January 28, 2004

January 28

In 1986, at 11:39 a.m. EST, the space shuttle Challenger exploded. Crewmembers Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Judith A. Resnick, Ellison S. Onizuka, Ronald E. McNair, and Gregory B. Jarvis were killed along with "Teacher in Space" Christa McAuliffe.

Space flight had become almost routine in the media and with the public, but McAuliffe made the Challenger mission newsworthy. Millions of American schoolchildren saw the explosion live.

I remember the event very well. I was in the school library, taking a sixth grade science test that I had missed. The librarians hooked up a television so they could see the liftoff, and when it exploded one of them said "Oh my God!" loud enough that I looked up to see what the commotion was about.

When I returned to my classroom with the test, I told my science teacher (Mrs. Dube) what had happened. She didn't really want to believe me, but she was obviously distressed. I went to lunch, and the administration had set up televisions throughout the cafeteria for everyone to see. Counselors made announcements and speeches, trying to help us make sense of what happened.

It was an early dismissal day anyway, so we all went home early. I sat on the couch and cried as the news replayed the event over and over.

I saw the "I Touch the Future" book sometime after that and bought it. I still have that book. Every now and then I still get teary over the Challenger, too.

Almost a year ago, we lost another shuttle and its crew. It's hard to believe a year has passed since the Columbia disaster. I was watching Saturday morning cartoons when the news broke in that the shuttle was overdue to land. Anyone who knows anything about NASA knew that could not be good. I was irritated that the news anchors tried to come up with possible explanations that did not include a loss of the shuttle.

Space flight is anything but routine, and it's sad that it takes disasters like these to make people stop taking it for granted.

Posted by Jennifer at January 28, 2004 06:01 AM


I was 22 years old then, had a day off from work and my mother called me around noon. It was definately not a Saturday.

"Have you heard about Challenger?" she asked.


"the space shuttle with the teacher...?"

"Yeah, yeah, McAuliffe.." They'd been delayed a day or two due to frost.

"It's gone."


"It exploded. Turn on your TV..."

I don't remember the conversation after that, just the images.

My friend Donna called me that night; "Hi, Bob, are you in shuttle shock?"

I wrote a song that night called "Shuttle Shock" (it wasn't any good, but it made me feel better).

Posted by: Tuning Spork at January 28, 2004 09:48 PM