Remembering the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion
Televisions were rolled into classrooms at our high school when the news spread about the crash of the Challenger Space Shuttle. We watched the coverage all day, the launch, the explosion, and President Reagan’s speech. Seeing the pictures of Christa McAulliffe on the news casts yesterday morning that were commemorating the 30th year anniversary of her death along with 6 NASA astronauts when their spacecraft disintegrated moments after liftoff, brought it all back.
The class went quiet as it played out on the screen. Not even the wise asses had any comments. By then we had grown used to shuttle missions going off without a hitch as we were too young to remember the tragedy that occurred with Apollo 1 when a fire killed three astronauts.
We all watched it on one of the three major networks — this was well before 24/7 news channels and websites. Maybe the lack of information overload helped it stay in our memories longer.
I remember reading and watching the buildup to their flight, how McAullife was chosen and how it would motivate more young people to explore careers not only in space, but in science. How fitting I thought that a teacher be the first, so that she could share what she saw and experienced and learned with those lucky enough to be in her class.
Remembering that day and reading and watching Reagan’s speech yesterday made me recall how shocked I was. I never thought that could happen.
He addressed that in his speech, “I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle’s takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.”
I did wonder if the space program would continue. As a science fiction fan and lover of all things space exploration related I wanted to know we wouldn’t give up. We didn’t, and many more missions followed including one more tragedy, the destruction of the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2006. And while the shuttle program was eventually retired, exploration continues, although at a slow pace for some of us.
Astronauts are still being trained and missions are being planned for Mars. They are even hiring a new crop of explorers. For more on that click here.
But you can’t forget seven who died 30 years ago. It all made life a little darker for us sheltered teenagers. Their names are: Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Ronald McNair, Judith Resnik, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and of course Christa McAuliffe.
Another line from Reagan’s speech that stays with me is the last one. It moves me with every viewing. Take a moment and watch or listen, here.
“We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’”