Remembering the space shuttle Challenger disaster, 28 years later

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Take a moment today to remember our fallen space heroes. On this day in 1986, the "worst accident in the history of the American space program" took place. It left NASA's space shuttle program grounded for over two years, and forever changed how we approach manned space exploration.

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  1. Every year NASA does a memorial service for all of the people lost working there. It's hard to watch. These were real people with friends who are still working there to this day. And a family that is still expecting to hear them laugh again.

    You can give government ran organizations a lot of shit for a lot of things. But at least they take the time to remember those who sacrificed everything for them. They take the time to show appreciation where it is due.

    My co-worker Dave Englebrecht died while I was at Ames. He didn't die heroically leading the charge into space. He had a massive heart attack at his desk. And Ames employees kept him alive long enough to make it to the hospital, largely thanks to well trained personel that happened to be nearby. He was a good guy who dedicated all his time and effort to his job. One of the many thousands of people who help support what is a huge day to day effort to make life in this universe just a little better for everyone.

    There are those who die tragically daring to do mighty things. And there are those who give their all every single day for their entire lives. Either way I still think everyone at NASA is an amazing person. Even the most cold hearted beaurocratic pencil pusher there still smiles at the thought of helping to unlock the stars. And still feels the loss whenever something like challenger occurs. Someone once described NASA to me as a 'family business'. In a lot of ways, it really is. Wishing all the agency folks and contractor folks alike the best from afar. You're all heroes to me.

  2. One of my teachers was a candidate for the Challenger expedition. At our end-of-year event she gave a talk titled "Reach For The Stars". It's the only graduation-type speech I can actually remember. After the Challenger disaster she was emphatic that, if she had the opportunity, she would still go.

    I don't remember why we were out of school on this day, but I was over at a friend's house. We were playing with his computer which had a new thing called a "modem", and we were calling up a few numbers. His sister ran into the room and said, "The space shuttle just blew up!" We laughed. I still don't know why we laughed, because it wasn't something either of us found funny. I think it was just the absurdity of it. We must have thought she was making some kind of joke.

    Part of me still has a hard time believing it.

  3. Wow, that is early for a modem. We were lucky to have Oregon Trail in 1986.

    Our teacher had left the class to get a tv for us to watch the launch. When she came back she told us, we did not believe her either. We were too young to have known much about Apollo and the early disasters. In 1986 we had a futuristic looking spaceship and it seemed NASA could do no wrong, at least to us kids.

  4. For me... Challenger = Ron McNair + Jean Michel Jarre

  5. My flashbulb memory: A week shy of sixteen years old, cramming for my Grade 11 math final. Bored, I flip on my clock radio. After a few minutes, CBC breaks into the regular programming to announce that the shuttle has exploded. Abandoning my textbook, I run upstairs and turn on CNN (big RCA floor model TV, faux woodgrain finish). Early on, someone spots parachutes in the vicinity of the exhaust cloud. The CNN announcer is momentarily overjoyed, thinking some of the astronauts escaped. But no, it's a Navy rescue team.

    I watch the reports for the next three hours with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. At one point, CNN plays a canned report, intended for future broadcast, about how Christa McAuliffe's family is dealing with her absence.

    My grandfather drives me to the school for my final. I pass, but only just.

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