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January 28, 1986

Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF

Michael J. Smith, Commander, USN

Mission Specialist:
Judith A. Resnik
Ronald E. McNair
Ellison S. Onizuka, Lieutenant Colonel, USAF

Payload Specialist:
Gregory B. Jarvis
Sharon Christa McAuliffe


1 cookie jill { 01.28.09 at 12:19 am }

Horrific day.

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2 Badux { 01.28.09 at 12:22 am }

I remember walking into my Calculus 2 class in college (my second try at college after some years away, the one that finally got me my degree), and everybody was hushed. “Did you see it on the tv?” someone asked me. “See what?” “Challenger blew up.” “You’re kidding.” Someone else shook his head and said “No, it just… blew up.”

I don’t think we learned much Calculus that day.

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3 Comrade Kevin { 01.28.09 at 11:38 am }

Even though I was only a child at the time, I remember the day well.

4 JimD { 01.28.09 at 12:15 pm }

Amen to that…there was not much else to do that day but look up at the sky.

5 Bryan { 01.28.09 at 4:09 pm }

Launches had become routine, only the inclusion of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher in space, had drummed up the media machine to again focus on NASA missions, and then an O-ring fails in low temperature.

I was actually working on the same program I’m working on today, but using entirely different tools and in SoCal instead of Florida.

6 Steve Bates { 01.28.09 at 4:58 pm }

Sigh. Everyone remembers what s/he was doing at the time. I was working in my basement office; a few people gathered there because I had about the only radio that worked in that basement. Everyone was stunned. In some ways, I still am, though I understood then as now that space flight is intrinsically hazardous.

R.I.P., Challenger astronauts. We remember.

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7 Badux { 01.28.09 at 10:30 pm }

I think one reason why we were so stunned was because NASA propagandists had spread around this impression that the Space Shuttle was as safe as a jet airliner, only it goes into space. We were told that the era of routine space travel was upon us, when men would go into space as blithely as they stepped onto 747 airliners to go from continent to continent. It was a shock to find out just how experiment, how… beta test quality… how just plain *unfinished* the Space Shuttle really was. It was more similar to a flying testbed for possible space plane technologies than a workable space airplane, and there was no money to use the lessons learned to build a *real* workable space airplane.

Ever since then, every person who has stepped foot in that flying junk heap has done so with the understanding that this flight, this time, might be the time that the flying experimental test bed underneath them decides to turn into a fireball at some point in flight, whether on takeoff or on re-entry. Yet people still do it. Balls that clang, my friend. It is too bad the bureaucrats in charge of the Space Shuttle program have never had similar balls, or the human empathy to even understand the risks that every person who straps in for takeoff in that junk heap is willingly accepting. And the American public as a whole… they seem to view the Shuttle program as some sort of NASCAR event, where half the fun is the expectation that someone is going to end up dead in a crash. So it goes.

– Badtux the Flightless Penguin

8 Bryan { 01.28.09 at 11:10 pm }

The thing that almost everyone seems not to understand is when that thing comes back to earth it is an unpowered, “dead stick” landing. If anything goes wrong, they are committed as soon as they enter the atmosphere. The shuttle is landing, ready or not, and there are really only two fields that can handle it. If the gear doesn’t extend, it’s a mess, and if they have to ditch, I have no idea how well it would hang together, given the temperature of the vehicle when it lands. They get into the vehicle knowing that the end of the mission is an emergency landing in any other aircraft.

9 Steve Bates { 01.29.09 at 12:24 am }

Three times I’ve seen one of the shuttles at sunset as it passed over Houston on its approach to a landing in Florida. All three times resulted in safe landings. For those of us who are do not fly for the military, the sight is still breathtakingly beautiful. And scary, of course.

One other time, I saw a shuttle being transported atop a large jet; for some reason (I don’t remember what it was), they had decided to divert the flight to Ellington. Glancing out of my car window, I realized immediately what I was seeing… because nothing else could possibly be that awkward in the air. Now that was scary.

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10 Bryan { 01.29.09 at 12:48 am }

When the shuttle lands at Edwards in California they have a modified 747 that brings it back to the Cape. Because of the weight and drag of the shuttle they have to stop for fuel on the trip. Ellington, Barksdale in Louisiana, and Eglin are the bases on the flight plan that can handle the duo and are in range for a safe landing.