Space flight is dangerous. Taking a rocket into orbit means sitting on a controlled explosion happening under an enormous tank of fuel and oxidizer. Rocket engines are under such tremendous forces, they push engineering to its limits. Once one arrives in space, the spacecraft must protect occupants from one of the harshest environments imaginable. Then, upon return, the rapid reentry to the atmosphere subjects the craft to enormous heat and pressure. Every part of a space mission is dangerous.
It is more dangerous when politics and a desire for good publicity and scheduling gets in the way of more important concerns over safety and engineering. This is what happened to the Challenger. It was the first American space mission to result in causalities (although astronauts had died before in practice sessions and dry runs, such as Apollo 1). It was the worst loss of life in a single space mission up to that time. It would be tied by the 2003 breakup of the shuttle Columbia.
The accident put a temporary halt to the US space program and resulted in numerous safety improvements. Unfortunately, these improvements were not enough to stop another tragedy from happening with the Space Shuttle. While the Shuttle proved to be one of he most capable craft for low earth orbit, with unique capabilities, like the capacity to retrieve satellites from orbit, it also has some other, more dubious, distinctions. More lives have been lost in the Space Shuttle than any other spacecraft. It has a LOVC (loss of vehicle and crew) rate of greater than one percent, for all launches.
For me, the Challenger incident has other significance. I was three years old at the time if happened. It is one of my earliest distinct memories and the earliest memory I can pin directly to an event.
My memories are vague, but I do remember a few things. My mother worked with a man whose television was not working on that day. He came over to my home to watch the TV coverage. He and my father were glued to the set all afternoon and evening. I was upset because I wanted to watch Mister Roger’s neighborhood and we only had the one television.
My parents watched ABC news. It’s amazing but these videos actually jar distinct memories for me.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 at 8:03 pm and is filed under History, media, personal, Space. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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