A while back I noted that the Space Shuttle had something like a 1% failure rate -- roughly one out of every hundred launches resulted in catastrophic failure. Here's another way to think about it: Of the 355 astronauts who have flown on the Shuttle, 14 have not returned. That's a 4% mortality rate. In most election years, a House incumbent has roughly the same chance of being defeated as a Shuttle astronaut has of dying.
Forgive me if this is disrespectful to bring up on the anniversary of the Challenger disaster, the day after the anniversary of the Apollo 1 disaster, and three days before the anniversary of the Columbia disaster. (What is it about this time of year?) But this strikes me as a pretty good time to ask what exactly we're trying to accomplish with the manned space program and whether what we've been doing is the best way to accomplish it.