Twenty-five years ago today, I was sitting at my desk in the offices of a major magazine. I was allowed to have a radio, which amazingly enough, worked in our office building. As I listened, a reporter announced the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger.
We were daring enough in those days to think a teacher could fly into space and conduct a science lesson from the space shuttle. Thousands of children across the country were tuned. But 73 seconds into the flight, something went wrong. Instead of a lesson in science, the children received a lesson in tragedy, as the shuttle disintegrated in the clear blue skies above Florida.
When I was young, I remember the Apollo 1 fire; I was young then, as those children were. I remembered John Glenn’s successful orbit around the earth. But this was different. The anniversary of that fire was yesterday.
The flight was planned to be the first manned mission of the Apollo manned lunar landing program, set to launch in February 1967. Its launch was precluded by a fatal fire on Jan. 27, which killed all three crew members (Command Pilot Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee), and destroyed the Command Module cabin. This occurred during a pre-launch test of the spacecraft on Launch Pad 34 at Cape Canaveral.
To this day, I still remember the fire and the three astronauts trapped in the command module. Death, especially by fire (or explosion) is a frightening scenario to young children. Sooner or later, they must become acquainted with the inevitability of death and both Apollo One and the Challenger served each of their young generations as that reminder.
NASA was undaunted by the fire and found a way to fix the problems that led to the deaths of the astronauts. We went on to land men on the moon, taking the first steps for mankind into a vast, unexplored frontier. Since then, though, we’ve become more timid.
After the Challenger explosion, eventually civilians were banned from taking the flights. The Socialists were always opposed to the space program. They insisted the money would be better spent on their social programs, feeding the poor, at the expense of the tax-paying public. Eventually, the government taxed and the unions bullied, all manufacturing right out of our country, creating even more people seeking “entitlements.”
Last year, Obama basically gutted the space program. Then in his State of the Union address this week, he had the nerve to cite the space race as an example of greatness – that we needed another “Sputnik moment.”
We will never have another “Sputnik moment” until we regain the courage to seek one. We couldn’t get past the Challenger accident as we did the Apollo One fire. Instead, we stop in our tracks, wring our hands, and wail, “Oh, we can’t. We mustn’t. It’s too dangerous. The risks, the dangers, the horrors.” If we’d had that attitude in the 19th Century, no one would have ever ridden a train or invented the automobile. Thousands of people died in railroad accidents, and deaths by auto are in the millions.
The bathroom installer is here today to put the tiles in shower/bathtub stall. He says that his daughter’s class all dressed in blue today to take a class photo in honor of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who died in the Challenger explosion, 15 years before they were born. They plan to send the photo to NASA. She was only 37 when she died. Even though I was a young adult on that day back in 1986, I was looking forward to seeing her lecture from space.
Thanks to the Liberal agenda, using timidity as an excuse to channel the funds for the space program over to their own wasteful programs, that class photo will not just be a memorial to Christa McAuliffe, but to the entire dream of exploring space.
Houston, we have a problem.