I still remember that morning. I had just gotten off of a mid shift. I was on my bike and stopped at the Tripler gas station. The attendant asked me if I heard about the space shuttle Challenger. I thought he was referring to the launch, which was a routine event to me, and said yeah lift off this morning. He looked at me so intensely and said “no, it exploded after liftoff”.
I was stunned and in half disbelief. I got home and turned on the TV, and it was right there, live coverage. I remember being so tired from working all night, but I couldn’t go to sleep. I sat glued to the TV. I was horrified.
It was surreal. Something like this just could not happen. Could it? Did it? Why? And not to say one mission or crew should have more blessings than another, but why this mission/crew? The crew that had the first non-astronaut and teacher on-board (Christa McAuliffe), and the first astronaut of Hawaii origins (Ellison Onizuka). Why was this the fate of the attempted firsts?
As it turns out upon investigation, and the determined cause of the disaster, I suppose it was bound to happen. Something had to give with NASA’s ambitious mission schedules. It would take such a calamity to give NASA cause to pause, rethink and retool their safety program.
Thirty years ago. Many of us still remember that day…