27 years ago today, January 28, 1986, many of us were watching the live news footage as the space shuttle Challenger took its fateful launch. We watched with our hearts in our throats and tears streaming down our faces, horrified as 73 seconds into the flight the shuttle exploded, killing seven people, including Christa McAuliffe. Ms. McAuliffe would have been the first teacher in space, chosen out of 11,000 applicants. The explosion was caused by a rocket booster failure that ignited the fuel tank.
It just doesn’t seem that long ago, and watching the video of the launch and explosion bring it back like it was yesterday. At the same time though, with the retirement of America’s shuttle fleet last year, it somehow feels a bit like ancient history as well. In the past 28 years the Challenger disaster has been used as a case study in what NOT to do in engineering safety decision-making processes, discussions, and workplace ethics presentations.
To the families and loved ones of the crew that perished that day, we remember, and we honor them: May the memories of the crew of shuttle Challenger flight TS-51L live on forever:
Mission Specialist Ellison S. Onizuka