But, look! What light upon horizon breaks?
It is the North; Discovery is the Sun
Arise, fair ship, thy thrill o'er scientists strewn
Who are already quick to hail relief
That what they've made sails far o'er air and sea
A voyage made; though it be tenuous
The quest through history risks much; not routine
As Challenger can't bear it; blasting off 
It is a sad day, O, nine miles up!
O, heroes, you so were!
Columbia speaks likewise: tragic, that --
-- Could not bear forces: heat, like cancer, is. 
But Man is bold, 'tis not the safe he seeks!
Two of the solid rocket boosters leavin' 
Flaming from friction, do so treat my eyes
They twinkle: atmosphere, till they return.
What of ignition's flame, from ground to spread?
The brightness drowns out planets, moon, and stars --
-- As daylight, but at night; it lights up Heaven.
LH2, "LOX" combustion: steam so bright 
That hearts will sing: perhaps not Man's twilight.
See: knowledge glean, unique; there's hope for Man! 
O, that I were aboard that ship o'er land
That I might: whole Earth, peek!
OS (Act II, Scene 2)
Romeo outside Juliet's window; she appears at the window
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
It is my lady, O, it is my love!
O, that she knew she were!
She speaks yet she says nothing: what of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold, 'tis not to me she speaks:
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if her eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars,
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!
 January 28, 1986. Overnight temperatures were forecast to go below freezing, very unusual in the Space Center's location in coastal central Florida, and therefore not a major design factor for the Shuttle, including both the formation of ice and the freezing of its parts. Numerous entities expressed concern, but NASA gave the go-ahead anyway. Failure of a seal, stiffened by the cold, allowed super-hot gases to escape, leading to the chain of events that caused the vehicle to break up at 48,000' (14.6 km, 9.1 miles) above sea level -- visible to all watching from the ground and on television.
 February 1, 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas due to failed insulation and the resulting overload of heat during re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.
 The two solid-fueled supplementary engines, known as "solid rocket boosters", or "SRBs", burn out about two minutes after launch, and are then jettisoned at an altitude of about 28 miles (45 km). As they are still red-hot, on a clear day or night, you can see them glowing as they drop -- if it's clear enough, all the way until they hit the water.
The unmanned Delta II rocket carries as many as nine SRBs: six fired at launch and three fired one minute after launch. Again, if the weather's clear, you can see the six drop, then the three, all the way down. Cool!
 No fancy rocket fuels. Liquid hydrogen (L = liquid, H2 = hydrogen [H, normally found in paired atoms]), and liquid oxygen (LOX, no relation to smoked salmon but pronounced the same), ignite to produce H2O, commonly known as water, although with tremendous heat and pressure, producing thrust without pollution.
 Throughout history, civilizations have rarely stood still for long. They either move forward or backward. We're moving backward. It's been tried before. The world's technological leader in the 1000s -1200s, who discovered true north with a compass; invented gunpowder; advanced clockworks and windpower; made numerous other contributions to science and technology; and sent fleets of 700 ships carrying 28,000 men on 16,000-mile (25,000km) expeditions, underwent a change of government and philosophy (spending more on social projects at home and "wasting" less on science, as some would say today), destroyed their shipyards, and became a third-world, poverty-stricken country, only recently re-emerging under the influence of de facto capitalism. (We're talking about China, of course.)
The US's retirement of the aging Space Shuttle fleet in 2010 is such an abandonment. Supposedly, the Orion program will resume flights to the Moon and eventually to Mars, starting in 2015, but under the previous and present administrations and Congresses (bi-partisan blame here), it seems doubtful that the government will have either the money or the desire to do so by then. Get ready to be a second-rate power, then a third-world country. Cheers.