Memories of the Challenger

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I have a small recollection of the Challenger disaster. I was born in '82 and I was 3 years old when the shuttle exploded. I was in the kitchen with my mom when I was first introduced to the story. I heard the news report about the shuttle from the little back-and-white t.v. on our table. I heard the news anchors talk about the space shuttle and I saw brief footage of the Challenger and the explosion and the cloud of smke left behind. At first, since I was a three-year-old, I didn't get the magnitude of it. But when my mom and my dad sat down at the table, they exchanged sad words about it. They explained to me in simple language that there was an accident on the shuttle which had caused the people on board to die. I then was able to understand more of the gravity of the situation and I was sad that people had died. The Challenger explosion of '86 was one of my first childhood experiences with adult issues such as death, and I felt an uncomfortable and scary feeling that I would not feel again during my childhood until the 1991 Gulf War.

From: jon

I remember it like it was yesterday!! I was sitting in my 6th grade class at Pacific Beach Middle School in San Diego, CA. We were all very excited to watch as there was going to be a teacher aboard. We all waited for the TV to be turned on .... Our teacher (Ms. O'toole, now Mrs. Parker) turned on the TV and we all sat silent as we watched the space shuttle lift off....."Go with throttle up!" I remeber hearing the pilot say ....And then it happened 73 seconds into lift off the shuttle exploded!!!! Ww lost 7 heros that day and it, like Sept 11th, will be permenently etched in my mind. I am 28 now and I still cry when I think about it......GOD BLESS!!!

From: leanne

My memories of Challenger are not too much different from those I have just read. My BIG difference was I was an adult and very knowledgeable about the space program and extremely interested in space. I remember I was at work filing cards in the shelf list catalog. (I'm a librarian) We had a radio in Technical Services and the news flash came over that the shuttle had exploded. I remember going to my friend and crying all my dreams were gone. (I was hoping to go to graduate school to get my Masters degree in Library Science, and somehow get a job within NASA or space related industries) How insolent and self centered I had become. It didn't take me long to change my attitude. With the endless replays of the TV news broadcasts and all the newspapers covering the accident, it didn't take me long to think of the astronaut families and the whole NASA family, not to mention the family we all became all over the world. I still remember my friends words, they (NASA) will not let those seven brave souls die in vain. And you know they didn't. Let us all change the way we feel. NASA went on, so can we. Our memories will always be the same but the goals will have changed and improved. That's all we can hope for and strive to MAKE SO!! Remember the Challenger SEVEN. Remember what they stood for and meant to this country and the world. (Oh by the way, I did get my Master's and I did try for a job with NASA and space related libraries.) What is my point, NEVER GIVE UP HOPE!

From: Lisa Fortwangler

My name is Ryan McGee I am 15 years old. I was not around when the Challenger exploded. I love space exploration and everything about it. The Challenger incident was a horrible accident. I think about it very often. Wondering what the last few seconds of those seven astronauts lifes were like. Wondering what must have been going through their heads when they noticed something was wrong, if they even did. I have read everyone of their biographys and they were all wonderful people. God bless Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Judith Resnik, Gregory Jarvis, and Christa McAuliffe. May we never forget the Challenger.

From: Ryan McGee

I was in the Navy at the time, on the deck force, and was doing some work out on the ships fantail (the rear part of the ship) our LPO (Leading Petty Officer) came out and told us what happened, but I really don't think the shock came until we actually got a chance to see it on television, and watch the thing explode in mid-air. I always think of those poor kids who had to watch their teacher in that. I'll bet they're scarred for life after seeing that

From: David Packham

I was 3 when the Challenger exploded. I remember being at my day care center and my teacher gathering all of us together around the television to watch the event. We were all so excited that day, at that age you are fascinated with just about everything. As the shuttle took off we all clapped. Then the explosion. I remember all of us asking the teacher what happened. She could barely talk because she was so shocked by the events. I soon realized that what happened to the Challenger was very bad and began to cry. I didn't quite understand the severity of the situation, but I knew fire was not apart of the event. Soon everyone else began to cry. This was the end for me. I have never watched a single shuttle launch again.

From: Cheyenne

I was 20 years old and studying for a college exam. I remeber the news breaking in to the station I was watching. I saw the Challenger go up and I couldn't believe what happened. My heart broke for the crew and their families. They will never be forgotten.

