Friday, January 30, 2009

We Remember Apollo, Challenger, and Columbia

If you're a veteran of the aerospace industry, as I am, the end of January/beginning of February brings memories of the disasters that have been a part of our amazing exploration of space. What memories do you have of these events?

I was working for Chrysler Corporation in 1967, and on January 27, some co-workers and I were at The Mousetrap, a well-known watering hole in Cocoa Beach, when we heard the news of the fire in Apollo 1 cabin during a count-down demonstration test on Launch Complex 34. We lost Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee that day.

Challenger broke apart 73 seconds after liftoff on January 28, 1986. I was working at Martin-Marietta in Orlando, and we were watching from windows in the tallest building in the complex when the convoluted smoke trail signaled something was terribly wrong. Dick Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Ronald McNair, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnik lost their lives.

If you live along the Space Coast, you wait for the twin sonic booms that precede a shuttle landing. February 1, 2003, those booms never came. Columbia disintegrated over Texas during re-entry, and crew members Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, Ilan Ramon, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, and Laurel Clark died.

NASA's Day of Remembrance was yesterday, January 29, and I hope you'll take time to visit their tribute page.

I lifted this photo (be sure to enlarge it) from the NASA web site, a veritable treasure trove of history and information. This quote is from President Obama's message.

Today, we pause to reflect on those moments in exploration when things did not go as expected and we lost brave pioneers. But what sets us apart as Americans is our willingness to get up again and push the frontiers even further with an even stronger commitment and sense of purpose.On this Day of Remembrance, we remember the sacrifices of those who dared to dream and gave everything for the cause of exploration. We honor them with our ongoing commitment to excellence and an unwavering determination to continue the journey on the path to the future.


DickD said...


Thank you for remembering. Those were the very good years and times. All of us in the Space Programs had purpose and pride. The Country did too.

James Baldwin (1924-1987) said in part " . . . History is not a procession of illustrious people. It's what happens to a people . . ."


Cactus Jack Splash said...

Thanks for this reminder. I hope that we never forgt them.

Florida Beach Basics said...

Dick and Cactus Jack - thanks! Indeed, the early days in the space business were exciting times. Nice quote, Dick.