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  1. #1
    singersp's Avatar
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    Challenger's crew remembered on 20th anniversary

    Posted on Sat, Jan. 28, 2006

    [size=18px]Challenger's crew remembered on 20th anniversary[/size]

    By MARTIN MERZER
    [email protected]


    CAPE CANAVERAL - It was exactly 20 years ago Saturday and it was a different time -- before the massacre at Columbine, before the terrorist assault on New York and Washington, before Americans began to half-expect tragedy at any moment.

    The seven astronauts of shuttle Challenger, including teacher Christa McAuliffe, perished in an orange-and-white fireball nine miles above Cape Canaveral. Debris rained into the Atlantic Ocean for more than an hour. 'Obviously, a major malfunction,' a NASA commentator told the world.

    Dazed by the news, transfixed by the pictures, Americans gathered and wept and spontaneously illuminated their cars' headlights. They honored seven people who, in the words of President Ronald Reagan, ``slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God.'

    On Saturday, during a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center's visitor complex, June Scobee Rodgers, wife of Challenger commander Francis 'Dick' Scobee, marked the anniversary, attempted to draw some meaning from the accident, and extolled the human yearning to explore.
    'Without risk, there's no discovery, there's no new knowledge, there's no bold adventure,' Rodgers said. ``The greatest risk is to take no risk.'

    The sky was overcast, the breeze chilly. Flags flew at half staff and birds chirped in the distance. As the invocation was delivered, her son, Air Force Col. Richard Scobee, also on the dais, gently took her hand into his.

    Aboard Challenger that frigid morning, in addition to her husband, were pilot Michael Smith, mission specialists Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair and Ellison Onizuka, payload specialist Gregory Jarvis and McAuliffe, a vivacious high school social studies teacher from Concord, N.H., the first 'ordinary person' to fly in space.

    Temperatures fell into the 20s the night before launch. Icicles dangled from Launch Pad 39B. It was still so cold that morning -- 36 degrees at liftoff -- that the astronauts wore gloves as they climbed into Challenger.
    Never before had a shuttle been launched under such conditions.
    It was the fleet's 25th flight, but never had a shuttle been launched under such conditions.

    At the same time, most Americans had come to view space flights as routine; many within NASA had developed a sense of complacency.
    These were terrible mistakes -- mistakes that occurred earlier in the space program and would be repeated later in the space program, always with equally tragic results.

    'In each case, we learned that we have to have honest communications,' said G. Scott Hubbard, a member of the board that investigated the shuttle Columbia accident three years ago and director of NASA's Ames Research Center in California. ``You've got to not ignore anything.'

    Seventeen astronauts have died in U.S. spaceships -- all of them, coincidentally, within a six-day bracket of the calendar that makes this an extremely difficult week at the space center.

    Three were killed when a flash fire consumed their Apollo 1 capsule during a launch pad test on Jan. 27, 1967. The seven people aboard Challenger died on Jan. 28, 1986. The seven people aboard Columbia were lost on Feb. 1, 2003, when their shuttle disintegrated in flight because of problems with its insulating foam.

    Each of the accidents had different primary causes, but investigators cited complacency within NASA as a major contributing factor in all three.
    'We'd all been lulled into believing the emperor had clothes on when indeed he was naked,' said John Logsdon, another member of the board that investigated the Columbia accident and director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University. ``The problems had been there to be seen. All of us close to the program didn't want to see them.'

    Now, the aging shuttle fleet -- based largely on 1970s technology -- is grounded again until engineers resolve persistent problems with insulating tiles. The shuttles are scheduled to be retired in 2010, replaced several years later with spaceships that can carry Americans to the moon and beyond.

    The Challenger accident, 73.5 seconds after liftoff, was caused by the failure of an O-ring that linked two sections of the right rocket booster. Rendered inflexible by the cold, it could not contain the pressure of hot gases produced by burning rocket fuel.

    In the end, the external fuel tank ruptured and an explosion consumed Challenger.

    The last known words from the flight deck came from Smith, the pilot. 'Uh-oh,' he said.

