Today, marks 30 years go that we lost the Challenger crew of the STS 51L mission to an explosion of The Shuttle, 73 seconds into flight. It was, as many tragic accidents (and not just in spaceflight), a very sad day.
I remember it almost like it was yesterday. I was still in Bridgeport, CT….a fresh college graduate looking to see if I’d land my first career job in that state. While that was not the case, I took a small job while interviewing ine area. That job was working at a cable company working on cable box electronic assemblies.
That morning, we had the TV on at work, anxious to see another successful Shuttle launch. I had always had an interest in space and space exploration. While it was greater at some points in my life than others, nonetheless it still remained (like many young boys, I, too, wanted to be an astronaut at some time).
The liftoff was nominal, ascent was the same way, telemetry was downlinking with no issues as I remember, and it was a gorgeous morning. At a little over a minute in, tragedy ensued, as I watched the Shuttle explode right before my eyes. Even awhile after it happened, I still couldn’t believe what I saw, nor could I believe the sadness that over took me. I’ve never seen a space exploration accident happen before, and have never seen one since, but that day still lives within me.
When I’d heard what the cause of the mishap was, I could immediately understand it, though I no where knew about space vehicles what I currently do today. What I didn’t know, is something that learned of while listening to NPR on the way home from work today. Something that made me want to post this weblog. I have to admit that I was all over again saddened as I drove home listening to this, but in an entirely new and different way. What I listened to was the first time ever released story of Morton Thiokol engineer Bob Ebeling, who up until today, remained an anonymous source for NPR’s 1986 report on the disaster. He told NPR about he and another engineer basically begged NASA not to launch the Challenger mission that day due to temperatures being too cold to launch. He, for 30 years, carried the guilt of feeling he could have done more than just presenting the data to NASA providing they should not have launched. You can read the story and listen to Bob, who is 89 years old today, by clicking here.
I may listen to this excerpt again, but not any time soon. I can only imagine what he has carried inside of mental state for so long after this tragedy.
Another story that elaborates on report the facts of this mission and crew loss (again by NPR can be found here.
The crew of the Challenger mission are as follows:
Commander Dick Scobee; co-pilot Michael Smith; Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian-American in space; Judith Resnik; Ronald McNair, the second African-American in space; Christa McAuliffe; and Gregory Jarvis.
Today there was a special memorial held at Kennedy Space Center. where June Scobee Rogers, the wife of then CDR Dick Scobee, addressed the crowd with words of hope.
The crew is now longer with us, but you are far from being forgotten. Ad Astra.
Thanks for reading.