Friday, January 28, 2011

25 Years Ago Today: The Challenger Shuttle Disaster

Tuesday, January 28, 1986: The space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after launch, killing all seven astronauts aboard, including Christa McAuliffe, intended to be the first teacher in space. Other astronauts killed were Francis "Dick" Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair and Gregory B. Jarvis.
Challenger Explosion (from Wikipedia)

I remember it today as though I were looking through the wrong end of a telescope -- it's far away and tiny, but the emotional punch is still there. It was my senior year of high school. I was with other students waiting in the hallway outside the gym for the class bell. Before that bell went off, the principal spoke over the PA system, saying he had to make a special announcement. I remember thinking how odd it was for him to break in at that time of day. And then he said some words I was sure I had not heard correctly: "The Challenger exploded just after takeoff. There are no survivors."

I was stunned. I stood there blinking. And then someone next to me -- no, I don't recall who it was -- asked the question that was on my mind, "Did he just say what I think he said?"

The rest of the day passed in a sorrowful haze.

Exploration, particularly space exploration, is a dangerous and risky business. But it is necessary because it satisfies the human impulse to push boundaries, and because of the technological rewards we reap when those boundaries are pushed. Never take for granted the pioneers who make the life we live possible.

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