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"Slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God."
January 28, 2011 1:39 PM   Subscribe

Challenger . . . . go with throttle up. Twenty-five years ago today the U.S. Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds into the 25th space shuttle flight. The reports (pdf) tell us of O-Ring failures. Today, we remember one of the most tragic days in the history of the U.S. manned spaceflight program. Today, January 28, 2011, we remember: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe.
posted by IvoShandor (100 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
. . . . . . .
posted by kmz at 1:44 PM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


If only the engineers had been better at designing infographics!
posted by cubby at 1:44 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I remember this clearly. It was such a shock, I was at college at NYU just waking up and one of my room-mates walked in and announced the Challenger had exploded and I basically laughed at him and told him to "fuck off," and then he said he wasn't joking. And went downstairs to the common area and everyone is around the T.V., and having such a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach I can feel even now.
posted by Skygazer at 1:48 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Shuttle episode of When We Left Earth (on NetFlix) is worth watching. Lots of new footage, including some really heartbreaking stuff with Christa McAuliffe's parents and the backup teacher-in-space.
posted by smackfu at 1:49 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this post, and thanks for not emphasizing any one astronaut over all the others. McAuliffe is from around these parts and as much as I do admire her and what she accomplished I get tired of stories about the Challenger talking about "When Teacher In Space Christa McAulliffe and six others died.

I was waiting for science class (high school) to start when a bunch of kids came in and said "The shuttle blew up!" Shortly after the principal came on and gave us the news. The moment of silence was broken when a kid commented that the class iguana had taken a big dump.

I was a space nerd so I remember being very upset, not just at the deaths but also about how this would be a big setback for the space program.
posted by bondcliff at 1:51 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


25 years later, this is still a big deal. Yet, in the intervening years, another shuttle exploded and nobody really noticed. WTF?
posted by Afroblanco at 1:51 PM on January 28, 2011


Never Forget.
posted by kafziel at 1:51 PM on January 28, 2011


Sad thing is, all I remember is the jokes.
posted by jcruelty at 1:52 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


That speech by Reagan makes me misty, regardless of politics.

"It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them."

And, afroblanco, I'm not sure who you're referring to when you say nobody remembers the Columbus disaster. We can commemorate that one too on Feb. 1. Bush's speech, of course, was not so memorable.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:54 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


My senior year in high school, I didn't have a first or second period class, and would often watch television during my slow mornings before school.

I watched this happen live on television.

I went to the school early that day, and on the way in ran into the principal (who had the unlikely name of Dr. Noe). I told him about what had happened, but he didn't believe me. Most likely because I had spent 3 years playing jokes on most of the office staff at the high school. It took a bit of persuading, but I finally convinced him to come into the media lab in the library with me and turn on a television or two.

Classes pretty much stopped for the rest of the day after that. It was very strange to be the bearer of such bad news.
posted by hippybear at 1:55 PM on January 28, 2011


(pssst, Ivo, thinking you mighta left a letter out of the post title.)
posted by mwhybark at 1:56 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was five when this happened. I remember coming home from school and my mom was teared up a little, watching the coverage of this on TV. She hugged me and said, "You're not allowed to be an astronaut.".
posted by chugg at 1:56 PM on January 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


This interrupted my CBC kid's lineup as I recall. But now that I do the math, I would've been three, so it might be a constructed memory.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:57 PM on January 28, 2011


One of the worst parts was the live feeds of all the kids who had been gathered together to watch the First Teacher in Space go up. It looked like they all realized that something had gone badly wrong, but they were all still waving their flags and anxiously waiting for someone to say "Ha, ha; just kidding! Rocket ships don't really blow up, kids!"
posted by Curious Artificer at 1:58 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


25 years later, this is still a big deal. Yet, in the intervening years, another shuttle exploded and nobody really noticed. WTF?

I don't think I agree that nobody noticed. Columbia was a huge deal at the time and there have been plenty of TV shows and articles about it.

If the Challenger is a bigger deal to most (and I agree that it probably is) I'd guess it's because it was the first US space-related deaths since Apollo 1, and a lot of the people watching it were from the generation that grew up after Apollo, we were getting excited that space had become somewhat routine (first they'll send the teacher, then I'll be able to go) and then it all came (literally) crashing down in front of us.

I think the media coverage of it was also pretty new to us, since cable TV was still in its infancy. Plus, there was the fact that a lot more people were into it because of McAulliffe.
posted by bondcliff at 1:59 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Challeger explosion was certainly a tragedy, but calling it one of the most tragic days in history seems like a bit of hyperbole. More tragic days:

- April 13, 1919: Amritsar Massacre
- January 20, 1942: Wannsee Conference and the decision to implement the final solution
- August 6, 1945: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
- August 14, 1947: India's partition and the mass violence that accompanied it
- December 24, 1979: Soviet deployment into Afghanistan

etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...
posted by outlandishmarxist at 2:00 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


outlandishmarxist: Read the complete sentence.
posted by kmz at 2:02 PM on January 28, 2011 [7 favorites]


Sorry.
posted by outlandishmarxist at 2:03 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I watched this happen live on television.

James Oberg on the mythology that has grown up around the disaster after all these years.

He cites this as Myth #1, but a lot of people who were school-age kids did indeed see it live because many schools arranged special events to watch it.

I was 22 and at work, but I worked at a cable TV company, and really did have the TV in my office on and tuned to CNN when it happened.
posted by briank at 2:04 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not to jump in on a thread I posted but I'm doing it anyway. Whatever. I was in first grade. In 1986 my first grade teacher was one of the finalists for the Teacher in Space competition, it was a big deal in that classroom. She didn't win. I remember when we found out that she didn't win. It was disappointing for us 7 and 8 year olds. It was. But that was OK because we knew someone who cared as much as our teacher was going to be an astronaut.

The day of the launch, all things considered, you would think that we'd be watching it live, as a class, but we weren't. We weren't watching it live. Maybe because we were so young. But I remember the day of the launch, I always had a little hard-on for the space shuttle program, in another life I would have been an astronomer, besides the point, but I remember the day.

