Space Shuttle Challenger - 25th Anniversary of the Tragedy

Wow, time flies. I remember this like it happened a few weeks ago.

I was still in college and working as a lab assistant in the computer lab. Some students started coming into the lab and they were crying. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. This was long before the internet and instant news. They told everyone in the computer lab what had happened. Everything went quite for a few minutes. It was hard to comprehend how such a thing could happen. It hadn’t been very long since a Senator had taken a shuttle ride. Plus, retired senator John Glenn had been on a shuttle trip. The Shuttle seemed pretty safe and almost routine. That all changed after Challenger.

For me, the teachers death was the hardest. This was supposed to be the most exciting and thrilling day of her life. Her students were watching the launch on live tv. To see her blown up. Man, that had to be tough on those kids.

Please share your thoughts of Challenger. Where you were, and what you remember from this terrible day.

I was just shy of my 10th birthday, and in what was perhaps the biggest dick move I can remember from my time in elementary school the principal and the rest of the administration refused to tell us what had happened. I had no idea anything was up until I came home and saw my father watching the coverage of it.

I forgot the news link.


http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/01/28/gallery.challenger.life/index.html?hpt=C1
There will be a lot more later today. I think there’s several events planned to mark the 25th anniversary. The President will probably have something planned or at least a statement.

Msnbc article
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41296542/ns/technology_and_science-space/

I was on my way into the lab in Utah. Because of the time difference, and because I hadn’t turned on the news at home, it wasn’t until I turned on the car radio that I heard news reports about the “crash of the shuttle”, but there were no details. It wasn’t until I got in that I learned more about it, and that “crash” wasn’t at all appropriate.
The Challenger had special meaning for me – Ron McNair, the black astronaut, was making his second shuttle flight. We had shared an advisor in college, and we’d co-authored two papers. He was an amazing guy who’d started a shoto-kan karate dojo in the basement of the local A.M.E. church to get the kids off the street. He as a sax player who snuck a (toy) saxophone onto his first shuttle mission. He’s got a monument in Lake City, South Carolina, his hometown, and one in New York City, and a scholarship is named after him at MIT.

25 years – it’s hard to believe. Twenty years ago a student called for a memorial meeting in Lobby 7 at MIT. I think three of us showed up.

A couple of friends of mine and I were cutting class in high school to drive to McDonalds for lunch. We were listening to something on the tape deck, and when I popped the tape out it jumped to the radio where we heard the DJ say “…with more on this terrible tragedy after these messages”.

Tragedy? What tragedy? You can’t leave us hanging like that? Come back, Mr. DJ, tell us what happened!

We found out shortly thereafter, and as a huge space geek, I was severely bummed out for days…

At the time I was working night shift in a manufacturing plant. On this particular day I went to the mall to do some laundry.

After throwing the clothes into the washer I went into the department store and all the TVs were tuned to the same thing: a big freakin’ curly smoke plume. I asked one of the employees what happened and she told me matter-of-factly that the space shuttle exploded.

“The space shuttle exploded?” I remember saying incredulously with the hair on the back of my neck standing up.

I watched the take off and landing of the very first shuttle mission. It just didn’t seem possible.

The place where I work now did some failure analysis on the o-rings. I have picked up and touched a piece of the solid rocket booster from the Challenger.

I was in fifth grade in NH. Our entire class was crammed into one room watching it live on TV.

It was the first shuttle launch I ever saw and I honestly had no idea anything went wrong until I saw the teachers behind me start to cry.

3rd grade in New Hampshire. My town was 20 minutes from Concord, where Christa McAuliffe taught, so everything was extra hyped up. The whole school was, of course, glued to the television.

After the explosion, we continued to watch for some time while the teachers tried to figure out what to do. Then they sent us out for an unscheduled recess so they could discuss how they were going to handle it. The conclusion they apparently reached was to bring us back in and have us continue to watch the news for the rest of the day. Honestly I don’t know that they could have done anything else.

Weirdest recess ever. Nobody played. We just talked.

A memory from Super Bowl XXX, coincidentally the 10th anniversary of the Challenger disaster. Vanessa Williams sings the national anthem. At the end, there’s an F-16 flyover, with one taking off in missing man formation. The pilot of that jet: Rich Scobee, Shuttle Commander Dick Scobee’s son.

My advisor found me still in shock in the hall outside his office. He canceled our appointment and told me to go home, I wouldn’t notice a thing my professors said that day, and he was right.

I’ve never had daughters, but after that day I promised myself that if I did, one would be named Judith Christa.

