On this day in history twenty five years ago, the space shuttle Challenger exploded just over one minute after take off. Seven crew members lost their lives, including one civilian teacher. I was just two years old the day this happened, but I can only imagine simmilar feelings of the nation as I felt on September 11, 2001.
I have family that has lived fifteen minutes from Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center, and I myself attended college an hour away. I have seen numerous launches over the years, but none directly from the Cape. With space exploration only about 20 years old at the time, this was a very novel launch for the United States, as many still are. Where were you at 11:38 am EST?
As with many major disasters in United States history, much has been learned following the event. Weather criteria is a major role within NASA, as the slightest variations in wind, temperature, humidity, visibility and precipitation. The Challenger explosion became a catalyst to become more scrupulous when calling off launches due to weather. It also reinforces the powerful role in attention to detail, and forecasting in terms of science.
While there is almost always an element of human error in events such as this…there is always a human reaction. This event was a momentous one for people who were of an age that could remember it. A civilian was going to space to teach the masses, and six other astronauts gave the ultimate sacrifice in the name of advancing science and technology. We owe it to them as United States citizens to reflect on this event and never forget what they did for our nation. By honoring their memory we honor our country, and by continuing to support space exploration we respect their legacy and validate their devotion.
Ice and cold temperatures played a role in the Challenger’s demise, due to a faulty O-ring. A mistake that should not have been overlooked. Temperatures on the morning of the launch were unusually cold, around 31 degrees. They should have waited. But with nothing to be done about it now, we must always respect those who decide to do such momentous exploration, in the name of science, technology and humanity.
In the words of former President Ronald Reagan…
“The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and “slipped the surly bonds of earth” to “touch the face of God.”