When the tragedy happened I can clearly remember our grade school principal coming into our classroom and whispering something in our first grade teacher's ear. obviously, it was the tragedy. Minutes later, and I'll never forget this, one of my all-time favorite teachers told us that the Space Shuttle Challenger had exploded on lift off. I'm not sure I even knew what that meant, but I watched it over and over later that night. It's funny because I remember feeling President Reagan's sentiment. And still to this day, I think the same when I hear of the tragedy. I thought the same when Columbia disintegrated. That somehow, those that slip those surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God, might have wanted it this way.

That given the choice of how to die, that it would've been that way. And I don't know if it's macabre or outlandish, perfect, or incredible. But it's what I think and what I feel. And we still continued on past all the awful tragedies of Apollo 1, the Challenger and Columbia. We still went forth. I think that these facts are what make me react with extraordinary sadness when I realize that the American manned space flight program is destined to go into the "forever-collect-dust zone". I feel like I have an Apollo hangover and there is no Skylab. Damn. What bravery, what sacrifice. May we continue to touch the heavens, may we continue to touch the unknowable.
posted by IvoShandor at 2:05 PM on January 28, 2011 [9 favorites]


That was difficult to watch, even knowing what was coming. A lot like watching the Zapruder film.
posted by HuronBob at 2:06 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Krista McAulliffe was my homeroom teacher. Really nice lady.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:06 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


> 25 years later, this is still a big deal. Yet, in the intervening years, another shuttle exploded and nobody really noticed. WTF?

What are you talking about? That was huge news. People were getting sick from contact with toxic debris all over north Texas.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:08 PM on January 28, 2011


25 years later, this is still a big deal. Yet, in the intervening years, another shuttle exploded and nobody really noticed. WTF?

People noticed Columbia, but the scenarios surrounding the two explosions were different. Challenger happened at the height of public excitement over the space program barring the Apollo missions, during a time when we were considering orbital weapons platforms and international space stations. It was a massively popular mission due to McAulliffe's presence, so many more people were watching it live, because McAulliffe's inclusion seemed to point directly to a future in which we'd all be spending time in space, shuttling to the moon and back. It was also the first time a Space Shuttle exploded, and the first major space disaster since the Apollo missions. It exploded during launch, which many people watch, instead of during re-entry which far fewer people watch. It was commemorated by a remarkable speech from President Reagan; Columbia's eulogy was somewhat less momentous. Columbia exploded during a time of massive public uncertainty over the future of the space project, so rather than being a disaster running counter to the optimism of the public, it was a disaster that seemed to justify the pessimism of the public.

Columbia was a big deal and I remember the fallout clearly, but those are some of the reasons why Challenger has the mythology that Columbia doesn't.
posted by Errant at 2:10 PM on January 28, 2011 [17 favorites]


25 years later, this is still a big deal. Yet, in the intervening years, another shuttle exploded and nobody really noticed. WTF?

I'd guess it's because it was the first US space-related deaths since Apollo 1, and a lot of the people watching it were from the generation that grew up after Apollo, we were getting excited that space had become somewhat routine (first they'll send the teacher, then I'll be able to go) and then it all came (literally) crashing down in front of us.


Glad to hear this being brought up. Why does this one incident remain in the foreground? 25 years after Apollo 1, no one made nearly as big a deal. Was it because she was the first civilian in space? Was it because the media just wouldn't let it go? I know it was emotional for a lot of people, but I'm having a hard time seeing why this particular disaster is remembered more than others.
posted by Melismata at 2:12 PM on January 28, 2011


Errant: that explains so much, thank you!
posted by Melismata at 2:13 PM on January 28, 2011


> but I'm having a hard time seeing why this particular disaster is remembered more than others.

Mainly because it happened on live TV, and during a time when schools (such as mine) would often hold assemblies to watch shuttle launches.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:13 PM on January 28, 2011


but I'm having a hard time seeing why this particular disaster is remembered more than others.

Because every kid in the country was sat in front of a tv in the lunch room of their school and watched it happen. It was a traumatic event to an entire generation.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:13 PM on January 28, 2011


25 years later, this is still a big deal. Yet, in the intervening years, another shuttle exploded and nobody really noticed. WTF?

NPR did a story the commented on this aspect. The first big accident was the shock to the nation and once that it occurred, we more or less understood it could happen again. We were ready for Columbia, not for Challenger.

Ivo, I recommend you read some biographies of Apollo astronauts. Michael Collins' "Carrying the Fire" was excellent, Eugene Cernan's "Last Man on the Moon" was interesting and have just started Deke Slayton's "Deke!" which is shaping up nicely. Tom Stafford's "We have Capture" will be after that. Collins wrote a couple of other books, have to check those out too.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:16 PM on January 28, 2011 [4 favorites]


There's a nice rememberance of Ronald McNair by his brother Carl on NPR this morning.
posted by vespabelle at 2:18 PM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


ugh, ignore my bad grammar and listen to/read the story!
posted by vespabelle at 2:18 PM on January 28, 2011


Because every kid in the country was sat in front of a tv in the lunch room of their school and watched it happen. It was a traumatic event to an entire generation.

I was in high school when it happened; we were pulled out of class and informed that seven astronauts had died. My reaction was something like, "um, ok, well, last month 15 firefighters died in a big explosion in our state and nobody said anything, what's the difference?" If someone had explained to me Errant's comment (and, perhaps if I were a bit younger and watching it live on TV), I might have felt something more.
posted by Melismata at 2:19 PM on January 28, 2011


hippybear: I told him about what had happened, but he didn't believe me. Most likely because I had spent 3 years playing jokes on most of the office staff at the high school.

I didn't believe my room-mate because he was a huge wake and bake clown, and he usually began the day with some outlandlandish theory or other...
posted by Skygazer at 2:20 PM on January 28, 2011


My elementary school had set up a special watching event too. A couple friends and I were really excited about it; I'd collected newspaper articles about all of the astronauts, being a major space nerd. My two friends and I built model rockets, studied the night skies, that sort of thing.

