Aug 27, 2003 - Since it was released yesterday, I've had a chance to read most of the Columbia Accident Investigation Report (I'm a little sleepy), not just because I'm supposed to, but because it's a great read. Seriously, this is one of the best written books about the current state of human spaceflight that I've ever seen. It delves into the history of the Space Shuttle and the culture of NASA. Most of what you read on the web and in print about the shortcomings of human spaceflight is very 1-dimensional, but this report has a very comprehensive discussion about the unfair constraints placed on NASA, shortcomings of the shuttle's design and the agency's own distorted culture.
Don't wait for me to give you an analysis, read the report with your own eyeballs and brain. It gets a little technical in Chapter 3 where it provides evidence on how foam destroyed the shuttle, but even that has been done with the non-technical person in mind. The recommendations in this report are going to have wide-ranging implications about the future of spaceflight, and will likely shake up NASA, the Space Shuttle program, and many other aspects of space exploration. This report could cause the US to turn its back on Space exploration (although, Bush just said it won't), or return to the challenge with renewed energy and vision.
Here's a link to that page that contains the report.