Seventy-three seconds after liftoff on January 28, 1986, flying it’s tenth mission, space shuttle Challenger exploded killing Mission Commander Francis R. Scobee; Pilot Michael J. Smith; Mission Specialists Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik, and Ronald McNair.

Two payload specialists were also killed in the explosion. Payload Specialist 2, Gregory B. Jarvis and Payload Specialist 1, the most recognized name of the crew, Christa McAuliffe.

Christa McAuliffe

Eleven thousand applicants applied to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space Project and to be a member of the Challenger crew. McAuliffe was selected and her mission was to conduct experiments and to actually teach two lessons from the Challenger spacecraft.

Following her death many schools and academic scholarships were named for her and in 2004 she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Some Challenger History

The Challenger spacecraft was named after a historic British marine research expedition command ship the HSM Challenger active in the 1870’s.  Another Challenger landed on the moon in 1972. The Apollo 17 lunar module shared the name.

Challenger was one of two space shuttles in service at the time. The other was Columbia that was the older of the two shuttles. Rockwell International built the space shuttle Challenger and its first flight took place on April 4, 1983. Challenger flew eighty-five percent of all Space Shuttle missions between 1983 and 1984.

The Space Shuttle Endeavor eventually replaced Challenger and Space Shuttle Discovery replaced Columbia. The Challenger disaster resulted in a two-year stoppage of flights and missions didn’t resume until 1988.

Some Final Thoughts

Having lived through the first moon landings its amazing how safe space travel is. True, we have lost astronauts to explosions but for the vast number of flights that have been undertaken it’s been a very successful program.

Space exploration, for many of us, is a double-edged sword. The vast distances make human travel to other planets prohibitive. Satellites launched in the 1980’s are just now reaching their objectives caring primitive technology by today’s standards. There is more computing power in your cell phone than was used to land men on the moon.

Should we be spending blood and treasure on space travel? I’m sure each of us has an opinion about the value or lack of value of space exploration. What’s your opinion? Should we be in space or spend those dollars exploring our own planet?

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