Our classroom went completely silent when the shuttle exploded. I don't remember what was said eventually; just that our teachers were quiet and serious, and we kids too. No one joked.

I still have memorabilia from it; despite the tragedy, the whole story inspired me for a long time. McAuliffe was an example that I, a girl interested in both teaching and science, could dream too. Judith Resnik seemed really neat as well, I liked her smile and sense of humor.

. . . . . . .
posted by fraula at 2:22 PM on January 28, 2011


I was five, and in kindergarten. I don't remember watching it live, but I do remember talking about it with my parents that night. My mom was almost nine months pregnant with my sister, who was born on 2/20. I do remember the weird feeling of having mixed emotions for the first time. I was sad that such a horrible tragedy had happened to these people (and a teacher!), and still excited for the new baby.

It was a strange time.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:28 PM on January 28, 2011


I can still remember the day; our school had gotten a satellite dish, and it was the second thing we were going to watch with it.

There's some documentary on the Russian space program, or possibly the secrecy surrounding their space program, I forget exactly, that features these haunting shots of some of their more spectacular failures, including one where you can see ground crew running around on fire. And no one in Russia knew about any of it until after the fall of the Union. Our entire space program has had fewer deaths than many single incident body-counts for theirs. We have been astoundingly lucky in many respects, so when our failures have happened, they are all the more tragic for their rarity. A very tarnished silver lining.
posted by nomisxid at 2:28 PM on January 28, 2011


I live near one of the many elementary schools that bears the name of Christa McAuliffe. Still get a tiny little pang every time I hear someone mention the school name. Same thing with another school in the district, also named after a tragic figure that died way, way too young.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:31 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


My reaction was something like, "um, ok, well, last month 15 firefighters died in a big explosion in our state and nobody said anything, what's the difference?"

It's worth emphasizing that we were starting to think of space travel as being normal, even routine, and we'd stopped thinking of it as being especially dangerous. The Challenger disaster was the 25th shuttle mission and the 10th Challenger mission; it had seemed like we'd gotten really good at this. As wake-up calls go, it was remarkably unpleasant.
posted by Errant at 2:32 PM on January 28, 2011


I'll keep this brief. I was home from school on a snow day. My friend and I were throwing a rubber model of the space shuttle across the room to each other. He threw it at the wall and it broke into pieces. A few minutes later his mother came up to his room to tell us the Challenger had exploded. True story.
posted by Liquidwolf at 2:36 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why does this one incident remain in the foreground? 25 years after Apollo 1, no one made nearly as big a deal.

Speculation: Astronauts at that time were all former test pilots and pilots with not just military experience, but real wartime shooting-at-people experience. By the 80s, in the public's eye, being an astronaut meant you were a scientist, not a soldier/sailor/airman/Marine for whom risking life and limb was part and parcel of the deal. Even if that perspective is and was flat wrong.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:38 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought it was so awesome that we got a tv in our 2nd grade classroom. We had the other 2 classrooms show up and man was it rowdy.

And then it was quiet. I'm positive that all 100 people in that room remember that moment.

To the highwaymen (and highwaywomen), may we never forget them and remember how more will be made as we increase our technology.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:38 PM on January 28, 2011


Same thing with another school in the district, also named after a tragic figure that died way, way too young.

Wow. I had no idea of the story of Samantha Smith. Teared up again reading about her. Reminds me a bit of a recent This American Life about a child visiting Noriega.
posted by kmz at 2:49 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Like Liquidwolf, I was home for a snow day.
I don't think we took advantage of the snow that day. i watched the replays way too many times that day. i remember all of the jokes and they pissed me off even then, as a middle schooler.

A few years earlier, we lived in a place where we watched all shuttle launches from the front porch of our house. Space flight was very personal for me. I'm still pissed that i will die without leaving this planet.

I don't think our attitude, as a country, towards space travel has been the same since.
The same with our attitude towards science in general.
posted by Seamus at 2:55 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't recommend the book "Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut" by Mike Mullane highly enough.
posted by Jaybo at 2:56 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


25 years after Apollo 1, no one made nearly as big a deal.

I think it really does make a difference that it was on the ground and not during a mission. The primary crew of Gemini 9 died in a plane crash during training and that is even less remembered.
posted by smackfu at 2:57 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the parking lot of Lowe's, I heard it on the AM radio in my dad's ratty Ford truck we used for errands like that. He told me "Son, sometimes these things happen. It's not the first time, and it won't be the last." That sounds kinda harsh when typed but it was really reassuring the way he said it. I had watched Challenger land on the back of a Boeing 747 at Barksdale Air Force Base pretty recently, and I was (an am) a big NASA geek.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:04 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was in college when the Challenger disaster happened. I was hired to work at NASA partly because of the many safety improvements NASA put into place afterwards, mostly abort and contingency software.

I was in Mission Control working landing support when the Columbia broke up. It was like somebody punched me in the stomach. What sticks with me is the absolute professionalism that everyone showed as we all started the contingency procedures we hoped we'd never perform. It took a long time for my area to get back to normal. At least two weeks before I could drive past the gates at JSC, bedecked with flowers and posters, without crying.

As we start to retire the Shuttle program, I realize that we have accomplished something remarkable. We have made Low Earth Orbit Spaceflight routine, almost commoditized. Something that two generations ago was just a dream. Challenger and Columbia reminds us, though, that it only *seems* routine.
posted by cross_impact at 3:04 PM on January 28, 2011 [28 favorites]


I was in 8th grade. I ate breathed and slept everything related to astronomy and human space travel. I could tell you all about every space shot and every interplanetary mission. I had a copy of the Space Shuttle Operator's Manual (which is available for free online, if anyone is interested). All I wanted to be for my entire life up until that point was an astronaut.

