Following Miles O'Brien's Twitter reminded me that today is the anniversary of the destruction of the Challenger space shuttle, which blew up shortly after liftoff on January 28, 1986. You can read O'Brien's memories of covering the aftermath as a young reporter in Florida.
Me, I was 4 when this happened. My memories aren't so interesting. What really sticks out for me is finding out, years later, about the mechanical malfunctions that caused the explosion, the bureaucratic mismanagement that lead known to malfunctions being ignored—and the good, honest people at NASA and contractor Morton Thiokol who tried to make their bosses fix the problem and, after the disaster happened, brought their stories to the public.
This clip from National Geographic's documentary "Challenger: The Untold Story" introduces Robert Boisjoly, an engineer at Morton Thiokol who spotted problems with the space shuttle's O-Rings in 1985, tried to stop the fatal Challenger launch and later testified before the presidential committee. His efforts earned him a Prize for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.