SHUTTLE FINGERPOINTING, SOUL SEARCHING BEGINS Barely a day after Columbia's fiery, tragic end, a chorus of whistleblowers, naysayers, and I-told-you-so-ers have begun their critiques of the space shuttle program."As recently as last April, the chairman of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel warned Congress that NASA's management of the shuttle program had drawn 'the strongest safety concern the panel has voiced' in 15 years," the Washington Post reports.In 2001, NASA considered retiring Columbia, CNN reveals.Don Nelson, a 36-year veteran space engineer, says his repeated warnings about Columbia and the other shuttles' safety were ignored.Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, a former executive chairman of the National Space Society, insists that "the real problem goes back to the original design decisions for the Shuttle, made in the early 1970s, in which the desire to save a few billion dollars up front imposed long term costs, and dangers, on the nation down the line."Gregg Easterbrook, who has been critical of the shuttle program since shortly after its inception, writes in Time, "For 20 years, the American space program has been wedded to a space-shuttle system that is too expensive, too risky, too big for most of the ways it is used."He argues that the shuttles should be mothballed, and that NASA should be "completely restructuredif not abolished and replaced."SpaceDaily's Bruce Moomaw goes even further, with the contention "that manned spaceflight, at this point in history, is not remotely worth either its cost or its risk of lives."Let the arguments begin.

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