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NASA Space Science

Challenger 25 Years Later 236

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the burned-in-my-mind dept.
25 years ago, I peered inside through the playground window of my school. I was never particularly interested in being outside, and there was a shuttle launch on the library TV! The images of what I saw that day will stick with me forever. I didn't know what it really was I saw; I just made jokes. It's still how I deal. But I think I'm a bit wiser today, having maybe learned that the bleeding edge is sometimes literal. The technology we take for granted descends directly from the people willing to do what we never could. Thanks to the crew of Challenger, Columbia and Apollo 1.
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Challenger 25 Years Later

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  • I remember... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday January 28, 2011 @01:20PM (#35034326)
    I was in grade school... home from the day for some reason (sick maybe?) and I was watching cartoons on the local CBS/NBC affiliate. Then they cut in with the shuttle launch. KABOOM. My parents weren't home. I just sat there watching the news for hours on end. It was the first time I was ever interested in what was on the news. By the time my parents got home I knew more about space shuttles than any grade school student should ever know.
  • by grapeape (137008) <mpope7@@@kc...rr...com> on Friday January 28, 2011 @01:25PM (#35034400) Homepage

    I was living in Orlando at the time. I can remember going outside to watch the launch. All the neighbors did it, shuttle launches in my neighborhood were like tailgating is for sports in other towns. It was of course obvious something wasn't right but to most of us watching we thought one of the canisters simply dropped early. A few minutes into the launch one of the neighbors came running out of the house screaming that it blew up...I just remember a lot of screaming and crying., the shuttle was something Floridian's have a sense or pride and ownership with, its something that others identify the state with. The shock and grief pretty much killed my neighborhoods enthusiasm for launch parties, perhaps its superstitious but the rest of the time I lived there no one I knew made a point of watching launches again it was just too painful. The only lauch I personally watched live after that was when my father had been invited to watch from one of the observation decks on base, we were both extremely nervous the whole time, but it was rather healing when the launch went off without a hitch.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 28, 2011 @01:50PM (#35034762)

    This was the first "tragedy" that was instantaneously burnt into my mind forever. I was 5 years old and numerous other classes from various grades where gather around TV watching the launch. Shuttle launches were pretty common but this one was special for the educational school system, so we all were engaged.

    I remember when the shuttle blew, one the teachers covered her mouth in shock, froze for a few seconds and then began sobbing. I was, of course, to young to fully understand what was going on but it certainly left an impact. In fact, I was certainly affected by 9/11 but I had late classes (in college) that day, so when I awoke all of the events had already taken place. Learning about 9/11 second-hand from friends that day left less of an impression on me than this memory because this was one I witnessed as it happened. I can still get a little choked up about it when I think about.

    My thought and prayers still go out to the families of NASA who have lost loved ones and friend in the name of space exploration, especially on days like today.

  • Memories (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Fractal Dice (696349) on Friday January 28, 2011 @01:50PM (#35034768) Journal

    I mised the bus that day. My mother was painting the hall ceiling. It was cold outside so I turned on the tv to one of the three channels we could get to see if there was anything on. I was just in time to watch the launch countdown (or a commentary-free replay). I remember it feeling like an eternity between the first "that doesn't look right" twinge of adrenaline to my brain grinding through the "there are too many things on the screen producing exhaust trails and none of them are going straight" analysis to the "oh no" conclusion. I did nothing but sit on the couch watching the replays over and over all day.

    The last thing to cross my mind that night before finally falling asleep was the old line "our reach has exceeded our grasp" and I drempt all night of falling from the stars.

  • by beschra (1424727) on Friday January 28, 2011 @02:14PM (#35035150)
    One of my professors at the time noted that there would have been no O-ring to fail if the thing had been built in one piece. And it could have been built in one piece if built local to the launch site. Which it could have been. But it had to come by train because the bid was won by someone who did not manufacture locally. And since train cars aren't big enough for a whole fuel tank, they had to make the tank in pieces. Supposedly the winning bid had been landed with help from someone in elected office to help out their district. It can be very hard to predict the consequences of our actions.
  • Re:I remember... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by galactic-ac (1197151) on Friday January 28, 2011 @02:15PM (#35035162)

    I was in grade school... home from the day for some reason (sick maybe?)

    I was also home sick that day, from first grade. I had become very interested in the space program and it was the first time I would see a shuttle launch on television. Actually, I don't recall seeing another until at least my teenage years. Watched on the television in my parents bedroom, and couldn't think of what to do when it exploded. I went downstairs and told my mother, and she in turn could not think of what to say back to me. It remains one of the most vivid memories of childhood.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Friday January 28, 2011 @02:27PM (#35035358) Homepage Journal
    Today it's been 25 years since the Challenger explosion. Today, I turn 25 years old. Word has it that I clawed my way into this world at almost the exact same time as the accident. And here I am, working in the space industry as an analyst, to ensure the safe launch and function of the rockets the USA launches today. Sometimes you have to love irony. Cheers, fellow slashdotters!
  • Re:I remember... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thomst (1640045) on Friday January 28, 2011 @03:36PM (#35036520) Homepage

    As a seventeen-year-old kid, on July 16, 1969, I stood in the front yard of our rental home in Satellite Beach, Florida, and watched Apollo 11 take off for the Moon. It was THE high point of my life to that moment (although the lunar landing and historic first footstep replaced it as such four days later).