I faked a fever that morning so I could stay home and watch the launch live. I remember bouncing on my bed with excitement as they were getting ready for launch. I watched at home, alone and I was devastated.I called my mom in tears. She thought I was bullshitting her. I couldn't handle being alone after seeing that, so I got dressed and walked to school. No announcement had been made, so I sat there in class, feeling even more alone in knowing that I was the only person in the room that knew what happened.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 3:08 PM on January 28, 2011 [15 favorites]


Why does this one incident remain in the foreground? 25 years after Apollo 1, no one made nearly as big a deal.

When Challenger died, she blew up in a massive, "photogenic" explosion on live television in front of a huge audience.

Apollo 1 AFAIK wasn't televised, and even if it were you'd have seen a fire behind a very small window and, briefly, dark shapes moving in the flames.

People also don't remember Soyuz 1 or 11, and don't remember that the Apollo crew from Apollo-Soyuz nearly died from exposure to hypergolics.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:13 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Shuttle flights were a really big deal at first, the sort of thing that people took time out of their day to watch or at least take not of. There were plenty of scary stories about what could go wrong (shades of Columbia the scariest usually involved the insulating tiles). By the time of the Challenger disaster the flights had become almost routine; they were even sending a teacher into space. No one paid nearly as much attention anymore. That made the explosion all the more shocking.
posted by caddis at 3:17 PM on January 28, 2011


I was 16, and after feeling numb, then astounded that this could happen, and then unable to comprehend the tragedy, my first coherent thought was, "I'd still go tomorrow." I thought the same thing after the Columbia disaster, and I still think the same thing today.
posted by tzikeh at 3:17 PM on January 28, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ronald McNair, 9, was told "we don't circulate books to Negroes." The same building will be introduced this Saturday as the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Life History Center.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 3:21 PM on January 28, 2011 [22 favorites]


11th grade. Mrs Oakley's American History class. We did what we always did at THS when we heard the rumble of a shuttle launch reach the high school across the Indian river from the space center; we stepped outside to watch the shuttle finish climbing into the sky. It was commonplace by then, even boring. You'd hear the rumble, the windows would rattle a bit, and you stepped outside to watch the rest. The shuttle was always safely on its way by the time you heard the launch.

Only this time it didn't make it. I remember seeing the explosion—that sudden white puffball—and the solid rocket boosters veering off, still just visible to the naked eye as tiny glints in the sunlight at the top of the smoke. I also remember turning to the girl beside me and saying "What are you smiling at? They just died up there." Don't know why, but I just knew it. Then the class made its way over to Mrs Oakley's car, where we gathered around to listen to the radio turned up loud enough so the entire class could hear.

The rest of the day at school was spent in an eerie stunned silence. All the NASA engineer's kids went to THS, most of our parents made their living in one way or another off the space center just across the river. There was talk of canceling school for the day, but it wasn't possible to get the bus schedules worked out that quickly since they were shared with the elementary and middle schools, so we just spent the rest of the day stumbling through the motions. I still have the clearest memory of the crowds of students moving in the halls between classes that day, not a soul speaking, a high school of teenagers suddenly confronted with some very real worries about jobs and parent's livelihoods we'd never really had to contemplate before, all piled up on top of the emotions of the disaster itself.

I've never been able to watch another shuttle launch since without a little knot forming in my stomach.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 3:21 PM on January 28, 2011 [8 favorites]


Back in 2001 (about 8 months before I witnessed 9/11, which makes this weird), I wrote up that day as a comment on Slashdot. Here's the text:

I was there, I knew her

"A bit dramatic, but true. I was in high school in Concord NH when the challenger blew up. Christa McAuliffe had been one of my teachers. I have to admit she was not one of my favorites, but she was the kind of teacher you could swap jokes with outside of class. Generally a nice person.
Another stupid admission is that I was actually protesting the whole thing when it happened. See, even though I was a fan of the space program, the teacher in space program came right on the heels of massive cuts to federal education programs. As a student in a high school that desperately needed funds for arts and sciences, I felt like this was Reagan (remember him) throwing smoke in our eyes. In retrospect, it would probably have been better for science in general if we had gotten people excited about space.
We had gotten kicked out of the cafeteria where everyone was watching the launch. There were press there, and the administration didn't want anyone spoiling their perfect picture.
So I was on my way to the library to sulk when I heard an announcement over the pa. It was the principal asking everyone to stay calm in the face of this tragedy. I was really confused. It certainly never entered my mind that something could have happened to the shuttle. I thought maybe the launch didn't go off.
When I got to the library, they had a tv set up to watch the launch. It was showing the explosion complete with crying witnesses and panicking reporters. I don't think I can describe the feeling. It felt for a moment like nothing really worked the way it was supposed to. I've never gotten over some feelings of guilt that I was trying to protest it.
The next few days were some of the most instructive of my teenage years. I saw people who hated her, lionize her. I saw reporters trying to sneak in to the school to get reaction shots. I heard people blaming everyone they could think of, including ethnic groups.
On the other hand, I saw our community really pour out support for her family. I saw people who genuinely felt pain at her loss, try to keep people calm.
I guess tragedy often brings out the worst and the best in people. After all, extremes beget extremes.
The last time I went back to visit my school (a long time ago, I hated the place), there was a huge shrine to Ms. McAuliffe. It had a really cheesy oil painting of her in the center. It looked like it came from of one of those places you can buy paintings of Elvis on the side of the road.
Nevertheless, my throat caught a little when I saw it. She was sacrificed in the pursuit of science. It seems simultaneously noble and stupid, as ways to die go. I'd like to say that I thought her life and death had a positive effect on the world, but I'd be lying if I said I'd bet on it."
posted by lumpenprole at 3:21 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


Like a lot of people I was in school. We weren't watching it live because it was too early for the West coast, but when I got to school kids were already freaking out about it.

But I thought they were talking about a model rocket, since we had a model rocketry club on campus and model rockets that exploded were a common current event for grade school kids to get overexcited about.

Someone had taped the launch, though. We watched it in class right after school started. That was a weird day.

Then what was as little as days or weeks later the bad jokes started, like "What color were Christa McAuliffe's eyes? Blue. One blew this way and one blew that way." and "What does NASA really stand for? Need Another Seven Astronauts."

