Edited by Gerald Boerner
I remember that day back in 1986, when we were watching the launch Christa McAuliffe, the first educator, into space. Then we watched in horror and unbelief when the Challenger exploded a little over a minute into the flight. This was a sobering time and a time for national mourning, not dissimilar to the aftermath of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, and others. We were all in pain, we all grieved. But today, let’s look back upon the space program and the brave men and women who participated both as astronauts and in the ground crew. We take our “hats” off and thank them for their bravery and willingness to serve on the forefront of our country’s quest of space.
In recent history we have witnessed first-hand the explosion shortly after clearing the launch pad of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. This event sent shutters through our bodies in a fashion similar to that that most of us did as we watched Neil Armstrong take those first steps on the moon in 1969. But this time, the reaction was not from the joyful sharing of an event of great import for all mankind, it came from the realization that the entire Challenger crew perished in the explosion. In just a few seconds, we saw the lift-off of the shuttle from the launch pad followed by a puff of white smoke that could be seen when the shuttle broke apart, with different large chunks going in different directions.
At the time, I was working for a school district and witnessed the event “real time,” not on video tape on the evening news. All educators were thrilled by the fact that one of our own, a high school teacher from New England, Christa McAuliffe, was travelling into space. She would be the first civilian to make such a voyage. She was prepared to carry out a number of educational experiments during her time in space and was being followed by schools across the country. But the voice of the TV commentator soon informed us that something terrible had happened a few seconds after launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Then we witnessed the debris from the shuttle fall from the sky. With that debris were the bodies of the seven shuttle astronauts. There was no escape. This incident resulted in a suspension of future shuttle flights until the cause of the accident had been determined and remedied. And it turned out that the cause was due to the failure of an O-Ring that cost just a few dollars. After this tragedy, both the equipment checks before launch and the launch procedures themselves were changed. A major cause of the O-Ring failure was the launch in the early morning hours in freezing weather. Ice had been an ever-present hazard to all launches from Cape Canaveral over the years; each crew breathed a sigh of relief when their vehicle had cleared the launch tower. Procedures were instituted that prevented launch until ice would no longer be a hazard.
We now will proceed to examine this event in history in more detail... GLB
These Introductory Comments are copyrighted:
Copyright©2012 — Gerald Boerner — All Rights Reserved
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Quotations Related to (Space) Shuttle:
“I can remember in early elementary school when the Russians launched the first satellite. There was still so much unknown about space. People thought Mars was probably populated.”
— Christa McAuliffe
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. Do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
— Rick Husband
“When you look at the stars and the galaxy, you feel you are not just from any particular piece of land, but from the solar system.”
— Laurel Clark