Friday, June 13

I'm still laughing about the ad I saw on a Yahoo! Mail logout page today, which read Space Shuttle Columbia: A Special Tribute - the tribute in question being a legal tender US dollar coin, designed with a tacky colour image of the ill-fated shuttle during launch on the one face, and regular US dollar-design swooping bald eagle on the other face.

Nobody would be surprised that an enterprising company like The American Historical Society would be hoping to cash-in on the national trauma and wounded pride of the Great Consumer Nation, and nobody would be surprised if hundreds of thousands of proud American citizens went out and bought them by the display-cabinet-load. But hang on a second, how come the "legal tender one US dollar" coin is retailing here for US$19.95? Well, that'd be because keen collectors can hope to make back their $20 and more by selling their limited edition commerative dollar on eBay one day. Is it immoral to profit from the death of the Challenger astronauts? Heck no, this isn't profiteering, it's "commemorating". Riiight!

So, why show the shuttle in launch on the coin, when that was the moment at which the crucial damage occurred to the wing? I can't see the insulation impacting the wing on the coin shown on the web-page, but surely that was just about the lowest-point of the Challenger's service history? Unless you count the moment the NASA Control Room managers decided not to investigate the problem further while the shuttle was orbiting, figuring there was nothing they could do anyway. Perhaps the coin should feature a faceless NASA manager turning away from a control monitor? Tossing a report in a shredder? Or trying to make a spreadsheet balance up?

Anyway, the way Challenger debris was pretty much spread out over the eastern half of the continent by the time it finished its last re-entry, you'd think anyone keen enough to spend $20 on the coin would already have souveniered a piece of debris from some enterprising farmer by now. On the other hand, just because you're quietly sitting on an illicit fragment of NASA roadkill waiting for the FBI to stop monitoring eBay, doesn't mean you don't want to add the commemorative coin to your collection. You never know what someone else might pay for that one day.

Oh, the humanity... tawdry species, ain't we? ;-)

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