The crew of STS-51-L. Front row, from left to right: Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, and Ronald McNair. Back row, from left to right: Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnik.
It is interesting that Mo picked "Explosion" for today's word. A few days ago when the missile took down the satellite that was comining down and turned it into tiny pieces to burn up in the atmosphere, I got into one of those "where were you" discussions about the Challenger and Columbia disasters.
On the morning of January 28, 1986, I was a member of the staff of The United States Chamber of Commerce which had gathered on the third floor in the Biz Net studio area to watch the shuttle take off. Much of the nation was watching simply because of Christa McAuliff, the "teacher in space", who was going up with a full set of lesson plans for school children across the country. It was of particular importance for us as she was scheduled to make a speech at the Chamber on her return at a luncheon for various business and political invitees in Washington D.C.
Only 73 seconds into its flight, the Challenger blew up when it went to "throttle up" leading to the deaths of its seven crew members. For the next 30 days flags were at half staff, and when you walked into the National Air and Space Museum, a larger version of the picture above was draped in black, and one of the things Ronald Reagan did well in his eulogy for the crew was to quote the poem High Flight which has come to be associated with the deaths of those who lose their lives in flight:
High FlightWeeks followed with the investigation by The Rogers Commission that eventually led to the finding that NASA managers had known that contractor Morton Thiokol's design of the SRBs contained a potentially catastrophic flaw in the O-rings since 1977, but they failed to address it properly. They also ignored warnings from engineers about the dangers of launching on such a cold day and had failed to adequately report these technical concerns to their superiors.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941