The courage of the men and women who look into the face of death in order to brave the dangers of space travel cannot be overstated. The result of the previous, tragic flight was preventable. The pressure to launch, even with the known dangers of foam breaking off and possibly damaging the ceramic panels needed for re-entry was downplayed by NASA.
The ill-fated Colombia flight was no different. It was too cold to safely launch. The problems with the O-rings was well-known. Those in the know looked the other way and hoped. These brave people deserved more than being given such a roll of the dice.
The bravest of them all had to be the crew of Apollo 1. The onboard computers aboard that flight had about the same power as a modern digital watch. If not for the call from John Kennedy to see a man on the moon before the end of the 60's, nobody in their right mind would have launched those three men at the moon, given the primative technolegy of the time. After landing on the moon, those two brave men were relying on lauch rocket that had a history of failing fifty percent of the time. The fact that the two astronauts in the lunar module actually made it off the surface of the moon and made a successful docking, returning to the earth alive is nothing short of a major miracle. It shouldn't have been possible.
Debating the merits of the space program is academic. It is a thing, that as natural explorers, humans must do. Let's just not throw away anymore valuable lives of brave explorers on programs that are driven by PR, rather than science...len