73 seconds in.

73 seconds in.

I was in the high school library playing chess. We had wanted to watch the lift-off, but the television wasn’t working. Some kid came in and told us, and after finally coming around to believing he wasn’t pulling our leg about the space shuttle blowing up, I asked him if it pulled into pieces, dove out of control, or just exploded in a huge fireball. “Fireball,” he said. I responded that it must have been the ET somehow managing to explode. It was not really a full-on “explosion,” but that’s sure what it looked like at first.

That afternoon, before going out on a run in the cold, cold Minnesota countryside, I cried during President Reagan’s speech.



  1. Murdoc,

    My father worked for Thiokol, and knew many of the engineers personally. He told me that there was such an air of hostility towards management who gave the go for launch that many of the higher ups feared for their personal safety. The engineers considered that they had been personally harmed by upper management over-ruling their concerns and suggestions to delay launch.

    My own opinion is that those responsible for the decision to launch should have been tried and executed for murder. At least imprisoned in solitary for life with no parole.

    I grew up with the Space program, from the early satellite launches to Mercury, Gemini,Apollo. Through my father’s work I was able to meet many of the astronauts and have a pretty good autograph collection, plus pix, posters, etc. All the typical things 🙂

    I still have pix of Apollo 13 sitting on the pad a few days before launch. I was with a group that visited Patrick AFB and toured the cape and it’s facilities. Just amazing, and heady days.

    My wife was the first to inform me of the Challenger disaster. I was at my shop and we turned on the small TV we kept there and watched the replays in horror. I kept looking for the shuttle to emerge and ditch at sea, or parachutes to open, hoping against my own certainty that they had survived. But of course, they hadn’t.

    A day of reflection, indeed.

  2. I was in college at the time, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical U. in Daytona Beach. We watched every shuttle launch, if not down at the Cape, then from campus. I remember how ridiculously cold it was that day, too. I saw it from campus and the entire student body was in mourning.

  3. Wow, hard to believe it was that long ago. I was in college too. My EE professor mentor had worked at Hughes, and he worked on some satellites that went up on some earlier launches. We were actually watching the launch in his class when it all went down. It was gut wrenching.

    I was one of those wide eyed kids that had dreams of becoming an astronaut. I knew I couldn’t handle the NASA/Navy route, so my plan was to get a job at Hughes, so I could fly up and fix satellites. That was one reason I became an electrical engineer. Oh well….

    My family took a trip to Disney World over Christmas a month before the explosion. We spent a half day at Kennedy Space Center, and saw the Challenger on the pad. It was unusually cold then too. I remember seeing the African animals at Busch Gardens covered in huge blankets, and all cooped up in little pens with propane heaters blowing on them. I think the launch had already been delayed at that point too. So it sat out there in the cold for a long time.

  4. High school! College!

    I was watching convicted felons getting one of their “three squares” a day, when a coworker came out of one of the housing units and commented they’d just seen the disaster on TV. The cons didn’t seem too concerned one way or another. Of course that’s all that was playing on TV when I finally made it to the Admin Bldg break room. Pretty disheartening, but I remember commenting to others how you almost had to expect some type of space program disaster now and then, considering how complex and dangerous that type of effort was. If we ever get serious about getting into space again, I expect there’ll be even more disasters.

    I completely agree with AW1 Tim……….if the engineers had warned management……….there should have been a criminal invetigation, and some prosecutions afterwards! Willful negligence undoubtedly killed all those aboard in this instance.

  5. High school? College? Work? I was a five-year-old astronaut wannabe in central Florida! We could watch the exhaust plume climb, with a little bright dot on the tip, whenever there was a launch. For some I didn’t watch from the yard that morning. I don’t remember why, maybe it was because it was so cold that morning and my mother didn’t want me outside. When I did go outside, we could see that great ugly cloud of smoke and debris- I remember thinking it looked like some sort of giant hand reaching up to grab airplanes out of the sky. Mom thought everything was fine and the cold weather had caused the odd plume, and then she turned on the TV and heard the news. I was playing in the yard when she came out and told me the Shuttle had “crashed.”
    I remember crying my eyes out.

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