“Obviously… a major malfunction”

Today is the 17th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger accident; a day that would become the X-Generation’s Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Personally, I remember being taken into my elementary school’s cafeteria to sit cross-legged on the cold tile floor and look up into the school-issue television on its requisite rolling cart. I didn’t really understand what was happening at the time; but, “astronaut” was what I wanted to be more than anything when I grew up, and seeing my favorite spaceship blow-up was a terrifying experience. I remember having that sinking, panicky-terror feeling you get when the lights start flashing in your rear-view mirror and you know you’re being pulled over. Irrational thoughts flood your brain in times like that: “Am I being taken to jail for murder? Do they think I’m a spy?” and similar thoughts deluged me then: “Are we being invaded by aliens? Am I going to blow-up on the way home? Is it going to fall on us?”

A chilling transcript of the flight’s voice recorder belies any indication of impending doom. Until the last moment, the crew seems upbeat, excited, and in good spirits. Hopefully, they held onto that and perished instantly… even thought they didn’t.

Before I mention them to you, most of you (including me) will most likely remember only one name from that day, but there were seven. Like me, you’ll probably also remember that she was a teacher, and maybe the first woman in space. In fact, there were two women that day, and neither of them the first. On even closer inspection, you can see that Gender and Nationality were actually fairly well represented for flight 51-L. So, on the 17th anniversary of their tragic end, here’s to:

.: Francis R. Scobee – Commander
.: Michael J. Smith – Pilot
.: Judith A. Resnik – Mission Specialist 1
.: Ellison S. Onizuka – Mission Specialist 2
.: Ronald E. McNair – Mission Specialist 3
.: Gregory B. Jarvis – Payload Specialist 1
.: Sharon Christa McAuliffe – Payload Specialist 2

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