damage had been assessed properly, there were lots of options that at least would have saved their lives. They probably couldn't have launched another space shuttle, but the Russians were about to launch something, and that probably could have been diverted as a rescue mission. Alternately, they say they could have actually crabbed the shuttle in a way that would have reduced the heat stress on the damaged tiles, and that might have been enough to make a safe landing. Maybe in the future they won't launch until a second shuttle is ready on the pad?
Kind of awesomely disgusting development, but I already saw some newsgroup posts trying to blame President Clinton for this disaster. According to these loonies, the REAL cause was the NASA budget cuts that Clinton forced down the throats of the GOP-controlled Congress. Makes you wonder when Dubya will actually be responsible for something? I guess as soon as there is some good news, except that evidently won't be until after Dubya is out of the White House. Talk about a colossal run of bad luck! Anyway, my take on it is that Dubya has supposedly been in charge for over two years now, and he's had plenty of time to get around to fixing any problems Clinton might have left behind. Or maybe they think Clinton was such a Superman that he could do 100 years of damage in 8 years in spite of having that Republican Congressional albatross around his neck. Nothing like a little witch hunt to keep everyone distracted, right? Remember how Dubya campaigned on "personal responsibility" and "honor and integrity". That's a laugh and a half.