I Remember The Challenger Explosion

Where were you? Were you even alive?

January 28, 2019

Originally written for the 30 year anniversary

In 1986, I was a tiny child - only 5 years old in Albuquerque, NM - when space travel took over my squishy little brain. I don't know why my mother was with me at the time, but we were at the cute little preschool/kindergarten that my family dropped me off at every morning. Lots of parents were hovering around. The TV blinked with low-resolution light in the background until everyone's attention shifted to the event of the day.

A teacher, the first ordinary earthling to head into earth's orbit, strapped into her seat aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Christa McAuliffe trained like an astronaut and had jobs to do as a payload specialist for STS 51L. A countdown began - something fun for children to participate along with - and all of our voices were then silenced. We watched as a person, someone just like Miss Bornhoft our teacher, made history.

I believe this to be a moment when the dreams of a generation of humans believed they too could be part of something beyond our own planet. 

Seven humans headed for earth's orbit. Sadly, they made it only just more than a minute towards weightlessness before suffering a catastrophic failure that ended an ambitious mission and silenced the spark of their lives.

We watched in silent shock. Only but a moment passed before the unbelievable sank in for the adults around us. We were shuffled about and set onto distracting tasks like coloring or construction paper related fun.

I don't know why this moment from my earliers school years lives so strongly in my mind - that and learning how to properly brush my teeth - but this tragedy somehow set in motion a lifetime of fascination by the seemingly impossible task of space travel. I hope that if the crew could pull a ghost of Ben Kenobi, they would look back and see how the tragic nature of their deaths inspired future nerds like me to spend a life dreaming about space exploration. It's been 30+ years I've thought about this, and I've spent all morning trying to find the appropriate tattoo design to further cement my memories.

Here's a little longer look into the mission and its failure: