Thursday, January 26, 2006

Remembering the Challenger

Twenty years ago, I had just finished filling the gas tank in the old Chevrolet Caprice I used to drive, and, when I got back into the car, I turned on the radio. Instead of music, I heard the DJ announcing that the space shuttle Challenger had just been destroyed in a horrific accident. I drove home as fast as I could and turned on the television. Sure enough, every station was carrying footage of the tragedy, and they were playing it over and over again.

I was stunned. The destruction of the Challenger and the loss of the astronauts was horrible, and I knew that this incident would set back the space program significantly (the next shuttle did not fly until September 1988). But I think that we need to keep exploring space. We should be careful, but not overly cautious to the point where we never get off this planet. Accidents do happen, and they are tragic. But it shouldn't take almost three years for us to figure out what happened and to work the courage up to launch astronauts once again.

This piece from James Oberg has some chilling and eye-opening information about the Challenger disaster. If you think you remember that day well, you should read this. You just might learn something.

Oberg's closing quote: "The disaster need never have happened if managers and workers had clung to known principles of safely operating on the edge of extreme hazards — nothing was learned by the disaster that hadn’t already been learned, and then forgotten."

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