Which was probably the first time I actually understood morbid humor because I was pretty clueless as a kid.
posted by loquacious at 3:30 PM on January 28, 2011


Challenger . . . . go with throttle up.

It's go at throttle up. Throttle up is the flight stage they are entering; the status is go. The shuttle needs to reduce thrust as it passes through Max Q, the point of maximum dynamic pressure; after passing that point, the engines can return to top thrust (which is actually 104% of the rated theoretical thrust maximum, as determined during operational testing).
posted by dhartung at 3:32 PM on January 28, 2011 [6 favorites]


It saddens me to think I saw the first space shuttle explosion. It saddens me more that I also saw the last space shuttle explosion.
posted by GuyZero at 3:34 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It saddens me more that I also saw the last space shuttle explosion.

knock on wood, GuyZero. Three to go.
posted by Auden at 3:45 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


My husband used to be a research subject for NASA (motion sickness research, actually) and had flown quite a few times on the "Vomit Comet", sometimes with astronauts in training on it at the same time.


I remember that day. He worked third shift, so I had pulled the phone plug out so it wouldn't wake him. I had an obgyn appointment-I was pregnant with our second child-dropped our first kid off with a neighbor and headed to the doc. I hadn't turned on the tv as hubby was sleeping.

So when I got to the doctor's office, I checked in, sat down and only then noticed how quiet everyone was even though the waiting room was full. There was a tv set on and I noticed they kept showing the astronauts. The sound was turned low so I couldn't understand what was going on so I finally asked a seatmate. Who told me.

I tried to call my husband but then remembered I'd pulled the phone cord out. It seemed an eternity but I finally got home, by this time it was later in the afternoon and time to wake my husband. I told him what had happened, and he growled at me that it was nothing to joke about.

Then he turned on the TV.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:46 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


"We are going to have failures. There are going to be sacrifices made in the program; we've been lucky so far. If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business, and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life."

- Gus Grissom.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 3:49 PM on January 28, 2011 [10 favorites]


I remember exactly where I was when this happened.

It is the kind of event that deeply shocks and scars and stays with you forever, like the day Elvis died, and of course 9/11.

. . . . . . .
posted by bwg at 3:49 PM on January 28, 2011


I have been sad about this all day, just like every year. It took me 24 years to work up the courage to see a live launch again, too. Sigh.
posted by elizardbits at 3:51 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Weird that Apollo I, Challenger, and Columbia were all within the same week. Remind me never to go into space in Late Jan/Early Feb.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 3:56 PM on January 28, 2011


knock on wood, GuyZero. Three to go.

Indeed. On the off chance anyone misinterprets me, I'd take one accident in a few hundred launches over zero accidents in zero launches. I hope the shuttle program ends not with a bang, but a whimper.
posted by GuyZero at 4:03 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


My memory tells me that I was a senior in high school when this happened. The calendar tells me I was a freshman in college. Given that I was at the University that was attended by Neil Armstrong and quite a few other astronauts, you'd think this moment would be burned into my memory forever.

Instead, I can't even place myself on the proper continent when it happened, let alone remember exactly what I was doing. Weird.
posted by COD at 4:13 PM on January 28, 2011


I think I might have mentioned this in a previous Challenger thread, but I have no idea if I saw it or not. My school had two 4th grade classes. One class watched live on TV, one didn't. I still have no idea if I was in the classroom that watched it live or not. I do know that there was a quickly called assembly in the cafeteria where the principal announced the explosion of the shuttle, and we were all sent home.

So much had been made out of the fact that there was going to be a teacher on board. Our teachers had been visibly excited about it, and we'd picked up on that, and become just as excited, and then, when it happened, we were all just as horrible crushed by the shuttle explosion. I don't think I'll be able to watch the clip, sorry. It's pretty much one of the most painful moments of my childhood. As mentioned above, yeah, I knew/know all the jokes, too. I like to think that the jokes were a coping mechanism, in some way. That there were so many jokes makes me think that, just maybe, so many more were deeply affected by the disaster that by making a joke out of it, they could get some distance from the awful pain. McAuliffe being on the shuttle was a gimmick, I see that now, but for so many reasons, it was perfect. She was one of us, a normal person. She was also a teacher, allowing students to imagine their own teachers as someone with so much more potential awesomeness that we'd previously understood. And there was the idea that, hey, a normal person is going up! This is going to be the next step towards the future! And then that future was yanked away. And I'm just babbling now, so I'll stop. Thanks for the post.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:25 PM on January 28, 2011


Pictures 18-22 are heartbreaking" (via The Big Picture)
posted by czytm at 4:27 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was snowing hard in WNC. I was shaving, listening to AM radio when they broke in with the news. No TV, so we went to the neighbor's singlewide, where he picked up one channel from Johnson City. I remember they kept repeating a slow-motion reaction shot of McAuliffe's parents' faces as they looked up at the explosion.
posted by squalor at 4:32 PM on January 28, 2011


This is probably a complete non-sequitur but watching the second plane strike the WTC made me immediately flash back on seeing the first shuttle disaster. Both times I was unemployed. Just lazing around the house, watching TV.

I had that same chilled, stomach clenching moment of, "No. This isn't really happening."

But it was, both times. And it took a while for my brain to parse what was happening. A dizzy, unreal moment where the world just was not working right.
posted by Splunge at 4:38 PM on January 28, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm old enough to remember the pre-amble to the shuttle program, and up to then, we were used to elegant, relatively simple, pencil like rockets spearing into space piloted by all that butch Right Stuff. When the shuttle concept showed up it just looked like an unlikely, ugly, complex assemblage of components, that looked just plain dangerous. It just seemed a matter of time before this seemingly implausible stack of hardware would go wrong somehow and take hapless scientists and teachers with it: A disaster waiting to happen. When blew apart, I felt no surprise, just sadness and a repulsion for the ghoulish compulsion for playing that footage over and over.
posted by marvin at 4:49 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I saw people who hated her, lionize her.

