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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.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by galactic-ac (1197151)

      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.

      • So was I. I was upstairs, messing around with one of my telescopes, and my mom called up to me that I needed to get down there right away. I came down, saw the TV, and like Charliemopps, I watched the news the rest of the day. What I remember most are two things. One, how they played the tape of the launch and explosion over. . .and over. . .and over. . . Two, that I still wanted to be an astronaut. Didn't happen of course, but even at age 8 I understood that risk was a part of space exploration. I n
    • by Teancum (67324)

      When the Challenger blew up, I was living in what could be charitably called a monastery and the first time I saw a picture of the explosion was about 3 months later... in another country on a newspaper in another language. Surprisingly, in spite of my "self-imposed" isolation I still heard about the incident within about 30 minutes of it happening, but it was by word of mouth alone. Somehow that didn't have the same impact upon me like television had for many people.

      Oh, I knew about the "Teacher in Space

    • 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.

    • by martas (1439879)
      No, you think [wikipedia.org] you remember. Human episodic memory is extremely shitty, which is especially bad considering its high reputation (see: innocent people going to jail because witnesses couldn't help but remember the perp as a 6' black man).
    • by Solandri (704621)

      I was watching cartoons on the local CBS/NBC affiliate. Then they cut in with the shuttle launch. KABOOM.

      An interesting aside to this: The launch wasn't broadcast live on the major networks. It was live pretty much only on CNN, and CNN was only carrying it live because it had the world's first schoolteacher/astronaut aboard.

      Back when the space shuttle was envisioned, NASA was projecting weekly shuttle launches. That's why the cost of it is so exorbitant compared to other launch vehicles - it was design

    • I was in high school, grade 11 as I recall. Due to the teacher in space there was quite a lot of interest in the launch. TVs scattered around the school to watch. What I remember most vividly was how everything and everyone simply stopped.
      It is strange how even now, after 25 years. Thinking back to that day I tear up.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This was a waste of perfectly good life. Not a race to push technology to new limits.

    Like Columbia, this was an example of short-cutting and not listening to nay-sayer engineers who turned out to be correct. And simply not following the safety rules that NASA itself established.

  • Hell of a Thing (Score:5, Informative)

    by sycodon (149926) on Friday January 28, 2011 @01:20PM (#35034332)

    It's a hell of a thing watching people die on live T.V.

  • It was on a Commodore 64, connected to a local BBS.

    "What were the last words spoken on the shuttle? Okay, fine. Let the bitch drive."

    Followed closely by:

    "You hear Christa McAuliffe had dandruff? Yeah - they found her head and shoulders on the beach."
  • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Friday January 28, 2011 @01:25PM (#35034390)
    I still recall it very clearly, almost like it happened only a year or two ago. I was a senior in high school at a private school up in New Hampshire, which is probably part of the reason why I recall it so well. I had a free period so I was relaxing in my room just before heading down to the cafeteria for lunch. My friend came in and told me the shuttle had blown up so we listened to the radio for a little while before going to lunch. When I got to the school cafeteria the woman serving the food apparently saw I was distressed and asked if I was ok. I mumbled that the space shuttle had blown up. She just laughed and said something like "yeah, right". I was so incensed by her reaction that I stared right back at her and practically yelled at her, "Turn on a radio if you have one around here" then went out to eat my lunch. About 15 minutes later I went back for seconds. This time when she saw me all she said was "I'm so sorry" and I could hear they had a radio on in the kitchen. Most of the rest of the afternoon most of the students were hanging out in a large auditorium where they had a projection TV running the news. The teachers pretty much let anybody stay there if they wanted rather than going to class the rest of the day.
    • by gknoy (899301)

      I got to watch it live in my elementary school auditorium. I still tear up if I think about the Challenger for too long.

    • I had a similar experience. I left the office to go to lunch, and when I started the car, the radio was talking about the shuttle blowing up. I went back inside and reported this, and the boss lady says, "What kind of asshole makes jokes like that?" I told her to turn the TV on, and I would wait for her apology. Well, I sort of snarled it at her. I don't remember getting an apology, and I left the place a couple months later.
  • by grapeape (137008) <mpope7@kc . r r . c om> 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.

