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25 years later, we still remember the Challenger victims

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It was the afternoon of my first pennance at the now defunct St. Patrick’s School in Woodbury, NJ.The Challenger Shuttle crew. Photo: http://www.seasky.org/spacexp/assets/challenger/51-l-crew.jpg

Our second grade class came back from lunch, and some of our teachers were visibly shaken and upset. They had told us that the Challenger space shuttle had just disintegrated, and all six astronauts along with school teacher Christa McAuliffe were killed.

Yeah, try soaking THAT in as a seven year-old.

They didn’t have a television in my school. After all, it was twenty five years ago. But to be honest, watching the replay of the Challenger disaster was bad enough knowing what was going to happen let alone watching it live and having no idea what was about to transpire. Oddly enough, my sister was home sick that day from school and saw the whole disaster unfold. That was 1986, and it’s still hard for her to fathom what actually happened that day..

I recall the hype surrounding the launch of the Challenger as McAuliffe was chosen from over 11,000 applicants to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space Program. McAuliffe made the rounds on all of the talk shows in the months leading up to the Challenger launch.The thought of losing your teacher to a tragedy like that is pretty horrific, and I’m sure every student McAuliffe touched remembers her on this tragic day.

Many questions surrounded the Challenger disaster, and a major controversy was sparked in regards to NASA and their operations. The Rogers Commission Report was launched in the wake of the disaster, and investigators came to the conclusion that there was a design flaw with the O-rings, which was one of the major factors of the shuttle malfunction. Moreover, it was revealed that the death of the seven aboard did not occur as a result of the shuttle disintegrating, but rather when the crew compartment made its violent contact with the ocean. As a result of this tragedy, NASA went back to the drawing board, reevaluating management and shuttle launch preparation. All NASA shuttle launches were put on hold for almost three years.

It was really too little too late. The damage had been done, and seven families lost people very dear to them.

So as we look back a quarter of a century later, take a moment to honor the seven members of the Challenger as well as their families. Although it’s been 25 years, they are forever heroes to this country and will never be forgotten.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com