In 1986 on this day, I was sick and stayed home from school.  I laid on my gran’s couch with a blanket over me and watching her old black and white television set.

I was not a big space race fan, but the launch of the challenger space shuttle was on tv, so we watched it. I think it was the fact that there was a techer on board who would be beaming a lesson live from space that had captured many people’s imaginations and drawn interest.

I remember thinking it was quite boring really, for such a big event, and I dozed for a while.  Nana woke me to see the actual launch ( I didn’t know she was as keen on watching it until then either)so we saw it together.

The flames and billowing smoke as ignition started and the man counted back from ten were massive, I couldn’t believe that the shuttle would still be under all that smoke!

Slowly though, the shuttle moved up from the stand and up into the air.  It looked quite exhilarating.

I had not watched a shuttle launch before, so I didn’t realise that the sparking that we saw at the base of the rocket was not a good sign.  Seconds later though, the whole rocket and shuttle was a fireball.

Nana and I sat in silence as we watched it burn up.  I think it took a few minutes to take in what was happening in front of us.  She worked it out before me, obviously (I was only 11 !!), and I remember her hand covering her mouth as she said a little prayer.

“It exploded.  Are they all dead?” I asked with childish interest.

She just nodded, then cleared her throat and said that it was too early to know, maybe they had ejector seats or something.

It was a time of James Bond and he had ejector seats in his cars so I remember thinking this was plausible !!

Of course we all know now that noone survived.  It is possible and from some reports quite likely that all 7 astronauts survived the initial explosion and the 2 minute or so fall into the sea.  The impact with the sea was at over 200 mph and there was no way they could have survived that, this was probably when they died, after freefalling thousands of feet through the air, possibly knowing their fate once they hit the water.  Their last moments of life must have been hellish.

Many schools, especially in the US, were allowing children to watch the launch because of the presence of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher.  So many children were witnesses to this tragedy as it happened.

I remember exactly where I was when watching it, as I have described.  Think how much it would have affected children who knew any of the people on board.

A dreadful tragedy, that could have been avoided, if you look into the causes.  Money was put ahead of safety.  It would cost too much to delay the launch yet again, and that decision cost 7 lives.

Was it really worth it?


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