34 years ago today, the world stopped. The Space Shuttle Challenger had a “major malfunction” and the lives of seven brave astronauts were forever lost upon take off from Cape Canaveral, FL.
I remember it quite vividly as I watched with a group of classmates at Thompson Jr. High School on an old time television, the type of television with tubes and rabbit ears. It was on a pull cart in the cafeteria and placed at the front near the stage. Then the unimaginable happened. The shuttle exploded before our very eyes, the eyes of the nation and indeed the eyes of the world, killing all seven instantly.
The entire school, every class, every teacher were all gathered in front of televisions throughout the building to watch this historic mission that would send America’s best and brightest into outer space, including Christa McAuliffe, age 37, a social studies teacher from Concord, NH.
It seems that all generations can remember where they were for those world changing events. My grandparents can tell you exactly where they were when the Nazi’s surrendered, my parents can tell you exactly where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated, when President Nikon resigned or when President Reagan was shot. I can tell you exactly where I was when the shuttle went down. It was that important and impactful on our world.
Everyone always remembers Christa McAuliffe but it’s important to remember all those who were lost, so today we also remember commander Francis R. “Dick” Scobee, pilot Michael J. Smith, mission specialists Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair and Ellison S. Onizuka, and payload specialist Gregory B. Jarvis, an employee of Hughes Aircraft Corp.
Christa McAuliffe had been chosen in 1984 from 11,000 teachers who had applied to fly on the Challenger mission. The disaster interrupted NASA’s plan for spaceflight to become as routine as airplane travel.
After Challenger, shuttle flights were on hold for almost three years.
In 2003, Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas and Louisiana as it reentered Earth’s atmosphere, killing all seven crew members and all but essentially ending America’s space program.
Today our space program is headed by private entities including the SpaceX program led by Elon Musk