Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 22 years ago on 28 January 1986, killing all seven astronauts on board.
Back in July I blogged about my childhood fascination with space, with a little Osbourne book of Space that was packed full of facts and figures about the early Sputnik and Apollo space flights, trips down to Armagh Planetarium, watching the first Space Shuttle Columbia take off (second attempt) ... and the memories of the day when Challenger blew up a minute into its flight.
The awfulness for the astronauts’ families who would have watched the death of their loved ones on live TV. Perhaps the best known member of the crew was Christa McAuliffe, a mother of two, and was to be the first teacher in space. Before the launch she spoke about her hopes for the mission:
“I cannot join the space program and restart my life as an astronaut, but this opportunity to connect my abilities as an educator with my interests in history and space is a unique opportunity to fulfil my early fantasies.
One of the things I hope to bring back into the classroom is to make that connection with the students that they too are part of history, the space programme belongs to them and to try to bring them up with the space age.”
Another teacher, Barbara Morgan trained alongside McAuliffe as her mission backup. Having returned to teaching a few months after the Challenger disaster. But she kept up her links with NASA, and was selected for astronaut training in 1988 and finally flew into space on mission STS-118 in August 2007.
Following the mission failure, President Reagan had to postpone that night’s State of the Union address. He commented:
“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.”