The actual memorial was yesterday, 36 years since Challenger was lost. I’m old enough to remember all the way back to Mercury and all the losses.

Our crew participated in the searches for Challenger’s astronauts off the coast, praying but not holding much hope.

May they all rest in peace, and know they did not die in vain.

Space, like aviation is inherently dangerous, and few second chances are given.


Remembrance… — 18 Comments

  1. I was an instructor when the three main instructional buildings at Chanute AFB were named for the Apollo 1 astronauts.

  2. What is truly sad is the Challenger crew was almost certainly alive until they hit the water….and knew what was coming.

  3. I was in a CAD class, when an administrator told our instructor of the accident. 30 years you say – time has sped by quickly.

  4. Here is a first person account of someone that was there at that time in our lives:
    I was the ATC / Helicopter Direction Center Supervisor / Watch Officer on the USS Guam. We were Deck Landing Qualifying Marine helicopter crews out of MCAS New River in Jacksonville NC. After qualing the crews, we were to transit to New Orleans to be the hotel ship for military units marching in the various Mardi Gras parades.
    One of my guys came up from the mess decks said the shuttle blew up and turned on the TV, no Sat TV in those days but we were close enough to land to get “local” TV. Before I could climb in his case for turning the TV on while flying I saw what happened and told the guys to get our SAR folders out in case we needed them. About that time the Ops Boss stepped in and lit up about the TV until HE saw what was on, he knocked me out of the way and called the bridge on the Bitch Box, “Skipper, I’m on the way up STAY THERE!” We continued for I think another day working the Marines then kept a few helo’s aboard and were ordered to transit right thru the middle of the exclusion zone to see what we could find. After only about 2 hours search one of the helo’s found the SRB nosecone that did not blow up, by the time we got there a destroyer had also found it and was standing by. We tried to lift it with an H53 but due to the water in the cone, that was a non player. We ended up maneuvering the ship (single screw for the sailors) to use the Bomb and Aircraft Crane to lift it aboard the aft starboard (right side) elevator. It sat on the El overnight draining the seawater and we were supposed to take it into Port Canaveral the next morning. As we approached the Port we got another message that for security, to try now to sling (carry under the aircraft) the cone to Canaveral Air Force Station if the 53 could lift it now that the water had run out. The 53 hooked up and had no problem flying it to the Canaveral AFS. We proceeded on our way to Mardi Gras but it was not a good party. A few months later the crew, and Marines on board, received the Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation with Operational “O” Device. We also received a numbered and personalized NASA Certificate of Appreciation. My Certificate blew away in Hurricane Andrew and that was the only item from my “I love me wall” I was not able to replace. To this day January 28 through the 31 SUX. Someone recently asked IF I have been in Nam, and my answer was no but I told them of some of the things I had seen or been involved with, this is another thing that was exciting at that time but drives me bat crap on the anniversary.

  5. Thirty years? Don’t you mean 36 years?

    The Challenger disaster happened January 28, 1986.

    I remember that day well. I was on my way to a service call at a hospital nearby when the news came over my car radio. My daughter was born later that same year.

  6. Watched it all on the NASA feed. Kindest thing anyone ever did was kill the feed from the control room at Kennedy. Lots of telescopic shots of pieces falling into the ocean for what seemed like forever.

    One of those ‘I have to stop watching but can’t’ moments. Like tv coverage of 9-11 on 9-11. Just couldn’t stop watching.

    Too many mistakes, too many shortcuts and poor design and implementation decisions.

    And, sadly, we’re seeing a repeat in the SLS-Orion system, and in Boeing’s crew capsule.

  7. All- Thank you for the comments and the memories. George- I remember Guam being out there! Thanks for what you did! And yes, we all got that ribbon.

