What is there to say?

Rick Husband. William McCool. Michael Anderson. David Brown. Kalpana Chawla. Laurel Clark. Ilan Ramon. They’re not heroes because they died on re-entry. They became heroes when they strapped in before lift-off.

They’ll be missed. Their loss is tragic. But we’ll go on, and go on deeper into space. We’re a pioneering people. Americans pushed back frontiers in the west, in science, in war, and in peace. We’ll keep doing so.

Part of pioneering is burying your dead and then moving on.

The Space Shuttle fleet? Grounded, I assume, maybe permanently. The International Space Station? I honestly don’t know. Can we keep it manned and supplied without the shuttle?

NASA has some serious questions to answer. As I see it, the big issue isn’t how today’s particular tragedy happened. Instead, we should ask why we’re still flying old trucks based mostly on ’60s technology. I know budget cuts are part of the problem, but the bigger problem seems to be a lack of vision at our civilian space agency.

Give us a vision, and chances are we’ll give you your budget. Show us a real space-age space plane, and we’ll show you the money. Or maybe it’s our fault, for not having demanded more.

The Cold War started us into space. The current war couldn’t keep us from continuing to go. So we’ll bury our dead and move on. Sadder, wiser, more determined.

Follow the usual links to the usual people for more real news than I can offer. Someone from NASA will speak at 1pm Eastern, about five minutes from now. I’m guessing President Bush will speak later today. Next week we’ll see the odd juxtaposition of seven non-military heroes funerals, while Colin Powell prepares the UN for war.

That, too, is part of burying our dead and moving on.

If you pray, then pray for Husband, McCool, Anderson, Brown, Chawla, Clark, and Ramon. Think of their families if you don’t. But pray for and think of the future, too. A future in orbit, on the moon, on Mars — and living among the stars.