    Later that day, Reagan memorialized the crew in a speech still remembered by many people.

    'The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted,' the president said. ``It belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them.'

    Reagan ended the speech with those words about slipping 'the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God,' paraphrasing a sonnet written by John Gillespie Magee Jr., an American airman killed in World War II.
    Some engineers had warned NASA of the danger of launching in the extreme cold, but the alarms were not heeded.

    Many images and sounds from that day branded themselves into the American consciousness, including the Y-shaped cloud of smoke and the words of NASA mission commentator Steve Nesbitt, on duty at the Johnson Space Center near Houston.

    Monitoring data that trailed events by several seconds, Nesbitt seemed momentarily out of touch. Even as television pictures showed the explosion, his announcements indicated that all was well.

    Then, finally, after a 40-second pause, knowing that his friends were dying or dead, Nesbitt calmly said:
    ``Flight controllers are looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously, a major malfunction.'

    Later, Nesbitt told The Miami Herald: ``Those images are sort of frozen in my mind.'

    As they are for most Americans who were alive on that day 20 years ago.
    'You saw the trails breaking up into several different paths and you knew the vehicle was lost,' Hubbard said. ``It gave you a sick feeling.'

    But he and others noted that surveys consistently show broad American support for space exploration by humans.

    'Exploration is what human beings do,' said Hubbard, who last week announced he would be leaving NASA for a position at the SETI Institute, which studies the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe. ``If you look back in history, any civilization that closed the doors and stopped exploring has just stagnated.

    ``These brave people did not die in vain. They contributed to the exploration of space, and that is a grand and noble quest, and I honor them as heroes.'
    Miami Herald staff writer Phil Long contributed to this report.

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  2. #2
    michaelmazid is offline Team Alumni
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    Re: Challenger's crew remembered on 20th anniversary

    Its a damn shame what happend to the crew of Challenger.

    whats even crazier is the fact that on the launching day, the temp was something like 20 degrees. 20 in Florida? what gives?

  3. #3
    NordicNed is offline Jersey Retired
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    Re: Challenger's crew remembered on 20th anniversary

    "michaelmazid" wrote:
    Its a gol 'darnit shame what happend to the crew of Challenger.

    whats even crazier is the fact that on the launching day, the temp was something like -20 degrees. -20 in Florida? what gives?
    Actually the temp got down to 20F in the early AM, just four hours before launch time, the temp had only risen to 30F.

    I watched a show on the whole thing yesterday, it sad because the was one engineer, that worked for the company that made the rocket cell O Rings that wanted to cancel the flight.

    Higher ups made the decision not to listen to this guy and gave the green light.

    They new they had a problem but went ahead with it anyway....There should be people in prison today, for what happened that day..


    I LOVE THE SMELL OF VICTORY IN THE MORNING AIR.

  4. #4
    Freya's Avatar
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    Re: Challenger's crew remembered on 20th anniversary

    Yeh, I remember that feeling of being sick.
    There have been several good programs on the Challenger disaster in the past few days. With some enlightening information we should have been told years before now.


    Personally, I don't think there is intelligent life on other planets. Why should other planets be any different from this one?

  5. #5
    VikesfaninWis's Avatar
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    Re: Challenger's crew remembered on 20th anniversary

    I am from Florida, was born and raised there, I moved to where I am at age 13. but I remember that day when it exploded, I was only 8 yrs old, but I sure do remember it. About a year after this happened, that teacher that was on it Christa McAuliffe, they named a school in West Palm Beach Florida after her, Christa McAuliffe Middle School.. I had alot of friends that went to that school.. That was a sad, sad day in Florida..

  6. #6
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    Re: Challenger's crew remembered on 20th anniversary

    I was in 5th grade that day.

    Remember how they used to televise every Shuttle launch on every network? It was a thing of national pride (something we lack more of today).

    Anyways, I was sick from school and I was watching it live. My mom was in the bathroom and I yelled to her that the shuttle exploded. She yelled back at me that it was not funny to joke. Only after she came out did she see what happened.

    Its one of those days where they say you'll never forget where you were when an event happened.

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