FWIW, John Glenn’s shuttle flight was in 1998, not before the Challenger explosion.

Nonetheless, thanks for starting this thread, aceplace57. I’ve been thinking about this all morning.

I was working in a college internship at a radio station in Canton, Ohio, that day. I was in the newsroom and heard about the disaster almost immediately. It was very sad, but I have to be honest, very exciting to be right in the middle of the news department’s response to the tragedy. Those guys are pros. I followed the story very closely for weeks.

Glenn didn’t go back into space until 1998: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STS-95

They named the local planetarium after McAuliffe. It’s recently been expanded into a larger Science Center and renamed The McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, to honor New Hampshire’s astronaut alan Shepard. There’s a part-scale model of the Mercury Redstone out front, visible from I-93.



They seem to be having a special program today, though it’s not on their website:

There’s a McAuliffe library in Framingham, MA, where she went to college It’s holding events honoring the Challenger today:

http://www.framingham.com/history/profiles/christa.htm

I was in high school as a sophmore. For study hall you could opt to get a library pass instead which was limited to 5 students.
The library was adjacent to the AV room where we would always see one particular teacher go with her lunch so she could watch the news. I remember her walking quickly out of the AV room finding just the 5 of us sitting studying and saying “guys, get in here, quick!” We had no idea what she wanted.
I think we were the first 5 students in the school to hear about it and see footage of it. The principal announced it over the PA 15-20 minutes later.

In the late 1970’s/early 1980’s I actually worked for a company that made Space Shuttle hardware. I was personally responsible for three of the systems. Even though by 1986 I had moved on to other projects, the time I worked on the shuttle always held a special place in my heart; like I had worked on something for the betterment of mankind.

I remember this day as if it were yesterday. A friend and I were driving to lunch, and the guy on the radio said the shuttle had exploded. I remember thinking to myself “They’ll be OK. They can use the emergency capsule jettison provision” I can still feel the horror I felt when I quickly remembered that the was no such provision on the orbiter (like there was on Apollo,) and that they would have been either burned instantly or worse yet, plummet to their death from several thousand feet.

When we got back to the office, you could here a pin drop. The NASA and Rockwell people were ringing the phones off the hook saying, basically, “seal everything - say nothing to the press!” I went by the cubicle of one of the engineers who still worked on the project after I had moved on, and he was weeping openly; not saying a word.

Having worked so hard on that project, I felt a huge personal loss. Even though the units we built for the shuttle were in no way connected to the propusion system (they were telemetry and communications subsysytems, in case you were wondering) we all felt like “This is beyond terrible - What more could we have done?”

The terrorist attacks of 9-11, and the subsequent Colombia distruction have happened since, and have shifted the paradigm of national disaster, but I will never forget this day.

The thing that sticks with me the most was how the Challenger crew represents a “melting pot” of American society: male, female, white, black, Asian, Christian, Jewish, even a civilian school teacher.

For some reason, that’s the most comforting aspect of that terrible event (which still feels like the day before yesterday…)

I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was a high school senior at the time.

I was at lunch when I got the news. So far as I knew, they weren’t televising the launch at my high school. To be honest, space shuttle launches had become fairly routine.

Anyway, I was sitting in the lunch room playing chess with a friend, when this freshman student we knew excitedly came over to us with the news. (I was kind of a geek, and playing chess with a friend was a improvement over my usual practice of reading a book by myself.)

Here’s the funny thing–we totally blew the freshman off. We didn’t believe him at all. It was a combination of the freshman being a credulous sort who didn’t have much credibility with us, and just total disbelief that anything so catastrophic could happen to the space shuttle.

We actually mocked the freshman, saying things like, “Sure, and the Sun’s not going to rise tomorrow.” We then went back to our game.

Imagine my surprise when I went to my next class and learned the news was real.

Interestingly enough, I never saw any of the actual television coverage of the explosion. I had swim practice that afternoon, and never really saw a TV that day. By the next day, out of exhaustion, the TV stations had stopped the endless loops of the explosion, so I didn’t see the video of the actual explosion until many years later.

I can’t believe it’s been 25 years. I realized at the time that it was going to be an event that would stick with me for the rest of my life, like 9/11 was later, and like I’d heard the JFK assassination and moon landing was before.

I was in the middle of Philosophy class and the professor made an announcement. The whole day was surreal.

I went to high school with Scott McAuliffe (Christa’s son). I always wonder if he and his sister just avoid the news and internet on these big anniversaries.

Also, when this though occurred to me I went and checked his Facebook page and found out that he was born on September 11.