Thirty years ago on a bright, but cold, January morning seven astronauts were strapped into the orbiter Challenger waiting for the journey of a lifetime. One of them was a teacher. Christa McAuliffe. A name that is as well known today as it was then. Now for all the wrong reasons.
This was the launch of STS-51L. The 25th Space Shuttle launch. A system that was thought soo safe that a “normal person” could fly. That normal person was also a teacher. A process that started two years earlier with the Teacher in Space Project.
I have talked about the mission before on this blog. This time it’s a very sad anniversary. The 30th year since the accident. Probably a harder time than others for the friends and family of the seven brave astronauts who lost their lives in the, preventable, accident.
This was a pivotal moment in the lives of Generation X. We were the kids born around the time that Project Apollo was sending man to the moon. The Pioneer and Voyager probes were being sent to find out more about the solar system. It was a golden age of space exploration.
We had also lived through the 70s. The Cold War was raging around us. We had lived through the possibility of having nuclear weapons dropped on us with only 4 minutes of warning. That day was different. We were going to see history in the making and it was going to be great.
What we never expected was what happened not that long after take off. The massive explosion and the loss of the shuttle. We didn’t know how to react. We were all in shock. We all thought that everyone was going to be fine. After a time we all knew it wasn’t going to end well. It was NASA’s darkest day. Even worse than the loss of the crew of Apollo 1. It was broadcast live to the world. What was coming was what we could expect and also be taught about what normal things did in the micro-gravity of Challenger. A lesson plan like no other and unfortunately we never got to see it
The image engrained in our minds are still with us. It still is quite hard to see even today for me. This was, in a way, our 9/11. An event so momentous it will stay with us forever. The image is the one below.
I will end this post the same way as I did last year with the below. It’s not a quote from anyone. It’s not from, as far as I’m aware, any newspaper or a quote from a politician or statesman. It’s just something that I felt when writing the post.
The road to the stars is a rough one and sometimes it’s a very sad one to drive down.
JONATHAN SHIELDS: "Georgia, love is for the very young." from THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL