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Challenger 25 Years Later

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the burned-in-my-mind dept.

NASA 236

25 years ago, I peered inside through the playground window of my school. I was never particularly interested in being outside, and there was a shuttle launch on the library TV! The images of what I saw that day will stick with me forever. I didn't know what it really was I saw; I just made jokes. It's still how I deal. But I think I'm a bit wiser today, having maybe learned that the bleeding edge is sometimes literal. The technology we take for granted descends directly from the people willing to do what we never could. Thanks to the crew of Challenger, Columbia and Apollo 1.

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Too soon? (0)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034242)

To be honest, my memory if it is actually a funny one. I remember chuckling at the guy still reading the telemetry data as if nothing had gone wrong after it blew up. I remember thinking "Hey asshole, you might want to look at your monitor." And even when he did realize something had gone wrong, I remember him calling it something like a "major malfunction." Yeah, major malfunction, no shit.

Re:Too soon? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034294)

But I think I'm a bit wiser today, having maybe learned that the bleeding edge is sometimes literal

Grammatically, your sentence makes no sense. Also, your statement is weak. So, I know that bleeding is associated with death, but please don't make such a stupid association when you're going to bring up Apollo 1. Believe me: those boys didn't bleed. In the Challenger incident, there's a strong chance that no one bled.
 
Taco, I hate to say this, but you are a really poor writer and should really consider having someone else write your stuff.
 
And while I'm on it, "Subscribers can see articles in the future" is an INCREDIBLY stupid-sounding statement.

Mod parent up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034492)

Yeah, I totally agree. cmdrtaco kinda sucks at writing, but what are you going to do about it? :)

Mod parent up (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35035216)

Mod parent up

Re:Too soon? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034316)

Every single person in a mission control facility is trained to deal with disaster. And part of that training is... don't stop doing your job.

That telemetry data that he sits there and reads off "like an asshole" is actually quite invaluable data from a post-failure analysis point of view. He wouldn't be helping any if he were to stop reading the data and scream "Oh, the humanity!". He'd just be making noise and contributing to an already chaotic environment.

Re:Too soon? (0, Flamebait)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034678)

Ah...I remember that year.

NASA == Need Another Seven Astronauts

Re:Too soon? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35035006)

How do they know Christie McAlliff used dandruff shampoo?

They found her Head and Shoulders on the beach. /feels bad.

Re:Too soon? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034704)

That telemetry data that he sits there and reads off "like an asshole" is actually quite invaluable data from a post-failure analysis point of view.

And they record this valuable data by getting some asshole to read it into a microphone? Please.

Stoicism Sometimes a Necessity (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034320)

To be honest, my memory if it is actually a funny one. I remember chuckling at the guy still reading the telemetry data as if nothing had gone wrong after it blew up. I remember thinking "Hey asshole, you might want to look at your monitor." And even when he did realize something had gone wrong, I remember him calling it something like a "major malfunction." Yeah, major malfunction, no shit.

In his defense, there's not a lot of room for emotion in that line of work. And said emotion often leads to inefficiencies. Imagine what sort of data might have been missed had he exploded in tears and rushed out of the room. While information is still coming in, remaining stoic is probably the optimal course of action for such a position.

Re:Stoicism Sometimes a Necessity (3, Insightful)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034726)

and clamping emotion down has sold probably thousands of gallons of Jack Daniels.

Re:Stoicism Sometimes a Necessity (1)

ewhenn (647989) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035454)

This above post is rated +1 economy.

Re:Too soon? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034340)

I was watching tv that day. I knew there was a shuttle launch and I was watching that instead of cartoons because I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. This is one of the only memories that I still have from my childhood.

Re:Too soon? (2)

arth1 (260657) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034644)

Did you become an astronaut?
Or at least maintain a great interest in the subject?

My own reaction was how awful it is that everybody focused on the female school teacher, and not the six others that died.
And then it was all about "who can we blame for this", and not "what can we learn from this".

Yes, it was a valuable lesson in the shallowness of fellow man in general, and US media in particular.

Re:Too soon? (2)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034730)

My own reaction was how awful it is that everybody focused on the female school teacher, and not the six others that died.

Fully trained astronauts who have devoted their career to getting into space understand and accept the risks associated with their line of work, she was a school teacher who had "gotten lucky" to get on that flight. The great reversal of fortune combined with the fact that she was not a career astronaut made it in some sense a greater tragedy and in addition a better story for the media.

Re:Too soon? (2)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034850)

Ummm no it didn't when this was a complete PR stunt. Interest in shuttle launches had be waning for years.

This was an accident that did not had to happen as the late great Physicist Richard Feynman point out.

NASA has a history of taking chances with people's lives.

Re:Too soon? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035192)

No. Not an astronaut. I still appreciate astronomy and physics and have written some tangentially related software for the USAF, but that is about it.

Re:Too soon? (1)

SydShamino (547793) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034710)

I wasn't born when JFK died or when we landed on the moon, but I know where I was when the Challenger blew up. I was in third grade math class. The fifth grade science class at the end of the hall was watching the launch, and their teacher came into our class room, spoke briefly with our teacher, then said "The Challenger exploded. It just - blew up." I think after that he moved on to the next room, but I don't recall what else much, if anything, happened for the rest of the class.

Re:Too soon? (3, Insightful)

mark72005 (1233572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034598)

Major malfunction is just NASA-speak.

The guy was struggling with what to say. I think the quote was something like "umm... obviously, a major malfunction".

What do you expect someone to say in that situation?

Re:Too soon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034874)

The proper term is off-nominal super contingency.

Re:Too soon? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034928)

Yeah people who do their jobs suck.

Re:Too soon? (3, Informative)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035020)

From working with telemetry data myself the data has a lag that can be a few seconds long from when it is received to when it is displayed. Control systems on the vehicle work in real time of course. That guy was probably just looking at the data as it was still rolling in and was trained to not let his attention stray from it.

Re:Too soon? (2)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035040)

The guy was watching telemetry data, not watching the rocket. For example:
Altitude Downrange Velocity
09,124 0345 0734
10,097 0390 0810
10,582 0424 1027
11,M$@ 000 0000
00,000 0000 0000
00,000 0000 0000


Of course he's going to call out that there is a malfunction. All his telemetry is dead.

Speaking of major malfunctions, I guess the TT tags are no longer working

Re:Too soon? (3, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035102)

When I watched it live, being as young as I was (2nd or 3rd grade IIRC), I was in too much shock to really register what he was saying or how he was saying it. I was just staring at the screen while my space-obsessed brain tried to make sense of what had just happened. I probably sat there just staring for several minutes while they replayed it over and over again.

When I've watched it in later years, though, I'm most struck by his professionalism and commitment to his job. This guy had to know his voice was being broadcast around the world, and that this was the most watched shuttle launch in years (possibly ever). He was probably himself just realizing from the data (I'm not sure he even had the video feed available to him at the time) that something horrible had just happened, and people he probably knew and worked with had likely just died. Through all that, he kept a measured tone and suppressed whatever emotion he might have been feeling. His calm monotone and understated assessment of the situation was the perfect backdrop to the utter shock everyone was feeling at that moment. Having that guy panic or lose his shit would have made the whole thing much much worse.

Re:Too soon? (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035408)

Well said.

I was in college, working in the robotics lab. Within a few minutes there was a lot of speculation flying around Usenet. I wonder now whether any of it was on the right track.

I remember... (4, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034326)

I was in grade school... home from the day for some reason (sick maybe?) and I was watching cartoons on the local CBS/NBC affiliate. Then they cut in with the shuttle launch. KABOOM. My parents weren't home. I just sat there watching the news for hours on end. It was the first time I was ever interested in what was on the news. By the time my parents got home I knew more about space shuttles than any grade school student should ever know.

Re:I remember... (1)

Xserv (909355) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034442)

Similar scenario for me. I was home sick from school with my mom and my dad was on deployment in the Mediterranean Sea. I remember there was a lot of talk at school about it since there was a teacher on board. I, too, was a shocked child that day and knew phrases like "SRB separation" and knew what "SRB" stood for.

It was a very sad day for us and the space program.

Re:I remember... (3, Interesting)

galactic-ac (1197151) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035162)

I was in grade school... home from the day for some reason (sick maybe?)

I was also home sick that day, from first grade. I had become very interested in the space program and it was the first time I would see a shuttle launch on television. Actually, I don't recall seeing another until at least my teenage years. Watched on the television in my parents bedroom, and couldn't think of what to do when it exploded. I went downstairs and told my mother, and she in turn could not think of what to say back to me. It remains one of the most vivid memories of childhood.

