In a Time of Tragedy, Commercial Exploitation Rears its Ugly Head

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In a Time of Tragedy, Commercial Exploitation Rears its Ugly Head

Just hours after the NASA space shuttle Columbia exploded and all seven crew members were reported lost, the national news indicated the likely path of debris from the doomed shuttle and asked citizens to report debris that was found and not to move or touch it. Shortly after the crash, items reported to be from the Columbia began to appear in great numbers on eBay’s auction site.

By late Saturday evening, a search for “Columbia shuttle” items on eBay was reported to indicate 1,011 items for sale, with more than 900 reportedly having been listed after the fatal accident occurred. One item for sale was said described as “Columbia Space Shuttle Debris with a minimum bid of $10,000 US. To eBay’s credit, this listing was pulled and the item was listed as an “invalid item.” As to Columbia items listed on eBay prior to the crash that were still available on Saturday, bids for these “collectibles” went through the roof. A sheet of Columbia shuttle stickers sold for $168, a Columbia beer mug sold for $185, and a $5 commemorative coin sold for $1,951, just to name a few examples.

While it is understandable that these items are obviously more valuable now that the Columbia is gone, the lack of respect displayed by such eager sellers and buyers of Columbia memorabilia as ‘merchandise’ is a sad tribute to human greed and exploitation of such a tragic event.