    Flash forward to January 28, 1986, the day I began working for an audio-visual rental services company in Oakland, California. One of our routine tasks was to test equipment that had been rented out, to ensure that it worked properly before renting it out again. As the brand-new guy, I wanted to impress the boss with my willingness to work, so I started checking a bunch of gear that had been returned at closing time the previous day. Early on in the process, I tested a TV/monitor. I hooked up a VHS player, and that worked fine, and - going the extra mile here - I then hooked up a set of rabbit ears and checked the TV tuner.

    The channel that came up was the local ABC affiliate, and I switched on the tuner just as their network announcer broke into Good Morning America to say, "We've just received this raw footage from Cape Canaveral." I watched the two minutes or so of launch footage, and saw for the first time the main fuel tank explode, and the solid fuel boosters' exhaust form the "devil horns" that would become so painfully familiar over the next few days. When the clip began to loop, and the announcer said, "We're not sure what we're seeing here," I muttered under my breath, "Well, I'm sure," and walked up to the front of the warehouse to the manager's office.

    "Dan?" I said, "You probably want to see this. The space shuttle just blew up and killed everyone aboard."

    Just barely more than 17 years later, on February 1, 2003, I stood in the East pasture of our little five-acre spread in Mariposa County, and watched the Columbia reenter the atmosphere above California. I wondered why I kept seeing pulses of light beneath its wings, but I was so happy to have the opportunity to view an actual shuttle reentry, that I pretty much dismissed it from my mind. Then I went back inside, posted an account of the experience to The Pigdog List, and went to bed (I'd just pulled an all-nighter working on a column for the late, great Boardwatch Magazine). When I woke up that afternoon, I checked my email, to learn ... well, we all know what I learned.

    I spent the next ten days writing and recording a song [starkrealities.com] about the experience.

    It's the second-saddest song I've every written.

  • Doing my duty (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BlueGMan (1215404) on Friday January 28, 2011 @05:16PM (#35037876) Homepage
    I was a 24yr old sailor on the USS Koelsch (FF1043).. I happened to see the lauch on the mess decks TV (we were off the coast of Jacksonville doing remedial engineering ops since we failed our last OPPE). It was a snowy picture, since it was antenna reception from off the coast, but I remember seeing it happen. Six hours later we were enroute to Cape Canaveral. The SAR Helos were flying the area and dropping smoke floats into the sea where they identified floating debris. We launched our small boats (Captain's Gig and whaleboat) to recover the flotsam. Over a period of 18 hours, we collected 2500lbs of the wreckage. The entire skin of the shuttle was honeycomb aluminum and floated, as did the cermaic tiles. Some of the pieces we recovered were larger than 4 X 8 sheets of plywood. We stored it all in our hanger bay. Quite a collection of stuff. And yes, we DID take a ceramic tile and test it out with an acetylene torch. Problem was, no one would touch it while it was glowing, but it WAS touchable, we ultimately found out. Then, under cover of darkness at 3am, we moored at Cape Canaveral and silently unloaded everything under the watchful eye of guys in white labcoats and blue hardhats. Fast forward to 2001. I was an invited guest of NASA for STS 103 when my software (Emergency De-Orbit Program) was making its maiden flight into space. Peace be with them all.
  • Reagan's Speech (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pz (113803) on Friday January 28, 2011 @05:26PM (#35038002) Journal

    It turns out that President Ronald Reagan was due to deliver the State of the Union Address on that day, 25 years ago. The event was cancelled, and, instead, he gave this very moving speech, perhaps the best of his presidency. In case anyone doesn't recognize the two lines he quotes at the end, they are from a poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., called "High Flight".

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd planned to speak to you tonight to report on the state of the Union, but the events of earlier today have led me to change those plans. Today is a day for mourning and remembering. Nancy and I are pained to the core by the tragedy of the shuttle Challenger. We know we share this pain with all of the people of our country. This is truly a national loss.

    Nineteen years ago, almost to the day, we lost three astronauts in a terrible accident on the ground. But, we've never lost an astronaut in flight; we've never had a tragedy like this. And perhaps we've forgotten the courage it took for the crew of the shuttle; but they, the Challenger Seven, were aware of the dangers, but overcame them and did their jobs brilliantly. We mourn seven heroes: Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. We mourn their loss as a nation together.

    For the families of the seven, we cannot bear, as you do, the full impact of this tragedy. But we feel the loss, and we're thinking about you so very much. Your loved ones were daring and brave, and they had that special grace, that special spirit that says, 'Give me a challenge and I'll meet it with joy.' They had a hunger to explore the universe and discover its truths. They wished to serve, and they did. They served all of us.

    We've grown used to wonders in this century. It's hard to dazzle us. But for twenty-five years the United States space program has been doing just that. We've grown used to the idea of space, and perhaps we forget that we've only just begun. We're still pioneers. They, the members of the Challenger crew, were pioneers.

    And I want to say something to the schoolchildren of America who were watching the live coverage of the shuttle's takeoff. I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. 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.

    I've always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That's the way freedom is, and we wouldn't change it for a minute. We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue. I want to add that I wish I could talk to every man and woman who works for NASA or who worked on this mission and tell them: "Your dedication and professionalism have moved and impressed us for decades. And we know of your anguish. We share it."

    There's a coincidence today. On this day 390 years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, 'He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it.' Well, today we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.

    The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honoured 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 the journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'

    Thank you.

    President Ronald Reagan - January 28, 1986

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