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The Challenger

michael posted more than 13 years ago | from the turn-down-a-glass dept.

Space 488

On Jan. 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff, destroying the vehicle, its crew, and the U.S. space program.

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Re:Not Forgotten (1)

Mastagunna (251788) | more than 13 years ago | (#475004)

Every time i see the explosion I feel sick, and i was only 3 when it happened.

Re:Pardon me, but WTF is this (1)

ASM (101804) | more than 13 years ago | (#475006)

IIRC, It was 7 years before the next manned launch. OK, it didn't destroy it, but it did slow us down a bit.

(Note: I could be wrong. I was only in 3rd grade)

Did you know? (1)

RainbowSix (105550) | more than 13 years ago | (#475009)

According to campus lore, Resnik paid for her college tuition by flying narcotics from South America via the Avatiation Club's Cessna.

Re:school library... (2)

drenehtsral (29789) | more than 13 years ago | (#475010)

All the nerds at my school (me included) were gathered at the school library to watch it take off, and then it blew up and everybody freaked out. Then later on i was sort of desensitised to the whole thing since they played the footage on the news on every station every hour for a week or so. Talk about shameless exploitation of mayhem...

Re:Local TV (3)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#475012)

I saw it live too

I remember thinking, as it lifted off,"Odd, that seems a little slow". It seemed just a touch less snappy compared to other launches.

But it got off the pad okay and I dismissed the thought.

Then a little bit later they showed a close up through thge telescope of the side of the ship, and I saw what I thought were unusual plumes from the sides of the boosters. Again, it was odd, but again I dismissed it. Somehow, through all this, I was not my usual cheery self. Something was bugging me.

Then it happened. boom. and I argued with the people around me about what I saw in the replays over the next day or two, until the analysts on the TV spotted the plumes.

The importance of clear design (5)

fhwang (90412) | more than 13 years ago | (#475013)

In his book Visual Explanations, Edward Tufte -- an expert in the field of visualizing data -- notes that the failure of O-rings was discussed before the Challenger launched, and NASA engineers were unable to convince the brass to cancel the Challenger launch. The failure of the engineers to make their case can largely be attributed to poor chart design [] .

The engineers decided to present their data by wrapping it in distracting rocket icons. The rockets were organized, left to right, by date, but the real variable they needed emphasize was the relation of temperature to O-ring failure, not of date to O-ring failure. (The forecast temperature that morning was 25-30 degrees F, far below any previous launch temperature.) Tufte includes a chart he would've used, which forgoes date (and those cute rockets) in favor of a clear relationship between temperature and O-ring failure -- a chart that very possibly could've convinced management to cancel the launch.

This is what good information design is about. It's not about using fancy pictures to obscure data -- it's about using visual elements to highlight and emphasize the relationships between data. It's an important skill, and unfortunately it seems to be in very short supply.

Re:School Children saw it. (2)

jgreen (252262) | more than 13 years ago | (#475032)

I was one of those school children, in 5th grade at the time. The things I remember from the live reporting was not talk of dispair, but rather talk of the scrambling around to find possible survivors. The discussion in my class of Religion, accidents, etc. was intense because of this. People learn from this, and become stronger individuals. No one can truly grow without someone / something challenging what you thought to be a truth.
The claim that these images "disturb a generation" is someone just trying to be too much of a shield from LIFE! I'd rather let my kids watch that type of reporting, rather than see all of the fake violence on today's TV shows. There is reality, of accidents, mistakes, war - then there is staged, scripted smut and violence all over today's TV that I am amazed from.

Remembering (1)

Ho-Lee-Cow! (173978) | more than 13 years ago | (#475035)

I remember watching the first liftoff of the shuttle in high school. I shamelessly cut English and was quite brazen about it. History, or comma splices--let just say the choice was simple enough. It was a miracle and I knew it.

I was in the shower when the Challenger blew. It was the year I got married. I stepped out to the sound of Tom Brokaw bemoaning the tragedy and speculating about what happened. I sat down on the couch and cried. I think a lot of us who really understood the miracle did.

Then we got into that whole O ring thing and the press acted like it was all their idea. Of course, the press also were the first to act like the shuttle program was routine and glossed over the hard reality that the Space Shuttle is essentially a flying bomb. People who understood, knew about the miracle involved were pretty offended.

So then the media crucified NASA; when days before the accident they were asking what was wrong with the Shuttle Program and why NASA couldn't get the thing off the ground. They had made it commonplace, no big deal, and made the masses think that it wasn't a big deal.

Of course, that didn't stop it all from being a miracle. It still is a miracle, when you consider Hubble, the Space Station, and the fact that we walked on the moon. When Apollo orbitted the moon and the crew read from Genesis, it made men stop and stare in awe. The astronauts won an Emmy for their oration. But because of the media, cheapening the experience, by the time of the Apollo 13, people were numbed to the miracle--when Neil Armstrong had walked on the moon the year before.

It wasn't just another moon shot. It wasn't just another shuttle launch. It wasn't just another space station. All of them were miracles, in just that the vehicles ever got off the ground in the first place.

The evil of the media is that it delights in robbing us of our heros and taking away our miracles. And I really wish we could make everyone understand that.

My Generation's "Kennedy was Shot" moment (5)

The Optimizer (14168) | more than 13 years ago | (#475038)

Growing up I had heard that just about everyone older than I remebered exactly here they were when president Kennedy was assasinated. Since I, and my friends, weren't born then, this was just evidence of a generational gulf between us.

We finally understood what they were talking about when we lost Challenger. All of my gen-x friends still today can clearly recall where they were and what they were doing when they learned the news. (I was in the Student Union in Ann Arbor, MI getting something to eat and trying to impress some girl at the time. I ran back into my dorm to tell the other guys what had happened.)

For us, this was our equvalent of the "Kennedy assasination" a defining moment for our generation where one of the core rules of the universe as we know it suffers a hard fault. The generaton that comes after us will not/can not really relate to something they've only heard about as 'history'. In time, I'm sure their generation will have an event that has a simiar effect on them. I can only hope that it will be notable for it's improbability, and not it's disasterous effects (like the first use of a nuclear weapon by terorists).

On a completely different thread: I was at the Kennedy Space Center about 2 weeks ago, just before the launch of the Shuttle Atlantis was scrubbed. I stood on a launch platform there, eactly 224 feet below the spot where 3 men lost their lives in the Apollo 1 command module. It was somber moment, disturbed only by the crying babies and infants that seemed to be issued to every second family that walked through the gates.

Even with such noisy distractions, I encourage every person here to visit the Space Center if they have the opprotunity. Seeing the place in photos does not do it justice.

A moment of silence. . . (4)

tech81 (128914) | more than 13 years ago | (#475039)

A moment of silence. . .

Umm.. no (1)

MrP- (45616) | more than 13 years ago | (#475040)

Yeah they probably survived the explosion, in fact after it blew up they detected that one of the crew turned on the oxygen or something, initiating emergency procedures, but what killed them was the 207(?) MPH crash into the Atlantic... but some people think/hope that before impact they were unconscious do to the speed they were falling. Either way, being alive for any amount of time after the explosion and knowing you're going to die must suck.

P.S. wtf is this?:
"Lameness filter encountered. Post aborted.

Reason: Ascii Art. How creative. Not here though."
I got that when posting the above message. hmm

hmm (1)

XO (250276) | more than 13 years ago | (#475078)

Personally I find it if nothing else a reminder of just how much time has passed since then - how little i've thought of this event since then.. how it really doesn't seem to be all that formative of a moment, honestly. Although I was certainyl expecting /. to come at it with some better discussion than this. Was hoping maybe to see some things from a new perspective.
Honestly, for most of us, the answer is the same.. "Where were you when the Challeneger was lost?" "3rd grade", "4th grade" ..
Is it any better or worse that this space shuttle was sent up with a full crew of astronauts, or with a crew of astronauts and one civilian? I don't really consider someone's profession a matter of how to rate a tragedy. Police officers, astronauts, sea captains, heads of state, presidents.. all the same. They are all -people- and their tragedies should not be weighted in different places because of their "status" in society. BLAH!
The fact that our country, government, space program, whatever branch you might want to blame, sent 7 people up in a rocket that summarily exploded is just plain bad. But, flight is dangerous. Space travel is more dangerous. Considering what happened within our atmosphere, I'd really hate to think about what might've happened had this rocket actually made it into outer space. *shudder*
I never really had the goal in life to be an astronaut - by this time I was already a Geek. But I do recall thinking at the time "OK.. so what effect does this really have on me? Yes, there are these people that are hurting out there, the families and so on... but this really doesn't have any effect on me."
Maybe I'm calloused from life. Maybe I'm insensitive. I don't know - but although there's a lot to be learned and discussed, the event itself didn't do a whole hell of a lot for me. I'd like to see a lot more interesting discussion on this topic than what -is- here, though

Btw, to the person who posted this story.. come on.. get a little more into the story!

Overdue Library Books and Shuttle Explosions (1)

clustersnarf (236) | more than 13 years ago | (#475083)

this is also the 15th anniversary of me turning in a late library book in 4th grade. I was having to face the music on a book that was overdue when I witnessed this fateful explosion. Had it not been for the bitch in the library and the pricipal, I would have missed this sorrowful occasion. thanks assholes in elementary school.

Re:I remember this.... (1)

Felinoid (16872) | more than 13 years ago | (#475085)

I was in math class when this was announced.
Later during lunch friends of mine would speculate that a student was just having fun with the intercom. It happend occasionally. Someone would announce a fictional holliday, or a birthday of someone who didn't exist.. or some fictional news event.

The space shuttle blew up..
NASA was getting boring... rockets blew up.. people watched waiting for annother disaster... when it didn't happen people stopped watching.
Ronald Regan was prepaired to do some budget cuts. Nasa was on the block... politics was involved and they needed some PR...

Send up a school teacher.. big PR stunt...
I'm guessing if they'd have known the shuttle might explode they'd rethink the situation...
But then if the public knew the shuttle might explode they'd stay intrested...

That was pritty scary...
I rember as a kid hopping this ment soon we'd have public shuttle flights...
I'd lay down 5 grand to enter orbid and back...
I was looking forward to setting up a BBS on a moon base :)

Re:This is a bad topic. (1)

wljones (79862) | more than 13 years ago | (#475086)

The world is not nice, friendly, or safe. You are welcome to avoid facts, but please do not ask for my assistance. I find knowledge an infinitely better shield than ignorance.

missed one (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#475088)

Add Apollo I to the list, Grissom, Chaffee, and White.

Explosion... (1)

Port-0 (301613) | more than 13 years ago | (#475089)

In 1988 I saw a video which was a summary of the congressional report describing the events that lead to the demise of the Challenger.

An interresting conclusion of the findings was that the Challenger did not actually explode, but was torn apart by aerodynamic forces. The large ball of fire was the uncombusted contents of the large external tank, which were illuminated as the SRBs flew through them.

The other thing I found interresting was that they believed that at least two astronaughts were still alive at least for a short time after the incident, because a couple of emergency oxygen valves had been turned on. Something which would only have been done while going through emergency procedures. And possibly could have been alive until the crew cabin hit the water.

Re:The Challenger, a preventable disaster. (1)

MrP- (45616) | more than 13 years ago | (#475091)

Seventy-something seconds into the launch, the gaskets expanded due to heat, and all hell broke loose in the sky.

umm, i thought the cold caused the rubber o-rings to NOT expand, which caused a gap in between the connections which allowed the "stuff" (sorry brain-fart) to leak through.

they slipped the silvery bonds of earth (1)

Bad_CRC (137146) | more than 13 years ago | (#475092)

to touch the face of god.


when you waste billions on nothing more than a PR stunt to make yourself more tax dollars, you'd better be prepared to pay the price when it backfires in your face.


In a Related Story... (1)

Bluesee (173416) | more than 13 years ago | (#475117)

...I just celebrated my fifteenth year with my parent company in my first Real Job.

