The space shuttle Columbia broke up Saturday as it descended over central Texas toward a planned landing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Seven crew members were aboard. Many believe that a debris that hit some shielding during take off might be the culprit for the explosion during the return of the shuttle. Our condolences go out to the families of the brave astronauts.Now the question is: who is going to bring back or take care of the three astronauts that are left in the space station (Soyuz can only carry one extra person at a time), as the last time NASA had a tragedy with Challenger in 1986, it took them 3 years to fly again. The last time the Russians left up there a person for a whole year because they didn’t had the money for a manned mission to bring him back, the guy got almost crazy (normal time to be left up there is 6 months, and you normally get visits). Assuming a rotation purely based on Soyuz, they’d each stay 18 months (one could change every 6 months) and they wouldn’t get visits. Plus, this means that the Russians couldn’t use tourists to help finance the flights (I hope NASA will though).
My thoughts and prayers are now mostly to the three astronauts that are still up there.