I was in seventh grade when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded after lift off in 1986. I was sitting on my life science class, just prior to the tardy bell ringing. Our teacher, Ms. Smith, a seemingly evil woman who had a strange charm to her as well, was not in the room.
The bell rang, and she came in a few seconds later. This was very uncharacteristic for her to be late. As she came in, she had a very serious look on her face. I can still see the expression on her face, and hear the tone of her voice.
"The Space Shuttle... blew up."
At first, what she said didn't make any sense. It was too illogical to comprehend. The Shuttle was the pride of American science, and it certainly wouldn't just "blow up." Five years earlier, in second grade, I watched with my classmates as the first shuttle launched. Like a lot of other kids at the time, I was in love with the space program.
I still have the local newspaper from the day after Challenger. I remember thinking at the time that there should be a renewed sense of purpose for the space program. There's something about space flight that captures the imagination, beyond the practical science experiments and thirst for knowledge. It's just something we need, to continue moving forward as a civilization.
Saturday morning, I stopped in to check CoasterBuzz to see how the new site was doing. That's when I saw the forum topic, "Space Shuttle Columbia EXPLODES!" The first reactions in my head were exactly the same as those I had in 1986. The difference this time was that, thanks to the Internet, I could immediately overload on information.
To say I was bummed out is an understatement. I mean, it doesn't have the impact that, say, 9/11 had, but the Space Shuttle was something very near and dear to me during my childhood. While I never followed that path to try and be an astronaut, I've always championed the program.
The data is coming in, and again the questions begin to mount. Regardless of the outcome, what hurts so much this time is that they were so close to being home.
My hope is that the program will continue, NASA will get the funding they need and the American space program can once again be a triumphant example of what we're capable of.
God bless and look after those we lost, and their families.