  8. The only thing that upsets me, is that the people who were responsible for the two shuttle disasters were never prosecuted for negligent manslaughter. They were TOLD there was a problem, but they never told the spacecraft commander, they never gave anyone with any scientific or engineering knowledge the chance to weigh in on the decision.
    Nope a middle manager bureaucrat with as much engineering and science knowledge as my DOG made the decision based on the idea that ‘oh, it’ll be alright because there’s never been a problem before this’.
    Machines are not animals or people, they will not ‘save you this one time because they like you’ or anything else like that. Seen a LOT of people crash and die because they thought that ‘just this one time my airplane will come through’.
    People who anthropomorphize machinery shouldn’t be in charge of making decisions for them.

    • Richard Feynman was asked to be on the investigative committee. He talked about it in one of his autobiographies. Nobody actually wanted to investigate anything, and when he found out about the O-ring, nobody wanted to listen. He was a little too famous to simply boot off the committee, and he wouldn’t shut up, so the entire chain of fuster-cluck eventually came out.

      Yes, some people should have served some long prison terms. But as so often happens, they escaped without even notably damaging their careers, much less ending them.

      • As I understand it, there was a meeting that he was at, and they passed a piece of the O-ring around. He took it, stuck it in the ice-water carafe (or maybe put it in his glass and poured ice over it, I forget) and let it sit there while they were having the meeting. Then at the end he took it out and smashed it on the table and it shattered.
        In front of everybody.
        The engineers who called up and tried to get the flight postponed from the company that made the boosters? They got fired and scapegoated. They sued and won eventually, but I suspect that ended their careers.

        • O-rings get no respect from higher ups, even if they are engineers, in my experience.
          Had a problem at a high-tech manufacturer in Silicon Valley, when they switched to a different elemental gas for the systems to run with. The original 0-ring compound turned to dust, literally. Not good for a chipmaking cleanroom! Couple years later, I ended up going through their BOM’s and stock lists to find that they had never purged them of valves and fittings with the wrong or-rings. :Facepalm

          Two companies later, a startup, I realize they have the exact same problem about to bite them with the seals on their laser system. Head of engineering doesn’t want to hear it. The engineer heading my group can’t get his attention. Ah, but when product failed at the end user, that got the fur flying.
          Why would people think that ignoring a problem would magically make it go away? The data sheet from the 0-ring supplier clearly stated it’s limitations. It’s not guesswork.

  9. I was in elementary school when this happened. Our entire class was walking down the hall to another room to watch the press coverage of the launch, because it was the “teacher in space” flight. Somebody intercepted our teacher and spoke with her quietly, then all of a sudden we were walking back to the classroom. About an hour later an announcement was made, and then it was all over the news that night.

    In high school, my friend Dan was the son of one of the STS-61C crew, the flight that went up just a few weeks before Challenger. Dan knew all those who died aboard Challenger, and their families. Dan’s father was lucky; those aboard Challenger were not.

    Tangent: Two of the other STS-61C crew went on to be head NASA, for Obama and then Biden. I’ve not been impressed.

  10. In the late 60’s, possibly early 70’s, there was an article in Readers Digest about a kid who had lots of recordings of data and voice transmissions from both US and Soviet capsules and satellites. He explained that he figured out the frequencies by calculating the size of the antennas from photos of the items prior to launch. He said that the freqs were never given to the public.
    he concluded that more Cosmonauts died than were admitted by the Soviets, some of which where launched without public notification. He had one recording that was given to a heart specialist without being told of it’s origin, who pronounced it a person in the process of dying. IIRC, he had recordings of a three person crew that died in orbit.

    Anyone have any info on that story? Some, but not all of those articles, were reprints from other sources, I think. I’m wondering if there was any attempt to confirm his data.

  11. Hey Old NFO;

    I was in basic at Fort Lost in the Woods in Misery (Fort Leonard Woods in Missouri) going to the aid station for ingrown toenails, I was issued a size 8 boot ( I wear a size 10), go figure. Well anyway I was at the aid station waiting for the Dr to see me and saw the explosion as it happened on TV, it was surreal almost. When I went back to my platoon, I passed the word.

  12. Yes, Richard Feynman was the key to the O-ring issue being made public. And the engineers eventually sued to get their reputations back… sigh…