Re:I remember... (1)

Limburgher (523006) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035590)

So was I. I was upstairs, messing around with one of my telescopes, and my mom called up to me that I needed to get down there right away. I came down, saw the TV, and like Charliemopps, I watched the news the rest of the day. What I remember most are two things. One, how they played the tape of the launch and explosion over. . .and over. . .and over. . . Two, that I still wanted to be an astronaut. Didn't happen of course, but even at age 8 I understood that risk was a part of space exploration. I need to get on explaining that to my kids, since at least my daughter, and to a lesser extend my son, want to be astronauts, which scares the living shit out of their mother.

No dieing to push the envelope. Plain old go fever (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034330)

This was a waste of perfectly good life. Not a race to push technology to new limits.

Like Columbia, this was an example of short-cutting and not listening to nay-sayer engineers who turned out to be correct. And simply not following the safety rules that NASA itself established.

Re:No dieing to push the envelope. Plain old go fe (4, Insightful)

mark72005 (1233572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034624)

It's an example of a culture of remarkable achievement that had become susceptible to groupthink after a while.

Re:No dieing to push the envelope. Plain old go fe (5, Informative)

gknoy (899301) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034648)

It wasn't even completely that. I read a fascinating excerpt of a book by Edward Tufte in college that basically showed that the engineers HAD the data, but it wasn't compiled in a way that clearnly said to any reader, "hey dumbass, nothing below this temperature is likely to be remotely safe".

A quick summary: http://www.asktog.com/books/challengerExerpt.html [asktog.com]
The book: Visual Explanations: Images and Quantities, Evidence and Narrative ( http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/books_visex [edwardtufte.com] ) by Edward Tufte
Excerpt: Visual and Statistical Thinking ( http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/books_textb [edwardtufte.com] ) by Edward Tufte. (This is what I read in college. It's a reprint of chapter 2 of the aforementioned book. It was amazing.)

Re:No dieing to push the envelope. Plain old go fe (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034888)

And yet Richard Feynman demonstrated that fact simply by placing an O ring into a cup with ice in it.

Re:No dieing to push the envelope. Plain old go fe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35035200)

Ok, but Feynman should never be compared to any other human being. His ability to make the most complicated things simple was absolutely unique.

Re:No dieing to push the envelope. Plain old go fe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35035502)

It wasn't even completely that. I read a fascinating excerpt of a book by Edward Tufte in college that basically showed that the engineers HAD the data, but it wasn't compiled in a way that clearnly said to any reader, "hey dumbass, nothing below this temperature is likely to be remotely safe"

Well, in a few thousand years, thanks to the glory of the internet - there might be someone to look back at your dribble and write a book going "this dumbass was a dumbass - but he never had the overwhelming gift of hindsight in place to see the idiocy of his own words".

Hell of a Thing (4, Informative)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034332)

It's a hell of a thing watching people die on live T.V.

Re:Hell of a Thing (5, Insightful)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034580)

At least with Challenger it was still slightly abstract. You knew there were people on that machine, but you couldn't see them. Now watching people jumping to their deaths from the WTC... that was... magnitudes more visceral.

Re:Hell of a Thing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034748)

Try watching someone crash at an airshow only a few hundred yards away from you.

Re:Hell of a Thing (3, Insightful)

Five Bucks! (769277) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034834)

Only last year, during the Vancouver Olympics, I saw the most disturbing footage ever.

Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed in a luge run when his sled flew out of a corner and he crashed into a steel support girder. The reverberant *thwangggggggg* followed by no movement and otherwise complete silence is the stuff of nightmares.

And people freak out about a nipple.

Re:Hell of a Thing (1)

RockoTDF (1042780) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035038)

My dad was an air force pilot, and I used to watch a lot of crash tapes growing up. I'm totally %100 desensitized to watching planes crash and not seeing a chute or an ejection. Yet that luge crash really fucking upset me.

Re:Hell of a Thing (1, Funny)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035098)

Well, better see people die then a female nipple. Right?

I Read the First Joke Within 4 Hours (2, Funny)

Petersko (564140) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034370)

It was on a Commodore 64, connected to a local BBS.

"What were the last words spoken on the shuttle? Okay, fine. Let the bitch drive."

Followed closely by:

"You hear Christa McAuliffe had dandruff? Yeah - they found her head and shoulders on the beach."

Re:I Read the First Joke Within 4 Hours (2)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034462)

I heard the first joke about it within two hours of the event. "They thought they found part of the black astronaut, but it was just the radiator tube from a '57 Chevy."

Re:I Read the First Joke Within 4 Hours (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034520)

Still isn't funny.

Re:I Read the First Joke Within 4 Hours (4, Funny)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034558)

The one I heard was "Christa McAuliffe had blue eyes... one blew west, and the other blew east." Pretty bad, really. Oh, and "What's NASA stand for" Need Another Seven Astronauts!" Sigh...

Re:I Read the First Joke Within 4 Hours (3, Funny)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034642)

Hey, I *still* tell Challenger jokes. I am totally the life of every party!

Q: What were Crista McAuliffe's last words to her hustband?
A: Okay, honey - you water the plants, I'll feed the fish

Re:I Read the First Joke Within 4 Hours (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034770)

Q: Where do NASA astronauts take their holidays?

A: All over Florida

Re:I Read the First Joke Within 4 Hours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034728)

Someone quiped while the parts were still falling,

"NASA acronym apparently now on stands for: Need Again Seven Astronauts."

Re:I Read the First Joke Within 4 Hours (1)

tm2b (42473) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034760)

"No, BUD Light!"

Re:I Read the First Joke Within 4 Hours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35035336)

Why did NASA switch to Sprite? Because they couldn't get 7-UP

Re:I Read the First Joke Within 4 Hours (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35035370)

How many elephants can you fit in a Volkswagon?
Four. Two in the front seat, two in the back seat.

How many astronauts can you fit in a Volkswagon?
Eleven. Two in the front seat, two in the back seat, seven in the ashtray.

I was in school in NH... (2)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034390)

I still recall it very clearly, almost like it happened only a year or two ago. I was a senior in high school at a private school up in New Hampshire, which is probably part of the reason why I recall it so well. I had a free period so I was relaxing in my room just before heading down to the cafeteria for lunch. My friend came in and told me the shuttle had blown up so we listened to the radio for a little while before going to lunch. When I got to the school cafeteria the woman serving the food apparently saw I was distressed and asked if I was ok. I mumbled that the space shuttle had blown up. She just laughed and said something like "yeah, right". I was so incensed by her reaction that I stared right back at her and practically yelled at her, "Turn on a radio if you have one around here" then went out to eat my lunch. About 15 minutes later I went back for seconds. This time when she saw me all she said was "I'm so sorry" and I could hear they had a radio on in the kitchen. Most of the rest of the afternoon most of the students were hanging out in a large auditorium where they had a projection TV running the news. The teachers pretty much let anybody stay there if they wanted rather than going to class the rest of the day.

Re:I was in school in NH... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034600)

My mother had a similar incident witht the Kennedy assassination in '63. "Stop saying such crazy things" they told her

Re:I was in school in NH... (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034702)

I got to watch it live in my elementary school auditorium. I still tear up if I think about the Challenger for too long.

Re:I was in school in NH... (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034824)

I had a similar experience. I left the office to go to lunch, and when I started the car, the radio was talking about the shuttle blowing up. I went back inside and reported this, and the boss lady says, "What kind of asshole makes jokes like that?" I told her to turn the TV on, and I would wait for her apology. Well, I sort of snarled it at her. I don't remember getting an apology, and I left the place a couple months later.

Why I'll never forget (5, Interesting)

grapeape (137008) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034400)

I was living in Orlando at the time. I can remember going outside to watch the launch. All the neighbors did it, shuttle launches in my neighborhood were like tailgating is for sports in other towns. It was of course obvious something wasn't right but to most of us watching we thought one of the canisters simply dropped early. A few minutes into the launch one of the neighbors came running out of the house screaming that it blew up...I just remember a lot of screaming and crying., the shuttle was something Floridian's have a sense or pride and ownership with, its something that others identify the state with. The shock and grief pretty much killed my neighborhoods enthusiasm for launch parties, perhaps its superstitious but the rest of the time I lived there no one I knew made a point of watching launches again it was just too painful. The only lauch I personally watched live after that was when my father had been invited to watch from one of the observation decks on base, we were both extremely nervous the whole time, but it was rather healing when the launch went off without a hitch.

Re:Why I'll never forget (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034786)

I was about 14 and home sick from school, and watched it from my backyard which was about 25 miles from the launch pad (that's actually quite close, it's hard to comprehend the scale if you haven't seen it in person). A very sad day.

Between classes (1)

Imabug (2259) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034464)

I was switching between classes when I heard a friend of mine say the shuttle just blew up. I thought he was just bull-shitting and went on with my day. Then I got home from school and saw all the news coverage. It was a sad day after that.

Re:Between classes (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034750)

I was at work, and someone told me that the shuttle had blown.

My reaction to him was literally that. "You're shitting me, right?"

We put a radio on in the lab (in violation of all our security regulations) and pretty much no work got done that day.

repost from FB (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034482)

I was in 9th grade. I remember being in algebra class and one of the kids had brought in a ham radio. The teacher let us listen to the Challenger lifting off. Once it was in the air, she had him turn it off. It wasn't until next period when I I learned what had happened. After that, all of the classrooms that day had CNN on (first time I remember watching that network). Very surreal day for me.

Re:repost from FB (1)

RudeIota (1131331) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034942)

one of the kids had brought in a ham radio

Mmmm, a radio made entirely of ham. How I yearn for the old days.

Re:repost from FB (1)

suso (153703) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035556)

After that, all of the classrooms that day had CNN on (first time I remember watching that network).

That was actually the watershed event that brought CNN from another cable channel trying to make it in the 80s to become a staple of American life. They happened to be the only news crew covering the event live other than NASA TV.

Favorite joke (0)

snsh (968808) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034502)

Q: What does NASA stand for?

A: Need another seven astronauts.

Re:Favorite joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034634)

Q: What does NASA stand for?

A: Need another seven astronauts.

Not another stupid accident

Can't help myself (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034518)

I'm sorry but I just can't help myself. It never really sat well with me when people abuse the dead for some ulterior motive. I feel like I have to make a circle jerk joke and comment on the petty patriotism this teary-eyed "honour the fallen" pathos is supposed to evoke.

So here I go: Everybody sit around the flag and have a jolly good time fappin' away y'all!

Our generations JFK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034522)

I recall where I was by virtue of the fact that I didn't know about it right away. I was walking to my friend's house after school, probably to play legos. When he told me the shuttle had blown up, I thought he was trying to kid me until I saw the news clip of the explosion.

"Roger, go at throttle up."

Why can't they listen to the engineers?

Re:Our generations JFK (0)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034826)

Strange twist of fate that, having the first teacher in space on it and it blowing up. Almost like the universe wanted to ensure all the kiddies were watching to be traumatized.

Slow Down Cowboy! Slashdot requires you to wait between each successful posting of a comment to allow everyone a fair chance at posting a comment. It's been 36 minutes since you last successfully posted a comment Chances are, you're behind a firewall or proxy, or clicked the Back button to accidentally reuse a form. Please try again. If the problem persists, and all other options have been tried, contact the site administrator.

eat a bag of dicks, slashcode

10th grade English class when I heard the news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034554)

I was 16. It was the last class before lunch. Houston time zone.

An office aide came to each class and gave us the news.

During lunch they set up TVs in some of the classrooms so we could watch the replays.

It was my generation's Kennedy assassination and 9/11.

I was at school in FL (2)

trybywrench (584843) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034590)

I was at school in Port Orange (small town next to Daytona Beach). We could see it from the playground, they sent us all home. All the teachers were crying, got home, parents had come home from work and they were crying. It was pretty surreal for an elementary school kid.

I distinctly remember the SRB's winding down from the explosion.

Oddly enough, I am now living in Dallas which wasn't far from ground zero for the Columbia breakup. I remember hearing it thinking it was thunder, it was early enough in the morning that I was half asleep and didn't think it odd to hear thunder on a clear day. My sister called me to tell me to turn on the television. A buddy of mine was a brand new journalist in Tyler/Longview and covered much of the disaster. I think one of his stores or photographs was picked up by the NYT.

Re:I was at school in FL (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035548)

Most of the posters seem to use "blew up", which is vague enough... but not you / "explosion" isn't! ;) (what looked like one was actually mostly burning of dumped fuel _behind_ the disintegrating stack - which was being shred to pieces mostly via aerodynamic forces)

My whole school was watching (1)

Aerynvala (1109505) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034666)

I was in a little private school and there was one class per grade, so each class went into a room to watch it on television. It was such a big deal to have a teacher going up into space that even the backwards Christian school I was in wanted kids to see it.

So that sucked. We all just sat there going from awe to horror and then we had to go back and try to do school work. Absolutely awful.