From: Michele

I was eight years old and in second grade when the Challenger exploded. I remember my teacher telling my class and I that a high school teacher was going to be flying aboard the space shuttle. Although we were young, I think we sensed that it was an important time in history. The morning of the twenty-eighth began as usual and we lined up and walked into our room. But I noticed our teacher wasn't her normal, cheerful self. She had us sit in rows in the front of the room. She then said that the space shuttle that had been carrying the teacher and six other astronauts had exploded just after lift-off. All of the teachers had seen it on the staff room TV. I'll always remember that I was sitting in the last row on the left side with my back against a table leg. We began our lessons but there was a melancholiness all over the school. As I read about the astronauts in the months following the disaster, I was very inspired by their stories. For the past seventeen years, I have strived to achieve all that I could because some day, I would like to be an astronaut.

From: James Metzger

I remember the Challenger tragedy very clearly. I was in fifth grade at the time. I remember our teacher informed us of the wonderful event in which a teacher will be going up to space. It was the topic in class for days. We were all excited about the event. When the Challenger exploded, we were all in class and another teacher came in the classroom and in shock asked our teacher if she heard about what happened? She said no and then he informed her loud enough so we can all hear it. Some of my friends and I began crying. We were so felt by the experience. We felt so bad for the teacher and the her family. We didn't know much about the other people who were also going on the journey but we also felt for their families also. I got home that night and began watching the news over and over. The next day and during the entire week, we spoke about it and class and made essays about our feelings in regards to the tragedy. It is something that up until this day I haven't been able to forget.

From: Marlene

I remember that I was home sick that day and my Dad was home with me. I was 8 at the time I think, and I remember my dad telling me that they were going to show the shuttle launch on TV that day and that I should watch it cause it's an awesome sight, and I might not get many other chances to watch one. I hadn't seen a launch before and thought at first I didn't care much about it, the fact that my dad seemed to excited about it convinced me to watch it with him. I remember thinking that it was pretty cool to watch as the time ticked down to launch and how cool it looked watching it take off. My dad was talking the whole time about what was going on so I wouldn't be confused. When it exploded I didn't know what was going on, and my dad stopped talking for a minute, and then got extremely depressed and had to find a way to explain to me what had happened. I'll never forget how his emotions changed so abruptly, and how awful he must have felt. Not only did he have to deal with the grief of what had happened, but also the irony of having touted the launch as the supreme spectacle of what man is capable of, only to have it become the greatest tragedy of the 80's.

From: Jeremy Larsen

I was in sixth grade when the Challenger shuttle exploded. I was sitting in Social Studies watching the launch. I was stunned that they let the shuttle launch even though there was ice present on the shuttle. I cried when the shuttle exploded. My teacher gave us silent time to remember the crew of 7 who lost their lives.


I remember watching the shuttle launch in my 3rd grade class room. It was the first time a teacher, a civilian really, had ever gone into space, so it was a huge event. Schools all across the nation were watching. I get goose-bumps just thinking about it... The shuttle taking off and exploding before my 8 year old little eyes. We were all in shock, not really understanding what was going on. I remember crying, and being sent home. I never watched another shuttle launch until about 12 years later. My family and I were visiting Cape Kennedy and I just burst into tears when I read the monument to Christa and her fellow astronauts. I needed that visit for closure. It may sound odd, but I really needed it, much like those that watched the first man on the moon might need to see the actual launch desks in front of them that NASA has there. It was an indescribable moment that even this long bit can't express.

From: Sara Farmer

I was waiting for the shuttle to launch at the home of my (now ex) fiancee's family in western PA. Someone, I don't remember who wanted me to run downtown to the store for something, and I resisted saying I didn't want to miss the launch. My (ex) fiancee said they would probably cancel it again or put it on hold again and I probably had time. I went and came back fast as I could. As I walked through the door my fiancee greeted me with an "it blew up". I didn't know what he meant, or did and didn't believe him. As I watched replays and continuing coverage, it started to sink in. I remember feeling so saddened and devastated. I thought of the families who watched their loved ones launch...and then die. I thought of all the kids tuned in to watch the teacher go into space. Earlier today, I watched a movie based on the events leading to the launch...including the attempts by engineers to delay or stop the launch based on safety concerns. It brought me back to that time...and gave me a Hollywood glimpse at the events of the astronauts and their families. Later, I found myself explaining to a young friend about Challenger. She was born 6 months exactly before the tragedy....and didn't know a thing about it. I hope that those impacted by Challenger...the families, students, professionals and politicians learned from their sacrifice and bravery.

