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 Canaveral, Florida 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.
On this day of remembrance, we recognize the astronauts lost aboard the space shuttle Challenger’s mission to place TDRS-B into orbit. The TDRS system would not be possible without the brave men and women who dared tread among the stars. #NASAremembers pic.twitter.com/6Nminc34Zs
— NASA TDRS (@NASA_TDRS) January 25, 2018
Sharon Christa McAuliffe
32 years after the Challenger disaster, @AstroAcaba & @Astro_Ricky will honor fallen astronaut Christa McAuliffe later this year from @Space_Station by carrying out the lesson plans she intended to do on her mission: https://t.co/iLN1OkOYxZ #NASARemembers pic.twitter.com/wcCZW1k4Rv
— NASA (@NASA) January 25, 2018
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
Dr. Judith Resnik was another woman astronaut chosen for #Classof78. She was the first Jewish-American in space on STS-41D in 1984. #MazelTov pic.twitter.com/qItXKWcVen
— NASA History Office (@NASAhistory) January 16, 2018
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
Astronaut #Classof78 member Ellison S. Onizuka became the 1st Asian-American in space when he flew as a Mission Specialist on STS-51C. Born and raised in Hawaii, he served as an @usairforce flight test engineer prior to his selection for the #Classof78 pic.twitter.com/WhdE1sxIBI
— NASA History Office (@NASAhistory) January 16, 2018
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.
Today we honor and remember the crew of STS-51L who died in the Challenger accident in 1986: (left to right below) Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, Judy Resnik, Dick Scobee, Ron McNair, Mike Smith and Ellison Onizuka #NASARemembers #DayOfRemembrance pic.twitter.com/vCtxsmKTcr
— NASA History Office (@NASAhistory) January 25, 2018
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.