Re:My whole school was watching (1)

chimpo13 (471212) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035414)

I was at a Jesuit high school. It's the 80s and all so we sat around waiting for the USSR to nuke us. They got someone (can't remember if it was the principal or a brother) on the speaker and did an announcement about how sometimes men don't understand technology and they go too far. It went on for a few minutes without saying what happened. Me, and a few other people, figured it was nuke time. Then they said the shuttle blew up. I laughed and so did a few of my friends. It sucked, but the death of seven you don't know is much nicer than the death of you and everyone you know. Other students were "fuck you, that's not funny" but no point in explaining why we laughed. Like war movies when a soldier walks past a dead soldier, laughs, and says "poor bastard". It sucks, but better him than you.

Re:My whole school was watching (1)

joggle (594025) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035570)

Similar experience for me. NASA had made an extra effort to get kids to be excited about space and the shuttle mission, so schools around the country tuned in to watch the launch live, especially first and second graders. It was the first time I had ever seen a shuttle launch live, although I had seen recorded launches on the news before.

I was in first grade and remember when the shuttle blew up, we (the kids) weren't sure what happened. We asked our teacher, but she teared up and turned the TV off. I can't remember what she said, but it was the only time I ever saw a teacher cry (a really nice, old country lady) and that stands out to me at least as much as seeing the shuttle explode.

reality has to take precedence over PR (1)

kubitus (927806) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034672)

this is what R.P. Feynman wrote in the appendix of the Challenger commission report.

He threatened to leave officially the commission if they would not publish it.

He demonstrated the know weakness of the booster seals by immersing it in ice-water in fronty of the TV cameras.

And Apollo 1 - it was know that pure oxygen is a big risc - aks any welder.

So far for the sake of ignorance they paid dearly with their lives.

And Russian Kosmonauts too!

JFK moment (0)

DynamoJoe (879038) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034674)

I've heard the Challenger disaster referred to as my generation's JFK moment: you will always remember what you were doing when you heard the news. I was living in Ocala at the time and it was routine for students to beg to be let outside to see the shuttle go up. Even though this was launch #25, we got a reprieve from 8th grade algebra to watch (thanks, Ms Donnelly!). I remember saying to myself "It's not supposed to do that" when the thrust column forked. We spent the rest of the day watching TV coverage and aside from the tragedy, it amazed me how fast they got the evening news guys in front of a camera.

Re:JFK moment (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035238)

I guess I'm just a couple of years older than you (based on the grade you were in when the event happened), but I think of that as the second JFK moment of my generation. The first was the assassination of John Lennon. I remember being on the bus home from 6th grade, and I thought the person telling me was joking. My grandfather had died a year earlier, and to be honest, hearing John Lennon had been shot was much, much more shocking to me.

From a maintainer's perspective . . . (4, Insightful)

TheReij (1641099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034716)

this is my worst nightmare: something that I performed work on malfunctions and lives are lost. Mishaps occur. Sometimes, it is preventable. Sometimes, there is no amount of planning/engineering/contingencies that will allow for recovery. The amount of second-guessing and contemplation of "what could I have done?" can't be described in a number that I know of.

An earlier comment talked about remaining stoic at mission/launch control. It's the same for the knuckle-draggers on the ground as well. If anything, those directly involved with the launch have the hardest job. I personally don't think that I could have handled something like this the way that they did, so for that, I salute them and only hope that I can be half as awesome as they were on that day.

Re:From a maintainer's perspective . . . (-1, Troll)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034970)

WTF?

Seriously, shit happens? Dude it's been well documented that the O rings lose their elasticity when subjected to cold temperatures. You know the kind you have when their is frost in the morning.

Stop being a NASA apologist. NASA has a history of taking risks with people's lives. This was preventable.

Same thing when the Columbia exploded. NASA kept saying foam hitting underside of the shuttle could not have caused any damage. What did we learn - foam foam hitting underside of the shuttle caused damage.

NASA apologist.

Re:From a maintainer's perspective . . . (1)

TheReij (1641099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035170)

You're talking about two very well documented design/engineering failures, I'm talking about a maintenance perspective. Maintainers do not design the aircraft, they perform work on aircraft assigned to them. The guy that changes the tire, replaces the tiles or changes a light bulb has no say in what type of O-Ring is used or the application of foam on the external fuel tank.

I fail to see where my praising of the workers around makes me a NASA apologist. My statement tha there is no amount of planning/engineering/contingencies that will allow for recovery may have been interpreted by you as being apologetic to a design flaw. I'm sorry that I didn't get my style manual out to write my post on /.

Thank you.

I still dont count Challenger as an accident.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034734)

They KNEW the seals could poses a problem and launched anyways. Honestly every manager in the line that greenlighted the launch in spite of the warnings from the engineers needed to be put in the water pit during the next launch.

you NEVER go against what the engineers say.

