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Thursday, January 28, 2016

"Obviously a major malfunction."

"We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of Earth' to 'touch the face of God."  President Ronald Reagan, January 28, 1986



Where were you on January 28, 1986?

I was a young attorney, living in brownstone Brooklyn, working in lower Manhattan, and I'd just gotten engaged.

It was an ordinary day, until our law clerk came out of his office and announced what he had just heard on the radio:  the space shuttle launch had gone horribly wrong, the Challenger had exploded, and everyone aboard was presumed dead.

In that pre-Internet world, I had to wait until I got home that night to watch the replay of the video.

And I watched it.  And watched it.  And watched it.

The space program was a big thing when I was a child, I was 9 years old when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.  And I was too young to remember the Apollo 1 disaster -- the January 27, 1967 launch pad fire that took the lives of Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.   So until the Challenger disaster, our space program seemed invincible, our astronauts impervious to danger. By the time of the  Columbia accident, on February 1, 2003, I think we all knew how dangerous space travel really was, but in 1986 I think the idea of 7 astronauts dying on their mission shocked us all.

Hard to believe it's been 30 years. 

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