Remembering The Fallen Astronauts: Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster


Remembering The Fallen Astronauts: Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster



Space exploration is a perilous task that we chose to pursue "not because it is easy, but because it is hard." The sacrifices made by the astronauts and everyone involved in the space program are the founding stone on which we build our stairs towards the final frontier.

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January 28, 1986

That cold, dreadful morning on the coast of Cape CanaveralFlorida will forever be one of the darkest moments in NASA’s history. At 11:39 EST, the space shuttle Challenger disintegrated after an explosion, which took the lives of seven astronauts. However, the heroes of humanity’s relentless struggle to conquer the vastness of space shall never be forgotten. Their names are forever written among the stars. 

Remembering the fallen  

The entire nation was left devastated after the disaster as news of the accident quickly spread across the country. We can’t even imagine the pain and suffering that the families of the seven crew members went through seeing their loved ones fading away in the sky. What we as humans can do is cherish the memory of them as no one is truly gone unless they are forgotten.

Sharon Christa McAuliffe

Sharon was elected as a part of the Teacher in Space Project among 11,000 applicants. The project represented NASA’s effort to send a civilian teacher for the first time to space. Her assignment was to give lessons directly from space to children via television.

Gregory Bruce "Greg" Jarvis

Former Captain in the US Air Force, Greg Jarvis worked as a Payload Specialist on the Challenger. He was an engineer with an M.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University. 

Judith Arlene Resnik

During her work on the maiden voyage of Discovery, Judith became the second American female astronaut in space. She was also the first Jewish-American woman in space. Being a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and having a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland made her the perfect choice to be a mission specials aboard the Challenger.

Francis Richard "Dick" Scobee

Vietnam War veteran and a seasoned combat pilot, he got the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service. After finishing USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, he was a test pilot for the Air Force. Dick was an experienced pilot as he had previously piloted the Challenger mission in 1984. He was the commander of the space shuttle. 

Ronald Erwin McNair

The youngest astronaut aboard the Challenger was the brilliant physicist Ronald McNair. Aged 35, Ronald was already an accomplished scientist in the field of laser physics with four honorary doctorates and numerous fellowships. Working as a mission specialist on the shuttle, he was the second African-American ever in space.

Michael John Smith

The awarded pilot of the Vietnam War where he served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk, Michael J. Smith had 4,867 hours of flying time in 28 different types of planes. He was the designated pilot of the Challenger mission.

Ellison Shoji Onizuka

After a remarkable career as a test pilot for the US Air Force, Onizuka joined NASA in 1978. Hawaiian astronaut from Kealakekua, Ellison was the first Asian American in space when he went as a mission specialist aboard the Discovery space shuttle. His job among the Challenger crew was also a mission specialist.

All seven astronauts were posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, which is the highest award given by NASA. Perhaps, the most touching words came from Ronald Reagan, the US President at the time, in his statement one week after the accident. As the conclusion of one of the most memorable speeches written by Peggy Noonan, a quote from the poem "High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was chosen:

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God. 

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