The real tragedy (0)

Albertosaurus (696135) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034740)

The real tragedy here, is that as evidenced by the Columbia disaster, Challenger taught NASA absolutely nothing.

Re:The real tragedy (1)

oh_my_080980980 (773867) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034988)

BINGO!

Re:The real tragedy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35035148)

Idiot.

The only connection here is that there were two accidents involving a Shuttle. No matter how much attention to detail is paid there are always going to be accidents when doing something dangerous. And traveling outside the atmosphere is dangerous. NASA learned a LOT from Challenger. None of which would have helped with Columbia. Get your facts straight.

I was 5 and I'll never forget... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034762)

This was the first "tragedy" that was instantaneously burnt into my mind forever. I was 5 years old and numerous other classes from various grades where gather around TV watching the launch. Shuttle launches were pretty common but this one was special for the educational school system, so we all were engaged.

I remember when the shuttle blew, one the teachers covered her mouth in shock, froze for a few seconds and then began sobbing. I was, of course, to young to fully understand what was going on but it certainly left an impact. In fact, I was certainly affected by 9/11 but I had late classes (in college) that day, so when I awoke all of the events had already taken place. Learning about 9/11 second-hand from friends that day left less of an impression on me than this memory because this was one I witnessed as it happened. I can still get a little choked up about it when I think about.

My thought and prayers still go out to the families of NASA who have lost loved ones and friend in the name of space exploration, especially on days like today.

Memories (4, Interesting)

Fractal Dice (696349) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034768)

I mised the bus that day. My mother was painting the hall ceiling. It was cold outside so I turned on the tv to one of the three channels we could get to see if there was anything on. I was just in time to watch the launch countdown (or a commentary-free replay). I remember it feeling like an eternity between the first "that doesn't look right" twinge of adrenaline to my brain grinding through the "there are too many things on the screen producing exhaust trails and none of them are going straight" analysis to the "oh no" conclusion. I did nothing but sit on the couch watching the replays over and over all day.

The last thing to cross my mind that night before finally falling asleep was the old line "our reach has exceeded our grasp" and I drempt all night of falling from the stars.

I was in Trigonometry Class... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034782)

... in 11th grade in high school and I was called into the office to talk to the principal. He told me that something very bad had happened with the shuttle and could I please figure out how to broadcast the radio over the school's intercom system (I did morning announcements). After I figured out what switches to throw, I was told that no one knew how to do it since the last time it was done was when Kennedy was shot. I then ran up to see the biology teacher (she had applied to be the teacher in space) - she was sitting at her desk watching CNN with huge tears running down her face. Worst damn day of my life, up to that point, and after, at least until 9/11.

Also was never so happy as when the next one finally went up...

Middle school student at the time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034848)

I still remember that day like it was yesterday - I was 13...

We were in Study Hall at the time - school principal came on the intercom (he had a very thick Dutch accent) and I though that he said that the "chapel had exploded" and then continued on to mention that it was the launch with the "Teacher in Space" Christa McCauliffe (sp?) on board. Then I realized that he had said "shuttle" and not "chapel". I think I thought he said "chapel" because a teacher at the school had recently passed away, and I thought he was talking about the funeral home.

When I got home from school I watched all the news coverage until I went to bed. The images of the fireball, smoke cloud, and the wandering SRBs sticks in my mind so clearly.

Strange day. Sad day. A day I remember like 9/11 and will probably never forget.

Enough of the jokes people. Have some compassion/respect...

Re:Middle school student at the time... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035490)

Jokes, black humor is one of our coping mechanisms. A custodian of a museum in Nazi transit-camp / death camp, with whom I had contact, understood this; didn't seem to mind it and actually _almost_ participated.

(too bad the "had exploded" was being reinforced almost immediately; what looked like an explosion, was actually mostly burning of dumped fuel _behind_ the Shuttle - which was disintegrated mostly via aerodynamic forces)

Nous Avions Sept Astronautes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35034980)

I was in a Canadian Tire store combing through their Commodore stock, priced to sell. I was watching it on the TV there. I bought a VIC-20 cartridge.

