I did not forget that Friday was the 25th anniversary of the Challenger tragedy. I thought about writing something about it but I didn’t really know what I wanted to say. Still don’t. When I remember it, what I always think of was that an engineer warned NASA officials that it would not be a good idea to launch that day and that government officials are still ignoring the advice of engineers and other people who know more than they do. But that’s not the best thing to think about on an anniversary of this kind. Our thoughts should be about the people and what we lost. (such as our will to explore space)
That particular space mission was a big deal at a time when space missions had long since ceased to be a big deal. There were shuttle launches several times a year, I think, and they got maybe ten seconds of time on the evening news if they were even mentioned at all. But this one was supposed to re-kindle our enthusiasm for space. It was the first time an ordinary person – a teacher – would go into space. It was the first space mission to be televised live in years. What a cruel trick the universe (or fate, or whatever) played on us, that the disaster had to happen on that shuttle launch.
Since the end of the Apollo missions I have been hugely disappointed in the space program and obviously a lot of other people have been also. Space exploration ended decades ago. We peek out the window at space, afraid to walk through the door and go and truly explore it. We have so many practical things that came from the space program but to be a kid, glued to the TV, watching human beings walk on another planet, knowing that it is not fiction, that it is happening on the very day you are watching it – that is where dreams begin and dreams are the beginning of even more inventions, both great and practical. And I think merely having dreams, whether practical or not, makes us better people.