I still remember it clearly…even though it has been thirty years today. I was in High School and I had been sent to the Library to pick up a “TV Cart” for our class to watch a video (for the life of me, I can’t remember what the video was). I walked into the library and walked back to the A/V room. I met Mrs. Schnepp (?) and told her that I was there to pick up the TV. She said, “Great. Let me get it ready for you.” While she was preparing the cart, I noticed the live broadcast on a TV nearby. I was immediately enthralled. The launch was very close to starting…so she was kind enough to let me stay and watch.
Watching the Space Shuttle launch is always an amazing sight to see. The raw energy and emotion this event brings delights both young and old. I (like many others) can only imagine what a first-hand experience of a launch must feel like. Gives me goose bumps! Must be one hell-of-a-ride!
So there I stood in amazement as the rockets lit, the clouds billowed forth, and the shuttle slowly made its way into the sky. I felt torn. I wanted to stay and keep watching until the shuttle hit the upper atmosphere but I knew that my teacher and fellow students were probably eagerly awaiting the equipment they were promised. I fidgeted a bit but keep my eyes glued on the TV. And then it happened.
Mrs. Schnepp and I were stunned. We both knew what had happened but both of us were speechless. I could tell she was upset but she tried to cover it by sending the cart and I back to class. As soon as I rolled the cart into our classroom, our principal’s voice came over the school loudspeakers notifying us all of the recent tragedy. I sat down and tried to tell nearby students what I had just saw. Meanwhile, the teacher turned on the TV and tuned in the local news…for us to witness what would ultimately be a defining moment in U.S. history.
“Disintegration of the vehicle began after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. The O-ring failure caused a breach in the SRB joint it sealed, allowing pressurized burning gas from within the solid rocket motor to reach the outside and impinge upon the adjacent SRB aft field joint attachment hardware and external fuel tank. This led to the separation of the right-hand SRB’s aft field joint attachment and the structural failure of the external tank. Aerodynamic forces broke up the orbiter.”
~ Source: Wikipedia
It was a little odd for me…feeling like I was probably one of the first people to know about it. It also felt a bit personal considering that Christa McAuliffe was the first civilian (a teacher from New Hampshire) to be chosen to fly into space. I found this video on YouTube which captures the audience’s reaction and perspective before, during, and after the explosion occurred. It’s a bit gut-wrenching to know and see her friends, family, and students were on location watching this unfold.
To the crew of the U.S.S. Challenger, STS-51L…we remember your courage, bravery, and sacrifice!
Francis R. Scobee, Commander
Michael J. Smith, Pilot
Ronald McNair, Mission Specialist
Ellison Onizuka, Mission Specialist
Judith Resnik, Mission Specialist
Gregory Jarvis, Payload Specialist
Christa McAuliffe, Payload Specialist