Yeah, like yesterday... (2)

Eggplant62 (120514) | more than 3 years ago | (#35034990)

I was a Marine corporal stationed at Camp Lejeune w/ 1/6, 3 months away from my EOS. I had just gotten back to my barracks room from the Dental unit, getting my last checkup and a cavity filled, when I turned on the TV to find the count down in its last couple minutes. I thought, what the heck, slap a tape in my VCR and record it. Imagine my horror to know that I had captured the event live. I was working for the battalion S3 shop so I carried the VCR and TV, on foot, the quarter mile across the parade deck to that office. Nearly all the officers and senior NCOs that worked in the building stopped in, the battalion CO included, to take a look at what happened that morning. If I look hard enough, I could probably find that tape in amongst some of my stored belongings.

Root cause: politics? (3, Interesting)

beschra (1424727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035150)

One of my professors at the time noted that there would have been no O-ring to fail if the thing had been built in one piece. And it could have been built in one piece if built local to the launch site. Which it could have been. But it had to come by train because the bid was won by someone who did not manufacture locally. And since train cars aren't big enough for a whole fuel tank, they had to make the tank in pieces. Supposedly the winning bid had been landed with help from someone in elected office to help out their district. It can be very hard to predict the consequences of our actions.

With Honor (2)

tsman (1980532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035160)

/salute those who lost that day

JFK moment? (1)

flintstick (1985440) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035224)

Would that be a JFK moment as in sleeping with a woman that isn't your wife? I don't remember the when, the where, or the what... just remember thinking at the time... when people loose at Russian Roulette... why is it considered an accident (or in this case, a disaster.). These days I think whole space program is built by people on a deadline, trying to stay under budget, and there is more politics, ego and nationalism in that system than rocket fuel (not to mention a room full of the brightest of the bright that never thought that a contained space with a pure oxygen environment and a thousand electrical contacts might be a bit of a fire hazard).

I was out looking for work. (1)

MooseDontBounce (989375) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035230)

Just graduated that December with my BS in CompSci and I was going to meet my future wife, she was an LPN, at her hospital for lunch. I heard on the AM radio in my Dodge Aspen there had been a problem with the launch. I remember stopping and looking into a patient's room at the TV. The only time I've every gasped outloud in my life. Before or after.

All I remember (1)

chrisgeleven (514645) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035310)

Only thing I remember (I was just 3 at the time) was seeing my mom pick me up from preschool and clearly look like she had been crying. She had apparently been sitting in the car for an hour listening to the coverage of the launch and the aftermath. She didn't tell me what happened, but explained that people were going up to the stars and something went wrong. We lived (in fact still do) in New Hampshire, so this hit especially close to home for everyone around here.

A few years later (in fact, when we went to the opening of the planetarium in Concord, NH named after McCauliffe) my mom told me about that day and I finally was able to link up the memory of her crying to the actual event.

Wrong Message (1)

Fantom42 (174630) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035312)

This is the wrong message to take from Challenger. While it is true that there are risks that were taken with the space program, lets not forget there was a civilian teacher on board that shuttle, and at the time the flight was considered to be reasonably safe. The major contributing factors to Challenger were due to management taking priority over good engineering. That is a lesson we can't afford to forget.

dad took me to see the challenger launch (1)

schlachter (862210) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035354)

My dad took me on vacation down to FL to watch a shuttle launch. It was the Challenger. We got down there and waited around but the launch got rescheduled and delayed multiple times until eventually we needed to fly home so he could go back to work. The next thing I know I'm at my elementary school, sitting in a room with about 30 kids and a few teachers watching the shuttle launch. When it exploded, as kids, we were mostly confused, then shocked. The teachers were crying at first, then some tried to distract us. If I recall, this was a mission where a teacher was on board. Feels like yesterday.

Hehe, Today I'm 25 Years Old. (4, Interesting)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035358)

Today it's been 25 years since the Challenger explosion. Today, I turn 25 years old. Word has it that I clawed my way into this world at almost the exact same time as the accident. And here I am, working in the space industry as an analyst, to ensure the safe launch and function of the rockets the USA launches today. Sometimes you have to love irony. Cheers, fellow slashdotters!

In a Georgia swamp (2)

wulfbyte (722147) | more than 3 years ago | (#35035482)

25 years ago this morning I was huddled next to a tiny fire with a few other grimy, cold and tired soldiers in brief respite from a long training mission when our Lt. walked up to us with a stricken look on his face to tell us that the space shuttle Challenger had blown up just after lift off. He said "The shuttle blew up." and walked off and we just looked at each other and tried to figure out if what he said was real or not. Training continued. A few days later, back at the barracks watching a recording of the event, I realized it happened on my otherwise forgotten 21st birthday. I count this day among others of personal significance like November 11th and December 7th.
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