  • I was switching between classes when I heard a friend of mine say the shuttle just blew up. I thought he was just bull-shitting and went on with my day. Then I got home from school and saw all the news coverage. It was a sad day after that.

    • by sconeu (64226)

      I was at work, and someone told me that the shuttle had blown.

      My reaction to him was literally that. "You're shitting me, right?"

      We put a radio on in the lab (in violation of all our security regulations) and pretty much no work got done that day.

  • I was in 9th grade. I remember being in algebra class and one of the kids had brought in a ham radio. The teacher let us listen to the Challenger lifting off. Once it was in the air, she had him turn it off. It wasn't until next period when I I learned what had happened. After that, all of the classrooms that day had CNN on (first time I remember watching that network). Very surreal day for me.

    • by RudeIota (1131331)

      one of the kids had brought in a ham radio

      Mmmm, a radio made entirely of ham. How I yearn for the old days.

    • by suso (153703) *

      After that, all of the classrooms that day had CNN on (first time I remember watching that network).

      That was actually the watershed event that brought CNN from another cable channel trying to make it in the 80s to become a staple of American life. They happened to be the only news crew covering the event live other than NASA TV.

  • by trybywrench (584843) on Friday January 28, 2011 @01:38PM (#35034590)
    I was at school in Port Orange (small town next to Daytona Beach). We could see it from the playground, they sent us all home. All the teachers were crying, got home, parents had come home from work and they were crying. It was pretty surreal for an elementary school kid.

    I distinctly remember the SRB's winding down from the explosion.

    Oddly enough, I am now living in Dallas which wasn't far from ground zero for the Columbia breakup. I remember hearing it thinking it was thunder, it was early enough in the morning that I was half asleep and didn't think it odd to hear thunder on a clear day. My sister called me to tell me to turn on the television. A buddy of mine was a brand new journalist in Tyler/Longview and covered much of the disaster. I think one of his stores or photographs was picked up by the NYT.
    • by sznupi (719324)
      Most of the posters seem to use "blew up", which is vague enough... but not you / "explosion" isn't! ;) (what looked like one was actually mostly burning of dumped fuel _behind_ the disintegrating stack - which was being shred to pieces mostly via aerodynamic forces)
  • I was in a little private school and there was one class per grade, so each class went into a room to watch it on television. It was such a big deal to have a teacher going up into space that even the backwards Christian school I was in wanted kids to see it.

    So that sucked. We all just sat there going from awe to horror and then we had to go back and try to do school work. Absolutely awful.
    • by chimpo13 (471212)

      I was at a Jesuit high school. It's the 80s and all so we sat around waiting for the USSR to nuke us. They got someone (can't remember if it was the principal or a brother) on the speaker and did an announcement about how sometimes men don't understand technology and they go too far. It went on for a few minutes without saying what happened. Me, and a few other people, figured it was nuke time. Then they said the shuttle blew up. I laughed and so did a few of my friends. It sucked, but the death of seve

      • Ah so your school considered it a tower of babylon type moment? I don't recall that our school gave any context or "lesson" to go along with the tragedy. But I admit I was probably far too out of it, I always wanted to be an astronaut and this was devastating for me to see, to pay attention to what the teacher said from that point forward.
    • by joggle (594025)

      Similar experience for me. NASA had made an extra effort to get kids to be excited about space and the shuttle mission, so schools around the country tuned in to watch the launch live, especially first and second graders. It was the first time I had ever seen a shuttle launch live, although I had seen recorded launches on the news before.

      I was in first grade and remember when the shuttle blew up, we (the kids) weren't sure what happened. We asked our teacher, but she teared up and turned the TV off. I can't

      • I was in fifth grade, my teacher was freshly out of college. I sincerely doubt she had any training that would help her to cope with that situation.
  • this is what R.P. Feynman wrote in the appendix of the Challenger commission report.

    He threatened to leave officially the commission if they would not publish it.

