Sunday, January 27, 2013

Remembering the Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia Crews

I was on the e-library waiting list for Jay Barbree's "Live from Cape Canaveral; Covering the Space Race, from Sputnik to Today" (published in 2007), and it arrived Friday.  As an NBC reporter, Barbree covered every mission flown by astronauts - he lived and breathed the space world, and it shows in his book. 

My own entry into the aerospace business was in 1965, working for Chrysler on the Saturn 1B program.  Many of my co-workers had come to Florida from Hamtramck, Michigan and received a bonus "swamp pay" for working in such an uncivilized place as Florida!  Those were fun days, and Barbree captures the spirit in his book.   But the fun stopped and the spirit changed on January 27, 1967.  I was sitting with co-workers in the legendary Mousetrap, THE watering hole of the day, when we got word of  the Apollo 1 fire that occurred during a Countdown Demonstration Test (aka "plugs out" test) and the deaths of astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee. 

January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, and we lost seven astronauts:  Michael Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnik.

And our third sad anniversary comes February 1, when we remember Space Shuttle Columbia's disintegration during its return over Texas in 2003.  Astronauts Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Ilan Ramon, and Laurel Clark died.

So starting today, we have three sad anniversaries in six days.  These were remarkable pioneers and adventurers.  I'm glad the book arrived when it did, as it has given me a small insight into the real people in these pictures.  R.I.P.

(Photos courtesy of NASA)