Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Remembering the Challenger shuttle disaster - Vijaya Schartz

The Challenger shuttle disaster 30 years ago is one of those moments carved into my memory. I will always remember it, like people remember where they were when Kennedy was shot, or when the towers fell. I had a teacher friend who had applied for that coveted seat on the space shuttle. I was so glad he didn't get picked.

I'm old enough to remember  January 28, 1086. It was an age of innocence, when we believed space exploration had been conquered, and we would soon venture into space, build bases on other planets and soon reach the stars. Then it happened, the tragedy that broke the space program. Challenger exploded 73 seconds after lift-off.

The event was transmitted live on TV and the tragedy occurred as the world watched. At the time, it was a rare event, and children in their classrooms watched it happen with their teachers.

The explosion killed the entire crew, including a civilian, a beloved female teacher. Heroes, all of them.

Left to right are Teacher-in-Space payload specialist Sharon Christa McAuliffe; payload specialist Gregory Jarvis; and astronauts Judith A. Resnik, mission specialist; Francis R. (Dick) Scobee, mission commander; Ronald E. McNair, mission specialist; Mike J. Smith, pilot; and Ellison S. Onizuka, mission specialist.
Image credit: NASA

The exact timing of the death of the crew is unknown; several crew members are known to have survived the initial breakup of the spacecraft. The shuttle had no escape system, and the impact of the crew compartment with the ocean surface was too violent to be survivable.

At 5 pm President Regan addressed the nation live and ended his speech with: The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. 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."
In my novels, of course, I can control what happens, and I don't kill my heroes. One of the NASA space shuttles is featured in my series ANCIENT ENEMY, available everywhere in all eBook formats.

Vijaya Schartz
Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick
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