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Friday, January 28, 2011

25 Years Ago Today

Every now and then something happens and years later you remember exactly what you were doing that very day, that very moment. One of those moments for me was the Challenger disaster, January 28, 1986. Today marks the anniversary of that fateful and terrible day.

I was working part time in a psychiatric clinic in Trenton, Tennessee, interviewing patients, prescribing and refilling medications. It was a rather routine day. A couple of the staff came in and said that the Challenger had blown up. I remember there was silence and shock, but there was still work to be done. We were all locked into the routine so we could not at that moment find out many of the details. Finally lunch came and I hurried home. It was all over the TV and of course there was already speculation over what had happened....some things never change. I remember the same sickening picture of the fireball and the solid rocket boosters heading off in different directions. We saw it over and over again.

It was one of those times when we lose our innocence. So far we had never lost anyone in space (I have not forgotten about Apollo 1). I guess we thought we were too good and too big to fail. Suddenly we were all reminded that riding tons of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen at several times the speed of sound was really DANGEROUS! There is indeed no room for error.

These men and women in our space program really know the meaning of dedication and courage. I remember how good we felt during the first Mercury flights, the thrill of the first spacewalk, the first Gemini rendezvous and docking, the Apollo 8 Christmas Eve Broadcast, Neil Armstrong's "one small step", the heroic rescue and return of Apollo 13, and on and on.

Seems to me that if our politicians found just a fraction of the courage and spirit of these astronauts that we would not be apologizing to the world and under the thumb of red China.

Rest in peace Challenger astronauts. A grateful nation will not forget your sacrifice!

1 comment:

  1. I was in my living room with my then 3 year old daughter when it happened. My dad had been an engineer at NASA in Houston for twenty years at the time. Neil Armstrong's son and Buzz Aldrin's daughter were my classmates from junior high on up. The space program was very personal for our family.

    I remember the excitement that led up to that launch because it was the first flight that included a civilian. Christi McAuliff was the first to win the privilege of being a civilian passenger on a shuttle mission as part of the Teacher in Space Program. Because of the disaster, she was ultimately the first and the last. It was a very sad day.