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Thursday, January 28, 2016

In Memory Of The 30th Anniversary Of The Challenger - Tribute To The Fallen Pioneers Of Space Travel

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. 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." 
                                  ~US President Ronald Reagan addressing the nation on January 28, 1986 

Space shuttle Challenger (OV-099) Mission STS-51-L crew: (front row left to right) Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair; (back row left to right) Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, Judith Resnik. Photo courtesy of NASA/ 1986.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the deadly accident that took the lives of the crew of the NASA space shuttle orbiter Challenger (OV-099)

I was nine years old and home from school on the morning of January 28, 1986. I was playing a game of some sort with my sister in the family living room when my dad came into the room stunned and told everyone present that the space shuttle Challenger exploded on television. 

I remember feeling a little bit of cold in my stomach at the news. My grandparents quickly turned on the television set to the breaking news story. One of the reasons that me and my sister were home that day was school being let out for teachers work day, and the launch of the space shuttle mission - which was to have included what should have been the first civilian school teacher into orbit. In fact, I recall that we were assigned homework to write a report on the launch. 

My sister, Olivia, was in probably worse shock than I was over the news. She was in complete denial at the time that the crew died in the explosion (later it would be learned that the crew did in fact survive for a short time following the breakup of the shuttle). I will never forget my teary-eyed seven year old sister saying, "No, teachers can't die! They're teachers!" I too was somewhat disillusioned to learn at such a young age that teachers were not invincible. To me educators were tough - and at times grumpy - people, but regardless people who seemed to be above concepts like being moral human beings. 

There were two things other than these moment that stood out for me on that terrible day in American history: the constant replay of the explosion itself, the fireball and smoke trails; and the address to the nation given by President Ronald Reagan. 

Even as a child, the words Reagan spoke about the importance of the space program and the crew of the space shuttle and others before them as the first pioneers into the next great frontier for humanity stuck with me. He spoke of the tragedy, of the dedication of the men and women lost in the disaster, and quoted from the poem High Flight by John Gillespie McGee Jr. He also reaffirmed that mankind would continue to move forward to conquer space.

The loss of the seven crew members was a shock to the nation, and would delay the US space program for several years. Yet just as the past sacrifices of the first great pioneers of space travel inspired those seven brave American men and women; the memory of the sacrifices made by the crew of the Challenger lives on today in the dedication of those who continue to serve as astronauts, technicians and engineers designing the crafts that will someday take humanity beyond our pale blue dot and into the solar system, and possibly beyond in some distant day. 

This blog post is dedicated to the honored memories and sacrifices of those pioneers of humanity's space program tragically killed while helping to advance humanity's scientific knowledge of the universe. Their noble sacrifices to that service will be remembered as human pioneers continue our march into space in the decades, centuries, and possibly the  millennium to come.

Lest We Forget. 

Valentin Bondarenko (Ukraine, USSR) 
Killed in an altitude trainer accident on March 23, 1961.

Killed in a training jet crash on October 31, 1964. 

Gemini 9 Crew
Killed in a training jet crash on February 28, 1966. 

Apollo 1 Crew
Killed in a spacecraft test accident on January 27, 1967. 

Vladimir Komarov (Russia, USSR)
Soyuz 1 Commander
Killed on impact from re-entry parachute deployment failure on April 24, 1967. 

Killed in training jet crash on October 5, 1967. 

X-15 Flight 3-65-97
Killed in training flight crash on November 15, 1967. 

Killed in training jet crash on December 8, 1967.

Yuri Gagarin (Russia, USSR)
Vladimir Seryogin (Russia, USSR)
Soyuz 3 Crew
Killed in training jet crash on March 27, 1968. 

Georgi Dobrovolski (Ukraine, USSR) 
Viktor Patsayev (Kazakh, USSR - modern-day Republic of Kazakhstan)
Vladislav Volkov (Russia, USSR)
Soyuz 11 Crew
Killed by decompression in space on June 30, 1971. 

Ronald McNair (USA) 
Space Shuttle Challenger (OV-099) Crew
Killed during explosion during the mission launch over the Atlantic Ocean on January 28, 1986.

Sergei Vozovikov (Russian Federation)
Killed during water recovery training on July 11, 1993. 
Ilan Ramon (Israel)
Space Shuttle Columbia (OV-102) Crew
Killed in vehicular disintegration upon re-entry of Earth's atmosphere on February 1, 2003. 

Killed in spacecraft flight test crash on October 31, 2014. 

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