Why did they hate her in her town? Her success? Her fame?
posted by jgirl at 4:53 PM on January 28, 2011


I remember Grace Corrigan saying that Caroline McCullough had a tougher time with it than her brother. And of course their mother was away a lot for training.

"Caroline was left waiting for her mother to come home."

It just was so wrenching to hear.
posted by jgirl at 5:01 PM on January 28, 2011


Twenty-five years ago. Shit, I feel old.

I was in college, in New Hampshire. The class I was in that morning was Astronomy 101 ("Stars for Everyone"); it was the largest class I had in college, and I remember the professor was late to class, and when he came in he looked very small waaay down there at the bottom of the amphitheater-style room. He was crying. He choked out the news about the Challenger and canceled class, and asked us all to go watch the coverage. When I got to the student center, it was jammed with people, and utterly silent, except for the television, and the sound of people sniffling. What I remember most is feeling terribly shocked, and also how ashamed I felt because I couldn't stop thinking that the smoke trail of the exploding shuttle was so beautiful.

. . . . . . .
posted by rtha at 5:03 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was 15 when the Challenger accident happened and it hit hard. We were in 5th period, just after lunch when another student ran into our classroom and told us the space shuttle had exploded. This was in Orlando, and on a clear day you could see the contrails of the shuttle, or if you were very lucky, the sun glinting off the shuttle itself as it took off. We all ran outside and I remember knowing immediately that they were all dead. Many of the national news channels were speculating there might have been time for the main orbiter to clear the explosion. Those crooked contrails though...I could tell it was bad.

My parents lived near Cape Canaveral during the space race years, and after I was born we lived in New Smyrna Beach for 5 years before the family moved inland. It's hard to describe how close you felt to the space program, how you could run into the astronauts at the grocery store, or watch the launches from your front porch. It was a source of pride and made you feel like anything was possible.

I remember that twisting hurt in my stomach. It was the one of the first times I ever remember seeing my father cry.
posted by lootie777 at 5:48 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was 8, pretty much the right age to be completely traumatized -- we were doing weekly lessons on the shuttle, learned all about the teacher, her kids, her training, etc, etc. We got supplements from Weekly Reader. Then it was a teacher workday the day of the shuttle launch so we were all home. I remember my mom made Fettuccine Alfredo and I didn't touch it, just was completely sick and cried for a week, thinking with the naivete of an eight year old that maybe they would be found, cold and embarrassed, but alive, floating in the water clutching bits of Challenger. Man that was horrible.
posted by sweetkid at 5:51 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


My father was in the break room at Honeywell, watching as the main engines he helped design were pushed to 109% to deliver the power of three Hoover Dams to the tiny occupants inside the throttle-able Roman candle. He was probably thinking of a week prior to launch when Captain Mike Smith had come to the plant and met with the engineers. He was complaining about the constantly malfunctioning toilet system.

I was in my elementary school playing during recess, occasionally looking up to see if I could catch a glimmer of the launch. Where we lived in FL, you had about a 50/50 shot. I never saw it that day until afterward. Elementary school kids can be brutal, particularly kids jealous of all your show-and-tells where you brought in the piece of SRB from a test burn or Astronaut Icecream by the crate. I recall coming back from recess and the other kids telling me the shuttle blew up, and thinking they were just trying to be mean. I remember getting called from class.

Twenty-five years later and it still hurts.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:56 PM on January 28, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was in sixth grade. In the middle of gym class the principal came hurrying in, wiping away tears. Still remember her dark teal outfit and black high heels. Back in homeroom, equally teary-eyed teachers told us what had happened. They rolled in a small TV on a metal AV cart, and for the next hour we followed the news coverage from our desks with all the lights off. Nobody whispered, nobody giggled, hardly anyone moved at all. Watching the rerun of the launch, waiting for disaster to strike, was dreadful. But for some reason I just couldn't connect the sparkling, fire-laced white cloud with the deaths of seven people. What brought it home instead: watching one of the NASA launch officials back in the control room take off his headset and bury his face in his hands.
posted by Kibby at 5:59 PM on January 28, 2011


Samantha Smith previously on Metafilter, for interested parties. Samantha is part of the mythology of the Maine summer camp I attended for many years, for reasons I don't entirely remember (I think she either attended or at least visited in preparation for going to Camp Artek, and took letters from Maine campers with her to the USSR? Something like that - the camp director told the story of Samantha Smith every year but my memory is weak).
/derail

I'm too young to remember the Challenger explosion, but I was Christa McAuliffe for a "dress up as a historical figure" day in 5th grade. I don't really remember anything about my presentation, just that some jerky classmate dissed my costume, which admittedly, as a green Air Force flight suit (borrowed from my stepdad) didn't really resemble an astronaut flight suit so much.
posted by naoko at 6:05 PM on January 28, 2011


I was three years old. I don't know if I saw the shuttle as it went up, but I might have - being on the other end of the highway from Canaveral, we were all space nerds. Still are. I remember watching the contrail from a shuttle launch, way over here on the other side of the state, a few years after that - everyone in my elementary school went outside and looked up, to see the tiny streak in the sky that meant Science and The Future, and it was awesome.

I only remember vague things about Challenger. My scratchy flannel footie pajamas. Sitting on the floor in front of the TV, on the monkeyvomit-green carpet. Drawing vague three-year-old's pictures of the forked smoke trail. I didn't understand the size of a spaceship, or the violence of an explosion. I just remember wondering at the shape of it, and knowing it was very bad.

They played it over and over on the news that night, and I couldn't understand how a weird smoke thing meant people had died. It's still hard to wrap my head around.
posted by cmyk at 6:15 PM on January 28, 2011


vespabelle: "There's a nice rememberance of Ronald McNair by his brother Carl on NPR this morning."

Seconding this. A terrific story.
posted by lex mercatoria at 6:36 PM on January 28, 2011


I grew up in Merritt Island, Florida. You can see the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building) from my parents' house.

