Picking Up the Pieces

If the media coverage was any indication, the breakup and destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003 was a major disaster, perhaps even a reason to question the relative benefits and costs of spaceflight. Were the risks to human life worth the gains? For the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and associated teams involved in the recovery effort, the importance of the greater mission, space exploration, outweighed any particular risks.