This coming Saturday, January 28, 2006, will be twenty years since the space shuttle Challenger exploded during its launch, killing all of the crew onboard.
While I can’t remember that day as clearly as I used to, I can remember aspects of it pretty clearly. I was in junior high school at the time. I don’t remember exactly how we heard about the disaster, but I recall being able to listen to radio reports in home room and in my biology class. In fact, I can recall my biology teacher crying over the loss.
Before we knew too much detail, I remember talking with friends during a morning recess, telling them that if the shuttle got up high enough, it has the ability to attempt a return-to-earth manuever, which it does, and which I knew about at the time, although I don’t recall where I learned that. I remember we debated the possibility of sending up another space shuttle to rescue the crew of the first, if they’d ended up making it into space.
It’s a little eerie that twenty years have passed. That’s an entire generation. I imagine this is a similar feeling that people of an earlier generation have about they day Kennedy was killed (now 43 years ago) or the day we set foot on the moon (now 37 years ago). I imagine that as one gets older, this phenomenon begins to happen with greater frequency, save for the fact that the details become fuzzier and fuzzier.
I can still, for instance, remember the day of the very first space shuttle launch. I was attending grade school in Warwick, Rhode Island, and we were sent to another classroom, which had a television, so that we could all watch the launch of this new space vehicle. (I learned later that particular mission was piloted by non other than John Young, who ten years earlier had been one of a dozen men to walk on the moon, and who just recently retire from the astronaut corps.)