The first to fly is the second to go... Columbia is gone, taking seven more lives in the process. A marvel of technology, the space shuttle(s) also succeeded in making space flight normal, less exotic, and regular. There are a lot of articles on the disaster and its implications, from straight news to personal accounts to vaguely political (for example, reason.com looks at the event from its free markets or die perspective).
If you are like me, you probably didn't know why they were on this flight. You might have heard there was an Isreali astronaut, but really, why was it necessary this time to have people flying up there? What were they doing? That's half of the shuttle fleet that has been destroyed during its "normal" usage now. This article I found (via metafilter) written in 1980 brings a lot of perspective to the situation. I am not one to question the value of science for science, but when something of this scope, scale, and cost doesn't mean anything to the average citizen unless it fails spectacularly, it leads me to question the nature of the shuttle missions.