    He demonstrated the know weakness of the booster seals by immersing it in ice-water in fronty of the TV cameras.

    And Apollo 1 - it was know that pure oxygen is a big risc - aks any welder.

    So far for the sake of ignorance they paid dearly with their lives.

    And Russian Kosmonauts too!

    • by shmlco (594907)

      "He demonstrated the know weakness of the booster seals by immersing it in ice-water in fronty of the TV cameras."

      So the Challenger boosters were immersed in ice water? OMG! No wonder they failed!

      Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn't it? It's oh so easy for us to second-guess the people making the decisions AFTER something happens.

      Look, simply sitting on a million or so gallons of pressurized rocket fuel is a risk. Canceling the launch and defueling and then refueling is a risk. We judge the risks, and we m

  • by TheReij (1641099) on Friday January 28, 2011 @01:47PM (#35034716)
    this is my worst nightmare: something that I performed work on malfunctions and lives are lost. Mishaps occur. Sometimes, it is preventable. Sometimes, there is no amount of planning/engineering/contingencies that will allow for recovery. The amount of second-guessing and contemplation of "what could I have done?" can't be described in a number that I know of.

    An earlier comment talked about remaining stoic at mission/launch control. It's the same for the knuckle-draggers on the ground as well. If anything, those directly involved with the launch have the hardest job. I personally don't think that I could have handled something like this the way that they did, so for that, I salute them and only hope that I can be half as awesome as they were on that day.
    • by kwerle (39371)

      I was a senior in high school at the time. As an outreach program, a few of the area companies hired high school kids part time so they could see what real engineering work was like. I worked with a team of ME's that worked on the high pressure turbo pumps on the Space Shuttle Main Engines.

      I was in school when it was announced over the intercom. I don't remember which class I was in; I gathered my books and got up to walk out of the class. The teacher asked me where I was going and I said "I work on the

  • 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.

    • I remember Challenger. I was nine years old and I remember thinking that that was it, that they'd never let civilians into space ever again. I don't know which of my memories were from watching it later or watching it as it happened. I remember watching a TV show years later when they interviewed on of the engineers. The engineers thought it would explode on the launch pad, and he remembered saying to a colleague, "whew, looks like we dodged a bullet there..." We know what happened next. Now it's been

  • 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 Eggplant62 (120514) on Friday January 28, 2011 @02:05PM (#35034990)

    I was a Marine corporal stationed at Camp Lejeune w/ 1/6, 3 months away from my EOS. I had just gotten back to my barracks room from the Dental unit, getting my last checkup and a cavity filled, when I turned on the TV to find the count down in its last couple minutes. I thought, what the heck, slap a tape in my VCR and record it. Imagine my horror to know that I had captured the event live. I was working for the battalion S3 shop so I carried the VCR and TV, on foot, the quarter mile across the parade deck to that office. Nearly all the officers and senior NCOs that worked in the building stopped in, the battalion CO included, to take a look at what happened that morning. If I look hard enough, I could probably find that tape in amongst some of my stored belongings.

  • 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.
    • by Sounder40 (243087) *

      More to the point on the SRBs:

      All but the last section was reused. The bottom part with the cone on it was newly manufactured each time. The section right above it had the lower truss on it which attached to the external tank, and took a tremendous amount of torque at very high temperatures--enough that it was pulled a little out of round.

      So the new, perfectly round bottom section was mated to a slightly out of round section. Want to guess where the fatal leak happened? Yeah, the joint between those two

      • by shmlco (594907)

        "If you look at some of the footage of the Challenger right before it blows up, you can see from the smoke trail that the cone is gimballing (looks like a "Z" pattern) to correct for the gases coming out of the leak."

        The failure occurred when a [relatively] small amount of exhaust gas blowtorched from the SRB -- into -- the main fuel tank. Venting in that direction would not have caused any significant change in vector. Any change in the smoke trail prior to that point is probably due to wind shear.

        Also, t

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater AT gmail DOT com> on Friday January 28, 2011 @04:07PM (#35036966) Homepage

      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.

