President George W. Bush and Scott Bakula leave Capitol Hill after their summit meeting on the Columbia tragedy.

Family, friends of Challenger astronauts outraged by 'copy cats' (3 February 2003)

Family members and friends of the seven crew members lost in the 1986 explosion of the space shuttle Challenger are speaking out against the similar tragedy that befell the space shuttle Columbia.

"Ours was way better," said Dr. Marvin Resnik, father of astronaut Judy Resnik. "The explosion was cooler and the overall sense of tragedy was deeper. The new one is just total bullshit."

Don McNair, brother of astronaut Ronald A. McNair, agrees. "They're a bunch of copy cats. Completely unoriginal."

Columbia was lost upon re-entry on Saturday. In its final minutes, the shuttle experienced an unusually high temperature increase on its left side, lost a series of sensors on the left wing and then rolled unexpectedly to the left, according to a NASA data analysis.

"There's not even good footage of it," complained Margaret Scobee, widow of Francis Scobee. "If they wanted to beat us, they should have made sure to have cameras ready."

The recent comments are creating frustration among family and friends of the Columbia astronauts.

"How insensitive can you be?" asked Patricia McCool, widow of William C. McCool. "It's not like they were trying to outdo the Challenger. It was a totally new type of space tragedy."

"A lot more subtle," she jibed.

Her comments were echoed by Sanjay Chawla, brother of India-born Kalpana Chawla. "We shall have to agree to disagree on this matter. There is no point in getting into a pissing match over whose tragedy was better. Though clearly ours was."

Former astronaut and Senator John Glenn weighed in with a diplomatic view, saying that "All the great Americans who died as part of our great national endeavor to conquer the final frontier will be remembered. Oh, the Indian and Israeli, too, they will be remembered by their respective countries, too."

Scott Bakula, who portrays astronaut Jonathan Archer on "Star Trek Enterprise" and had extensive experience with time travel on the show "Quantum Leap," provided words that are helping to ameliorate strife on both sides.

"As soon as I can hook up with Al (Calavicci, his time travel mentor) ... I mean Dean (Stockwell, his series co-star), I fully intend to travel back and help to avert both of these national, I mean international, tragedies. Intergalactic tragedies, I should say. Although we are not technically supposed to change historical events, we should make an exception in this case, as we did with the death of Marilyn Monroe, and the case of the high school football player who was going to throw the championship game, which would have made him lose his scholarship."

U.S. President George W. Bush acknowledged Bakula's offer in a press conference held Sunday afternoon. "If anyone can heal this grieving nation, it's Dr. Samuel Beckett from 'Quantum Leap'. Oh boy!"