Eighth Grade. Edgewood Middle School. Three parallel buildings. Classroom doors to the south, walls of windows facing north. An unobstructed view that over the previous 18 months caused shuttle launches to become common affairs. Mrs. Gray's Honors World History class. We all watched it live, as did most every othe student in school.

. . . . . . .
posted by bpm140 at 6:39 PM on January 28, 2011


I was 15, in 10th grade, didn't even know the shuttle was going up. But I remember where I was on the school campus when I heard it had exploded.

My dad worked for an organization providing news for kids (4th, 5th, 6th graders). They went to press that morning with a story about the launch, talking about the first teacher in space and so on. "What would you think if your mother were on the shuttle?" etc. That issue was literally pulled off the presses--and the event taught the writers never to anticipate news.

Peggy Noonan wrote Reagan's speech and recalled it in her memoir "What I Saw at the Revolution"--interesting to read. And a very moving speech.
posted by torticat at 6:47 PM on January 28, 2011


This reminds me of Feynman and how that showed me the man and his work. And his fun.
posted by Splunge at 7:24 PM on January 28, 2011


I was five, and I saw the first set of repeats - probably five minutes after the explosion - when they interrupted my morning show. I remember being a) annoyed at myself for not remembering to watch the launch live and b) annoyed at the TV people because the same thing was on every station. It took a few hours to realize exactly what was going on; my dad was very upset (the biggest print in our house was a 3' by 2' star map right above the TV area.) I can't watch space launches live now, because I'm convinced they'll blow up. I remember, also, being very concerned in mid-elementary school that I would never get to live on Mars if we didn't start sending shuttles back up to space soon. The Voyager photo books were some of my favorites as a kid, and since I couldn't very well go live with the dinosaurs, Mars would be pretty good too.

When Columbia broke up, my dad woke me up with the news, and I swear, I was a five-year-old again for a good half hour.
posted by SMPA at 7:50 PM on January 28, 2011


Eighth grade English, so I must have been 12, 13 the following week. At least four of my classmates in the room that day had been in my tiny 2nd grade class when somebody's dad brought in a television so we could watch the very first shuttle launch live.

Principal Green came over the intercom - which was barely used - saying, "Um, erm, as you know, this morning was the 25th space shuttle launch..." (I had not known it was that day, nor that it was the 25th)

"Big deal," the coolest kid in class sneered. (Nobody blamed him, but everybody still remembers to this day that he said it.)

"...and something happened..." I don't remember what he said after that. We all looked at our teacher, who was very cool and wanted us to read interesting things and began every class with a little piece of literary trivia in case we needed it at a cocktail party one day. And she just looked back at us, until we heard our idiot science teacher go wailing down the hallway (she'd been a quarter-finalist, but I'm pretty sure every school in the US had a "quarter-finalist" for PR purposes) and our teacher left us alone to go deal with her. So we all wandered down the hall to the computer science classroom, because there were some televisions Mr. Welch used as monitors. He was a Xerox Parc burnout and had JPL friends and I think it might have been the first time I saw a teacher with tears in his eyes.

In a lot of ways, it's Columbia next week that is a more traumatic memory. Not so long after September 11, and the first time I ever remember experiencing the sonic boom (though I'm told that in North Texas I should have felt all of them that landed in Florida), and not knowing what to do so I called my parents in Nacogdoches. "Your dad went out to watch it go over..." my mom trailed off, and handed the phone to him. He would end up catering out at the national park where NASA and NTSB were recovering remains and evidence.

Both incidents, though, are pretty indelibly stuck together in my head. I wanted to be an astronaut once.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:03 PM on January 28, 2011


SMPA: "When Columbia broke up, my dad woke me up with the news, and I swear, I was a five-year-old again for a good half hour."

Oh man, that made me wince with how true it was.

I was 5 as well, and I wanted nothing more than to be an astronaut. I loved everything NASA and shuttle related. And then this happened. My parents say they never heard another word about it out of me ever again. Which isn't totally true. But, very close. I don't ever remember being that upset before that day. And to this day, that day and the day my Great Uncle died are the two earliest memories I have of grief. And weirdly, the first still always hurts more.

And I remember hearing the clock radio come on the day of Columbia, and thinking "This is a bad nightmare, I am sick home in bed, and dreaming this." And when I woke back up, the nightmare was still there.

I honestly think had it not been for Challenger, we would be back on the moon and maybe to Mars by now. And that hurts just as much.
posted by strixus at 8:52 PM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like the OP, I was in first grade, and thus memories of this are hazy in detail and yet entirely clear in emotional content. Like the OP, the announcement in 2010 that the shuttle program and manned spaceflight was being discontinued evoked a mix of emotions. This disaster, coming so early in my development, is why I believe I've never wanted to go to space, and always wondered a bit at my friends who went to space camp or otherwise pursued the profession of astronaut. Why risk all for such silly, incremental gains to science and humanity? Who cares how fruitflies grow in space?
But cutting it off? oh dear, that's cutting off the (regrettably regeanesque) brave and daring, the ones who will push whatever envelope is available for discovery and progress and the future. I felt cut off, when the announcement of 'no more shuttles" came, from that crazy exuberance of science. I never wished to go myself, but what of the imagination of everyone else? Would that be curtailed as well?
(just pretend it's my first grade self writing this schmaltz)
Right now, I'm trying to reconcile my first grade teacher crying at her desk in the darkling glow of the hulking AV carted in television with the "why not?" approach to exploration, saddened only by the fact that danger was not sufficient to stop the shuttle program, but cost/benefit analysis is.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:56 PM on January 28, 2011


. . . . . . .

I'll never forget that day. The news came from the class clown. Being a space geek, I refused to believe. Then, I was despondent at the loss. Now, I'm grateful for their service.
posted by moonbird at 8:56 PM on January 28, 2011


I was in high school at the time and had just been diagnosed with cancer, it makes you flippant. I walked into class late, everyone was standing around the radio. The first words I said were "Hey guys, why so glum? Did the shuttle blow?" It was inconceivable to me that we could build a space craft that didn't work.