From: Kasey

I was a sophomore in high school.. it was lunch period, I was just paying for lunch, when somebody came in and said. "Did you hear the space shuttle exploded?" Strange days.

From: Matthew

I was 9 years old and in 3rd grade the day the Challenger blew up. Though I don't really remember much about it, I do remember the special they had on the TV show Punky Brewster. I remember sitting in the hall way watching the space shuttle take off. We watched it on a big screen with the old projector. I just couldn't believe what I was seeing.

From: Mary

I grew-up in a home near Vandenberg AFB (CA) in the '60s & 70's, where it seemed everybody's dad worked on some kind of missle. I felt proud of the successful launches, and subsequent comfort that the USA was safer because of our Space program, and how it aided our military. I also saw incredible explosions from necessary aborted missions. I was 10 when the Apollo 1 crew was killed in that terrible fire. Does anyone remember them? I was 30 years old on 1/28/86, home for lunch from working as a DMV clerk at an auto dealership, watching the pre-launch chatter. I was always nervous before these massive take-offs involving high pressure, fuel, and fire. As before, I thrilled at hearing the familiar countdown and drone of mission control; gigantic wooshing of surging flames, and the incredible energy of lift-off. I was running late getting back to work, so I locked the front door, dashed out to the truck, tuned on the radio...and heard the flat voice that there was an "obvious" problem. In those 30 seconds between my front door and the truck radio, the entire crew was gone. I was stunned. I couldn't talk about it when I got back to work. I knew missle explosions, and that there would be no survivors from that altitude. The staff chattered as though the crew had just gotten lost hiking, and maybe things would be OK. I wanted to scream. I saw that tape played countless times over the next few weeks. I still have the newsstand magazines with those amazing photos of bright blue sky and clouds of smoke. It is still very hard to talk about. I can't be objective, as though it is just a brief point in history. I was amazed by the virulent backlash regarding the press time that Astronaut McAuliffe got, in contrast to the attention paid to the personal lives of the other crew members. I wanted to reach-out and protect the family members, and write to them. Over the years, I have been relieved to read how they have somehow gone on with their lives It was a benchmark in my life, similar to the JFK assasination, and 9/11. I am 46 now, and remember that day like it was yesterday.

From: Paula Van Alstine-Alferness

I felt so sad when I read your story, Christa McAuliffe. I can't believe how brave you were. My school is called after your name. I will always remember you. I will always remember your motto. Ok see ya bye bye.

From: Jessica

I remember the explosion because it was the day after the American Music Awards and I had been taping it. The tape was still in the VCR and when I saw the liftoff was about to take place I decided to record it for my son, who at the time was very young. Little did I know that what I was taping would turn into a "major malfunction". I remember sitting watching intently and then something just didn't look right. I had seen one go up before and this was drastically different. Then the voice come over the TV. "Houston, we seem to have a major malfunction". It was indeed that and I was shocked that the announcement was so calm and matter of fact. God bless the souls that were lost somewhere in Space. They were taking the fast train to God weren't they? I still have that tape and watch it every year on January 28th.

From: Catherine

January 28, 1986 will always mean something to me. Not becuase I knew anyone on the shuttle or anyone in the space program for that matter. I will always remember it becuase I was driving to school on that day and I had the radio on. They broke in on some cool song I was listening to to tell the breaking news. I was shocked to say the least. I ran into my school (I was in Christian education, so the school was a one-room school with K-12 in the same room) and yelled "I'm sorry for talking, but turn on the TV" (You see, talking in class was a huge no-no). We all sat around the TV for the rest of the day mourning, gasping and crying at the loss.

From: Kymberley Peterson

I was at home and I remember Challenger/ I was 11 years old when I heard of the teacher Christa McAuliffe. It was a very sad day, 28 January 1986. I cried and cried. I told my mother, she was very sad and my dad was very sad too. I will remember the Challenger crew forever, especially teacher Christa McAuliffe. Rest in peace. I remember space shuttle Challenger from Henrik Koch from Sweden.

From: henrik koch

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