NASA is lucky the world is so intently focused on the Iraq war and the deadly new SARS disease, among other things.
Otherwise, the space agency might be coming under some major fire right now.
According to a recent report in The Washington Post and other stories in the national media, it's sounding more and more like NASA administrators failed the astronauts who died in the Feb. 1 Columbia shuttle disaster.
One NASA engineer, for example, "warned his superiors that failure to seek photographic evidence of suspected damage to the space shuttle's left wing was wrong and 'bordering on irresponsible,'" according to the Post. Yet despite concerns from shuttle engineer Alan R. Rocha and others while the shuttle was still flying, NASA bosses decided not to ask the Defense Department to use its satellites to take pictures of the Columbia.
Why in the world wouldn't NASA officials seek all the help that was at their disposal?
The families of the astronauts who died deserve an answer to that question.
Another question that must be answered: If the damage had been uncovered, what options, if any, would there have been to save the astronauts' lives? Could they have docked at the Space Station? Or made repairs? Or could another shuttle have linked up with them?
Many questions remain unanswered. And until they are, NASA's shuttle program should remain grounded.