Friday, January 28, 2011

Space Shuttle Memories

25 years ago, today, I sat in a classroom at Westside Junior High School, lights out, waiting for the coverage of the space shuttle Challenger to come back on after a commercial. A school teacher was being sent into space. It was considered an educational experience for us to watch the launch, so, lights dimmed, we sat watching TVs in our classrooms.

When the coverage returned, a frenetic tone could be detected in the announcers voices. I can't remember exactly what was said, but it was something to the effect of, "There has been an anomaly." Then, they started replaying the footage of the shuttle coming apart.

One of our teachers, I think it was Mrs. Stewart, began trying to reassure us, saying something about it being an event we'd always remember, but that we were more likely to be killed in a car accident than in a space shuttle accident. Having just seen the shuttle apparently blow up and kill all of the astronauts on board, that wasn't much of a reassurance, but it did help a little.

Over time, we stopped talking about it. Two years later, another shuttle launch took place, and, in short order, launches were back to their pre-Challenger rate.

Now, nearing the twilight of the shuttle program, and 7 years past a second shuttle disaster, we face uncertainty. What will take astronauts into space? There are ideas, but no specific solutions. Perhaps the private sector will supply the answers. There WILL be something, though. Man will always seek reach into the unknown and discover its mysteries.

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