Has it really been 31 years since the Challenger shuttle exploded in mid-air? Seven lives were lost, the tragedy was caught live on TV, and Americans were shocked at the disaster that had taken place in front of their eyes.
Space launches had become so routine to most people by the time Challenger came around that it rarely caused much excitement. Indeed, on that fateful day of January 28, 1986, it was cold and wintry in rural North Carolina, just as it was cold at the site of the launch in Florida. At home with my one-year-old son, I remembered the NASA launch was taking place that morning so turned on the television to see how it was going.
TV cameras scanned the spectator stands at Cape Kennedy where family and friends of the astronauts watched, full of excitement in anticipation of the launch that included Christa McAuliffe who was there as part of the Teacher in Space project. Millions of children across the nation sat in classrooms watching and waiting for the launch with expectations of experiments and lessons during the journey from the teacher in space. One of those student was Brian Schoeneman who is now my Bearing Drift colleague (see Remembering the Challenger).