Where were you on January 28, 1986? Fewer and fewer remember, but never let us forget. Yesterday marked the 28th anniversary of an explosion that sucked away the breath of the world—the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster that occurred over the brilliant blue skies off the coast of Central Florida. Around the world, people tuned in to watch Challenger’s mission. Millions of Americans viewed the historic launch from the comforts of home on television. Millions more listened to the live radio broadcast. Schoolchildren across the nation watched from their classrooms. Tens of thousands more watched from the Florida coastline as, high above Kennedy Space Center, sunshine gleamed off the sparkling white shuttle.
And then Challenger burst into a ball of flame and white smoke.
Challenger was historic for reasons beyond the fact that it was the first—and hopefully the only—human-carrying shuttle to suffer a fatal in-air accident. Challenger also carried the first African-American into space, the first American woman into space, and the first Canadian into space. She also accomplished the first night launch and night landing in the history of any space shuttle. And at 11:39 am EST, Space Shuttle Challenger and her crew of six men and one woman disappeared from our skies forever. The crew, who came to be known around the world as “The Challenger Seven,” included Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe.
President Ronald Regan addressed our stunned and heartbroken nation that night, sending his deepest sympathies to the families of the seven astronauts and apologizing to schoolchildren for the “painful things” they’d seen that day. Then President Regan presented his own challenge to each American man, woman and child, saying: “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.”
Do you remember where you were that day? Share with us your memories in the comment section below. Never let us never forget.