Challenger, STS 51-L Remembrance

January 26th, 2006 is the 20th anniversary of the Challenger Disaster. Seven astronauts lost their lives. Today, we remember them.

My family and I had lived in Satellite Beach, Florida for nine years until the summer of 1985. We saw the first Space Shuttle launch, Voyager I and II, and everything in between. We moved to New Hampshire 6 months before Challenger blew up. I’m very lucky because I did not have to personally watch it explode overhead, and I would have been watching the launch.

In a few days, we will remember Columbia from just three years ago. Once again, I lucked out because I had planned to waken in time to watch the shuttle go overhead during its reentry. Thankfully, I slept through it as NASA believes the main breakup occurred almost directly over the city I was living in at the time, Lubbock, TX.

Hopefully, I will no longer need to be thankful for any close brushes with aerospace disaster. NASA needs to develop a more dependable crew module for ascent and descent; one which is intelligently conceived and prosecuted, unlike the space shuttle program. A program with a lot more bang for our buck.

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4 Responses to Challenger, STS 51-L Remembrance

  1. I certainly don’t mean to mess with your remembrance of Challenger — I honor them deeply as well. However, I wanted to clarify that the disaster for Challenger was on January 28, not January 26. Today is NASA’s Day of Remembrance for all the folks lost in all the varying missions. Saturday is the 20th anniversary of Challenger.

    I am glad you remember!! So few now do.


  2. Tenner says:

    I think in addition to remembering those who died in the Challenger and Columbia accidents, it’s important to remember why we’re in space.

    As the Space Shuttle missions continued into the 1990s and early 2000s, the missions were to continue to deploy satellites and service the ISS. But satellites can be deployed with standalone unmanned rockets, and the Russian way of reaching the ISS has had much more success than ours (and given their financial issues, I’m sure it’s cheaper, too).

    It’s not that the Shuttles were using 1970s technology — it’s that the technology wasn’t very good to begin with. NASA did some incredible things with what they had, and as a vehicle the Space Shuttle had a pretty good run of luck. But a 2% catastrophic failure rate isn’t very good, especially when each mission could cost a billion dollars and as many as seven human lives.

    Recently (a year or two ago), Bush made a “promise” to set a goal to put a man on Mars by 2020 or so. I am a huge proponent for space flight, but I’m a bigger fan of keeping people alive. There’s no reason to send a man to Mars to conduct experiments while he have some fantastic rovers that work exceptionally well and don’t require oxygen, food, and a controlled environment.

    Manned space flight should continue so long as it is safe and has a scientific or social goal.

  3. Bill says:

    However, I wanted to clarify that the disaster for Challenger was on January 28, not January 26.

    Crap! You’re right. I confess that I screw this up every year…

  4. Bill says:

    Manned space flight should continue so long as it is safe and has a scientific or social goal.

    I would argue that Manned Space Flight is its own goal. It’s hard to quantify the value of placing people in orbit, even if the various accoutrements required for survival dectuple the cost of the program.

    My biggest problem right now is that NASA seems to be running down the same mistaken path that they did in the 60′s, in order to win the race to the Moon. Instead of taking incremental steps, from Earth to LEO to GEO to Moon, with bases every step of the way, they just shot their wad with the Saturn V.

    Werner Von Braun argued (and lost) for an interim base in LEO to support a Moon mission, and I think he had the right idea. Use delivery flights to get the equipment, fuel, and people into LEO and move on from there, rather than trying to launch everything at once.

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