      Well, as usual, it's not nearly so simple as that.
       
      The reality, that when the hardware decisions were being made - we had exactly zero flight experience with big monolithic solids and considerable flight experience with segmented solids. There's also the near impossibility of pouring the grain of a monolithic solid with sufficient consistency in performance, let alone matching two of them to required level of consistency. Then there's near impossibility of handling a million plus pounds worth of monolithic grain without flexing it and damaging the grain or the bond between the grain and the case.
       
      So in reality, there was many reasons to prefer segmented boosters and no particular reason to prefer monolithic ones. (Which is why of the three bids submitted - only one was monolithic.)
       
      You're also making the mistake of generalizing from the specific instance of the Shuttle to all segmented booster. The cause of the Challenger accident wasn't because the booster was segmented (we've flown many with zero problems), but because that particular joint design had a serious flaw in that it could not fully compensate for joint rotation.

  • /salute those who lost that day
  • Only thing I remember (I was just 3 at the time) was seeing my mom pick me up from preschool and clearly look like she had been crying. She had apparently been sitting in the car for an hour listening to the coverage of the launch and the aftermath. She didn't tell me what happened, but explained that people were going up to the stars and something went wrong. We lived (in fact still do) in New Hampshire, so this hit especially close to home for everyone around here.

    A few years later (in fact, when we went

  • 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!
  • 25 years ago this morning I was huddled next to a tiny fire with a few other grimy, cold and tired soldiers in brief respite from a long training mission when our Lt. walked up to us with a stricken look on his face to tell us that the space shuttle Challenger had blown up just after lift off. He said "The shuttle blew up." and walked off and we just looked at each other and tried to figure out if what he said was real or not. Training continued. A few days later, back at the barracks watching a recordin
  • Thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bureaucromancer (1303477) on Friday January 28, 2011 @02:49PM (#35035720)
    "Thanks to the crew of Challenger, Columbia and Apollo 1." Lets not forget the crews of Soyuz 1 and Soyuz 11.
  • Apparently I was (and still am) a lot older than most of those here. I was in college, which in those days meant limited access to cable TV (and obviously no web). All I could do was sit in my dorm room and watch the endless replays of the explosion on broadcast TV instead of going to class. It was a Tuesday; I remember that still. I'm too young to remember the Apollo 1 disaster, or the Apollo 13 near-disaster when I was in pre-school, so it was my first real understanding of the danger of space travel,
  • by Sounder40 (243087) * on Friday January 28, 2011 @03:03PM (#35035968)

    I was working at the old IBM facility at JSC in Houston, as an operator on a mainframe server that housed a database called SED that tracked every part on every shuttle. My manager walked in and told me what happened, and told me to lock the mainframe down until instructed otherwise. Some of the engineers were trying to run some tests on some shuttle computers, and were miffed that they couldn't get in until I told them why.

    I wasn't allowed to leave the computer room for another two hours, but when I did, the cafeteria was full of crying people watching the news coverage on several TVs which were brought in to watch launches on. To a person, all of the engineers were worried that it was a software fault because they wrote the code. So the tears and horrified looks were very fearful.

    It was a creepily similar feeling when 9/11 happened... everyone sitting around the TV feeling totally helpless.

  • And not forgetting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lincolnshire Poacher (1205798) on Friday January 28, 2011 @03:08PM (#35036054)

    > Thanks to the crew of Challenger, Columbia and Apollo 1.

    And Soyuz 1, Soyuz 11 and all the astronauts and engineers of whom we seldom hear who are listed here [members.shaw.ca] but who all gave their lives for the cause.

  • 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

    • 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.

      Dammit I wish that lesson had impressed upon more folk back then. I wish that lesson could be impressed upon every generation from here on out. Today's leaders like to talk about keeping America innovative, and strong, and all that jazz. But the one thing they leave out of their speeches is the simple fact that anything worth doing, anything that can make use stronger, is risky. With risk, eventually, comes sacrifice. And where sacrifice leads to a fire of mourning, the phoenix of greatness will always ris

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