Monday, January 30, 2006


Reading many of the articles this week on the Challenger disaster has been really interesting. There is so much that has come out now that noone knew when it happened, including that the crew actually lived through the booster mishap.

I was 9 or so when it happened, and for some reason was home that day from school. As a devoted member of my school's "Young Astronauts Club", I was sitting in front of the TV watching for whatever coverage the networks were going to have. I remember watching the replays (according to the articles, most people did not see the disater live), which, of course, was replayed over and over.

I don't remember feeling horror or anything. This lack of reaction was likely a mix of my personality and just being nine years old. In fact, what I remember thinking was something similar to "OK, going into space is kinda dangerous". I was more interested in finding out why it happened so it didn't happen again.

Mom, though, was in the kitchen, I think making something to eat for us while watching the news. She was crying -- she has had the incredible opportunity to watch the entire world of space exploration unfold, and to see this disaster was pretty devastating, I imagine.

Afterwards, I think the teachers in our school were more horrified than the students. That week, school was a continuous therapy session. In art, we drew pictures of exploding shuttles. In social studies, we talked about how this disaster changed the world. In science, the month before we had been talking about the shuttle; now we were talking about 0-rings. In English, I remember having to write a poem on the Challenger, which, in my juvenile "I've had it" way I tried to title something horribly tasteless like "Lord of the O-Rings".

Despite my lack of sensitivity, I will say that for many of the kids my age, it was a significant changing point. Certainly this was the biggest disaster we had experienced, and it did make the point that the world is not always perfect.

By the way, make sure to read Richard Feynman's addendum to the Rogers Commission here. Feynman is in my opinion the best communicator of difficult technological subjects ever.

"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."~Richard Feynman

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