Share your space shuttle memories

As NASA officials prepared for the final space shuttle launch, it brought back memories of Jan. 28, 1986, when the Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff, killing all seven crew members — including the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe.

Those were the days when wire service news came over printers, and the Reuters machine was right next to my desk. The alert bell on the machine rang multiple times, indicating something important had happened.

I read aloud the one-line alert — that the space shuttle had exploded after takeoff. It took a moment to process that information. Then, as a chill came over me, I and other CNS staffers headed toward the TV to watch the trail of white cloud.

Do you have memories of a space shuttle –Columbia, Challenger, Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavour? Have you ever been to a launch or re-entry? What are your thoughts about the end of this era?

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5 Responses to Share your space shuttle memories

  1. reviewgunty says:

    I’m a little wistful today, as I watch media coverage of the final launch of the space program. As a college journalist, I covered the very first shuttle launch, STS-1, April 12, 1981.

    I had followed the shuttle program all through high school and college, and as the launch date came closer, I realized I really wanted to be there for this historic occasion. I called NASA PR in Florida and learned how to get media credentials. I convinced our editor, also our best photographer, that we should make a road trip. We convinced our school advisers that the trip was worthwhile. And we talked my parents into loaning us a car. We rented camera equipment and were on our way within a day.

    We arrived in Florida the night before the scheduled launch and were met with a long line of traffic. Stuck outside the media gate, we nearly missed the launch, until it was scrubbed because of a mechanical problem. With the two-day delay, we picked up our credentials, found a hotel room 60 miles away, and then came back the night before the launch, spending the night on the ground in the press area.

    As the shuttle lifted off, we witnessed history. We could not only hear the rumble of the powerful engines, we could feel it in the ground.

    To read more and see some photos, see:

  2. towalskij says:

    The Challenger disaster is what sticks with me as well. I was a senior in high school and I remember my computer teacher wheeling a TV into the classroom so we could watch the news coverage. I was the editor of my school’s newspaper at the time and wrote an editorial commemorating the lives of the lost astronauts and stressing the importance of continuing the space program.

  3. Craig says:

    Not to focus too much on the darker days of the program, but the Challenger story hits home for me.

    My 11th-grade Science teacher –I’ve forgotten her name – was a runner-up to join the crew. If I recall correctly, it was the first mission to include a teacher. The finalists for this honor all spent time together, so she got to know the lady who DID make it – forgot HER name as well!

    Anyways, our teacher stayed at the launch site to see takeoff. I’ll never forget hearing the news for the first time – during lunch in the cafeteria. I’m sure all of my classmates were thinking the same thing – it could’ve been OUR teacher up there.

    Certainly a dark hour in the history of NASA. A painful reminder of the dangers of space travel.

    Overall, I do believe the Shuttle program was a success. I think sometimes we remember the bad experiences more clearly. (Wasn’t the shuttle used to repair the Hubble telescope?)

  4. Jim says:

    WHAT ON EARTH DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH THE CHURCH AND ITS MISSION? In this time when the Obama adminestration is attacking the consciences of Catholic pharmacists. In this time when the family is in collapse with 41 percent of kids born to single mothers and that rate exceeding 60 percent on the black community and the related impact on child poverty you’d think these things would warrent some attention. Instead there is a focus on things which have very little impact on our culture and the demise of Christian values.

  5. Tony Spence says:

    The reach to the stars has everything to do with the church and its mission, as do all activities of humanity. Last May, Pope Benedict made a phone call to the astronauts aboard the International Space Station when the Endeavor traveled there (captained by Mark Kelly, a Catholic). He talked with the astronauts about how their experiences in space informed their view of the world, its people and the Creator. They seemed to find a good connection. I think the story inspired Catholics around the world.

    On a more mundane note, the U.S. space program has provided a living for thousands of Catholic families and others that have supported hundreds of Catholic parishes and institutions in Florida, Texas, California, Washington and around the globe.

    Jim, I guess the short answer is “quite a lot.”

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