5 Dollars

My life as an at-home momma of 3 amazing kids...it's kind of like shoveling snow in a blizzard.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Remembering Challenger & Columbia

The Space Shuttle Challenger disaster occurred on the morning of January 28, 1986 - 20 years ago. Challenger appeared to explode 73 seconds into its flight. (Later investigation would determine it wasn't technically an explosion.) All seven crew members (including teacher Christa McAuliffe, the first civilian in space) were killed when the crew compartment crashed into the ocean.

I remember that day well. I was a freshman in high school. We didn't find out what had happened until that afternoon in study hall. I think someone had talked to their mom on the phone at lunch or something. We were all in shock.

Back in grade school, there was a great fascination with the shuttle program. We watched every lift-off possible on TV's that had been wheeled into our classrooms. But by the time we hit high school, shuttle flights had seemed pretty routine to us. "Was that the one with the teacher on it?" was the first question on my lips.

When I got home from school that afternoon, they were still replaying the tragedy over and over on every channel on TV. President Ronald Reagan was scheduled to give the State of the Union address that evening. Instead, he memorialized the crew of the Challenger. He was, as always, so eloquent. I will always remember the end of his speech when he quoted the Poem "High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.:

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

Almost exactly 17 years after the loss of Challenger on liftoff, Space Shuttle Columbia exploded on reentry on February 1, 2003. The date of this tragedy is etched on my mind. I was 9 months pregnant with Ruby and it was Keithen's 4th birthday. Ruby was born exactly one week later.

Once again, the entire 7 member crew perished. In our post 9/11 world, there was initially a fear that terrorism had somehow brought down the shuttle. (The crew included Payload Specialist Ilan Ramon, a colonel in the Israeli Air Force and the first Israeli astronaut.) It was later determined that the cause of the accident was a breach in the leading edge of the left wing, caused by insulating foam shed during the launch.

President Bush addressed the nation:

The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home.

On July 26, 2005 the United States returned to manned space flight with the liftoff of Space Shuttle Discovery. A similar piece of foam from a different portion of the tank was shed on Discovery's flight, but luckily the debris did not strike the Orbiter. Astronauts repaired the suspected damaged spot on an Extra Vechilear Activity (EVA). Discovery's return to Earth was then delayed for two very tense days due to adverse weather conditions, but the spacecraft finally returned safely. NASA once again grounded the shuttles again until the problem can be solved.

The next shuttle mission is scheduled for May 2006.


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