What fascinates me most is that it's one of those where were you moments. Reagan getting popped, I remember where I was. Mt St. Helens, eating Oreos with G-Ma. Magic Johnson telling the world he was HIV+, I was grooming a ski slope in a snow cat. Bhopal India? No clue. Chernobyl? No idea where I was. When my mom died? Cold but nada.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 9:25 PM on January 28, 2011


. (Soyuz 1)

... (Soyuz 11)

....... (Challenger)

....... (Columbia)

Reach for it, people. Never give up.
posted by ChrisR at 9:49 PM on January 28, 2011


Two days after I turned 10. I still wanted to be a mission specialist then, despite struggling with long division. It would take a few years and the onset of reality-- too nearsighted, too clumsy, acrophobic as hell, averse to suddenly being inverted-- to knock that out of me.

Columbia? I was at my first-ever SCA event that day, probably the most awkward possible place to try to follow a developing news story about a space shuttle disaster. I haven't been back to the Current Middle Ages; it was just too much, between trying to maintain period and sneaking off to the restroom every 10 minutes to fish my phone out of my belt pouch and check the news. There were complaints about people disrespecting the re-enactment by trying to talk about Columbia. I... I realize people take their games very seriously, but it's a mindset I just can't rationally engage in the face of a major present-day tragedy.

. . . . . . .
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:42 PM on January 28, 2011


William Safire wrote a speech to be delivered by Nixon in case of a moon landing disaster. While, thankfully, the speech was never aired, I think it deserves mention, regardless of the names and genders as it seems relevant:

"Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind."
posted by mjbraun at 5:58 AM on January 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have some vague memories of challenger actually happening, though I'm young enough that they might be invented.

What I'm sure about is the idiots with their Needs Another Seven Astronauts jokes. I think some of them were used specifically to taunt me, because I was a nerd, and a space nerd.

I'll never forgive those kids.

Never.
posted by flaterik at 8:14 AM on January 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


* My first awareness of the greater world - as a child hearing JFK had been shot. And my young mind trying to make sense of it, thinking "like Abraham Lincoln." Going home, and my mother telling me someone at a bank had told her and she thought they were joking.

* Being in a youth orchestra concert and our conductor making a small speech about the Robert Kennedy shooting a couple of days before. (Adult's reactions to tragedies imprint on your childhood mind.)

* "John Lennon's been shot," and watching TV coverage and listening to the radio for hours.

* My one and only full-time (miserable) year as a teacher. But I related to the cool young woman in the news who seemed like a much better teacher than me. And I'd always been a tiny bit of a space nerd - as a kid I had scrapbooks with newspaper photos of the first spacewalk. I was in front of a sixth grade string class, and the principal's PA announcement about the Challenger came on. And one of the students saying, "Miss ***, your face just fell." (Adults reactions to tragedies ...)

* The radio on at my desk - I'd long since gone into my second career as writer/PR person - and the report that perhaps a small plane had hit the World Trade Center.

* Hearing about Columbia and reading someplace, maybe here, someone's comment that maybe a supposedly religious man like Bush should consider the fiery disaster over Texas a warning re: the Iraq war.

Even putting aside all that's happened in my personal life I've seen too much sh*t. You know that feeling too?

There are certain events, certain well-known tragedies, that just touch you more deeply. And just as I personally felt the deaths of Lennon or Christa McAuliffe, for some reason, what's happened to Gabrielle Giffords has touched me like that. How strange as we remember the shuttle disasters that her husband was scheduled to command the last flight this spring. There was a time we would've thought he had the more dangerous profession.
posted by NorthernLite at 8:43 AM on January 29, 2011


I saw this happen "live" that cold morning, from a vantage point about 20 miles up the Florida coast. I was working as a land surveyor based in Volusia County, Florida and whenever there was a launch, we'd pause our work and watch because it was just plain cool to see launches. After a bit we saw that the contrail in the sky looked wrong, and shortly there came a message over the company radio that the shuttle had disintegrated. We were stunned. Lots of friends and family worked at the Cape and it was just such a tragic loss that affected everyone. For weeks afterward, bits and pieces of the shuttle washed up on the beaches... it was a pretty grim time.

R.I.P., astronauts.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 10:42 AM on January 29, 2011


I was in middle school in Clear Lake, Houston a few minutes from NASA that day. I grew up and went to school with some of the students whose parents were on the Challenger. I will never forget when the principal came on the PA system to announce the disaster. It affected so many kids around me so directly. It was a horrible day.

I also remember how the media came into my neighborhood and camped outside the homes of the astronauts. I shudder to think what it would be like today.
posted by vincele at 1:00 PM on January 29, 2011


I was in 7th grade science class - our class and the other 7th grade honors class were watching it together. After it happened our principal came on the PA system and announced what had happened. It was a shock.

I do remember all the very bad jokes too. And that it seemed like everyone knew someone whose teacher was one of the runners-up to Christa McAuliffe.

.......
posted by SisterHavana at 11:14 PM on January 29, 2011


I was a huge space nerd growing up (still am), but I missed the Challenger explosion. I was drunk and living on the streets in Boston. Not sure how long it was before I found out.

Columbia, though...I worked second shift that day, and was watching the landing live on the computer. When my partner walked in the door an hour later to tell me, I was still sitting there, watching the live feed, with tears running down my face.

I'd still go up there, though. Even if I knew it was a one way ride.
posted by QIbHom at 7:52 AM on January 31, 2011


I didn't see it live, but what I did see I'll never forget. I passed by a room where several teachers were watching what I'm pretty sure were replays of tragedy. I saw my science teacher visibly shaken and cupping his forehead in his hands. I was a bit young to have a very mature response to the incident but I've always head that picture in mind, knowing that it was a test of the optimism of the age.
posted by dgran at 12:14 PM on January 31, 2011


In internet lore yet imagined I will be known as the dude who sipped surly bonds and jacked up the Challenger disaster 25th anniversary MeFi post twice. AT not WITH. ::sigh::
posted by IvoShandor at 8:49 AM on February 22, 2011


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