Friday, January 28, 2011

25 Years Ago...

January 28th, 1986. The day the Challenger lifted off on a chilly morning in Florida. 73 seconds after launch, the main fuel tank exploded in a spectacular fireball and the orbiter broker apart. Seven astronauts were lost int he accident.

I was a senior in high school. Kristin came in late that day for some reason and I saw her between classes. She is the one who told me the space shuttle exploded. A couple of years earlier, a joke went around about the space shuttle exploding. I forgot the punch line (but remembered I thought the joke was funny) and thought she was going to tell me that joke. The punch line didn't come and my heat sank as I realized she was delivering news and not telling a joke.

I had a schedule that let me leave school at noon since I had no afternoon classes. I went home and had the television on watching the coverage until I had to go to basketball practice later that afternoon.

I was not born at the time of the Apollo 1 fire (January 24th, 1967) which had its 44th Anniversary yesterday. For a good personal account of this tragedy, read Gene Kranz's excellent book Failure is Not an Option. It captures both technical and personal aspects of the Apollo 1 fire that almost derailed the Apollo program.

The 8th Anniversary of the Columbia accident is next week, February 1st. I heard about it on NPR listening to Weekend Edition. I was living in Racine at the time and remember the publicity surrounding Laurel Clark, a Horlick high grad (I was performing in a show at the time and remember driving by Horlick and seeing all the news trucks around it that evening). One year the Kiwanis Club sold Christmas ornaments honoring the Columbia astronauts at Zoo Lights. I bought one even though I never put up a Christmas tree.

NASA holds a Day of Remembrance each January since its major accidents are clustered at this time of year. I definitely remember all the NASA astronauts we have lost.

Reprinted with permission from the Half-Astrophysicist Blog.


OrbsCorbs said...

I remember them, too. I was working in the shop in Chicago when Challenger exploded. A customer told me. I went in the back room and my eyes welled up, but I had to deal with the customers. No one else seamed very phased by it. I kept thinking it was another tragedy like the JFK assassination.

I was leaving the Racine Alano Club when a member stopped in with the news that Columbia had not been heard from after re-entry.
We turned on the TV and watched and waited and learned.

I was in high school when the Apollo 1 fire occurred. I don't remember much about that.

Those who have lost their lives are like soldiers who have given all for their country. I salute them.

Why Not? said...

I was in elementary school 1st grade.. I remember we had a moment of silence, but didn't quite understand what it was about.. it wasn't until later that I saw the footage.. but at that age it was hard to understand what that all really meant.. I remember the teachers being upset though.

kkdither said...

I remember both shuttle failures. I was watching the Columbia tragedy live on television. I knew I was watching a disaster way before the reporter even confirmed the trouble. I remember learning the term "O ring" and how important this inexpensive piece was. I remember thinking how many students were watching this live, due to a teacher being aboard.

I was pretty young in 1967. I don't really remember much of that first hand.

Yes, orbs. These people who risk their lives and take these challenges are heroes. I don't think we have even skimmed the surface of the knowledge we gain and the innovations and life saving things that can come from every mission. While we have serious problems here on earth, we are short sighted to choose not to fund space exploration.

kkdither said...

Oops, I think I have the two mixed up. I believe it was the Challenger disaster I was remembering.

OKIE said...

I was at work when a co-worker came in and told us about the Challenger exploding. We also had a tv so we could watch the coverage.

We were in Vegas when the Columbia disaster happened. The husband woke me up to tell me about it. "Wake up, the shuttle Columbia is missing". As soon as we saw those white streaks in the sky we knew it was gone. So sad.
As for the fire, oddly I do remember parts of it. Only because Virgil Grissom had the same name as my dad.