Global reaction to the loss of the space shuttle Columbia and its international crew Saturday came from world leaders and schoolchildren alike. The theme of reaction was shock, sympathy, and encouragement to pick up where the astronaut heroes had left off. But, for some in Iraq, under the shadow of a US-led war, the response was strongly different.
"The Columbia is lost.... The same creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today.... The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth but we can pray they are safely home."
- President Bush
"My promise to the crew and to the crew families is that the investigation that we have just launched will find the cause, we'll fix it, and then we'll move on."
- William Readdy, NASA associate administrator for spaceflight
It is not that human spaceflight has had a handful of dangerous moments in the 42 years since Alan Shepard's flight; in truth, there have been nothing but dangerous moments. A new investigation is under way, intended to satisfy the country that when we launch another shuttle, it will be with an understanding of what went wrong the last time, and that each succeeding flight will be safer as a result. And each flight will be safer - but not safe. If "safe" were the requirement, NASA would have to padlock its doors and go home.
- Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) editorial
I guarantee you the astronauts on board want us to keep pressing this thing and to keep going back to space and to make the improvements and not make their sacrifice something that's in vain. So I'm sure they want us to put the pieces together, figure out what went wrong and press on.
- Jerry Linenger, former astronaut in a CNN analysis
"We will go on. It's a terrible tragedy, but you don't stop flying airplanes because an airplane crashed. You don't stop driving automobiles because you have an automobile accident. It's the same sort of thing, but it's that this is so dramatic it tears at you emotionally."
- Bill Pogue, a former astronaut, to about 200 visitors crowded in the Kennedy Space Center's tourist center at Cape Canaveral, where Columbia had been scheduled to land Saturday.
"The American people have started to think that flying the space shuttle is like getting into a car for a Sunday afternoon drive, but it's anything but that. Space flight is risky business."
- Sen. Bill Nelson, (D) of Florida, who flew aboard Columbia as a congressman in 1986
"I felt sad. Finally, there was an Israeli astronaut in space, and he didn't come back."
- Noa, a sixth-grader in a Jerusalem school, where classmates shouted a resounding "no" when asked by their teacher if space exploration should stop.
Despite the grim news on the latest shuttle tragedy, tonight there will be schoolchildren throughout the world who will be inspired by the Columbia Seven. They will look into the dark sky and decide that they too want to explore the stars.
- Orlando (Florida) Sentinel editorial
"God wants to show that his might is greater than the Americans. They have encroached on our country. God is avenging us."
- Abdul Jabbar al-Quraishi, an Iraqi government employee
"For us in India, the fact that one of them is an India-born woman adds a special poignancy to the tragedy."
- Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
"[Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority offer] condolences to the six American families and to the Israeli family who lost their loved ones."
- Saeb Erekat Palestinian cabinet minister
"[Columbia's crew have] given their lives to conquering the dangers of space in the name of peace, science and progress of civilization."
- Russian President Vladimir Putin
Between disasters, many Americans pay scant attention to the space program, ignorant of its innovations and discoveries or taking them for granted .... Today, every American should be aware that Columbia's crew died returning from a mission to increase human knowledge and ingenuity. In a world of widespread conflict, cruelty, and disease, research to increase human understanding of the universe and ease human suffering has to be the highest calling.
-Houston Chronicle editorial