I remember the day vividly. I was still living out of a hotel room when the news came around the office halls like wildfire. When I went back to the hotel for lunch I saw the first of what must have been 100 re-runs of the footage.

Was /. a living entity at the time?

Oh, that's right. We didn't even have much of an internet back then. Still, I remember the proliferation of stupid NASA jokes over the airwaves/email. But that had to be a few years later...

I hope we all learned something from this disaster, like how beauracracies can be blind to realities.

What Really Happened (5)

kzinti (9651) | more than 13 years ago | (#475122)

"The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded". Well, not really. Yeah, I know that most of you have probably been hearing that for most of your lives, and it's the popular "Time Magazine" version of what happened. But as true geeks you're supposed to be interested in the "hard science" version of what happened. So go to this site: docs/rogers-commission/table-of-contents.html

where you will find the text of the Rogers Commision report on what happened to the Challenger. Many of you have probably read Feynman's famous Appendix to the report, but you should also read Chapter III, "The Accident" and read it closely.

Nowhere in there will you find words like "the vehicle exploded" or "the external tank exploded". The closest you'll come is an "almost explosive" burning of fuel after the external tank comes apart. That's right, kids, the Challenger wasn't destroyed by an explosion like Peter Jennings has been telling you all these years. It and the external tank were torn apart by dynamic forces due to massive structural failure of the tank.


Re:Today's prediction: (1)

The Troll Catcher (220464) | more than 13 years ago | (#475124)

If the Bravens win, that's just plain WRONG, after Baltimore stole our Browns and we got the worst team in the NFL.

If Baltimore wins, Modell better watch his back... ;)

Re:School Children saw it. (1)

cecil36 (104730) | more than 13 years ago | (#475126)

I remember this clearly as a second-grade elementary student. My teacher was in the middle of teaching when the principal came on the PA system, and announced that the Challenger exploded. For the remainder of the day, all the students in the school and their teachers had their eyeballs glued to the TV set, watching the news coverage.

Re:Do YOU remeber where you was when you heard ... (2)

/Wegge (2960) | more than 13 years ago | (#475149)

I'm not cold, mostly cynical with a sideorder of disbelief of the American habit of making conversational pieces out of grief.

Re:Pardon me, but WTF is this (2)

magnwa (18700) | more than 13 years ago | (#475150)

I beg to differ. The space program at one time was a thing of national pride. It was scary when the three died on the pad due to the fire.. but that didn't stop the space program at all. With Christa and the STS-51L .. and the terrifying explosion.. not much has moved forward in the space program. The international space station is slowing down.. there may not be enough funding to go to it in the future. The extraplanetary missions are two or three generations down the road instead of one. The shuttle still doesn't have a safe egress vehicle while it's taking off.. and it's only confined to circumnavigating the earth. Right now, the shuttle missions are mostly funded by outside organizations for scientific/commercial purposes. *shrugs* Sounds like a kill to me. Magnwa

Re:A moment of silence. . . (1)

deebaine (218719) | more than 13 years ago | (#475153)

It is an unfortunate part of life that much of the time when humanity makes strides towards things we have never acccomplished before, as often as not we find ourselves mourning the loss of the pioneers who fell trying to reach one more inch. Flight, supersonic flight, space flight, all have their own honor rolls of these people. I believe we call them heroes, not necessarily for anything they did other than to go in harm's way for a cause of value to all humanity.

Re:Pardon me, but WTF is this (1)

DHartung (13689) | more than 13 years ago | (#475154)

ASM wrote:
It was 7 years before the next manned launch.

Seven years? Hardly.

The Challenger accident occurred on Jan. 28, 1986. The Return to Flight, STS-26B, launched Sep. 29, 1988 -- two years and eight months later.

Re:A moment of silence. . . (1)

cecil36 (104730) | more than 13 years ago | (#475155)

Kudos to the moderator who modded this up!

Re:Home sick (1)

mightyfoo (42058) | more than 13 years ago | (#475157)

I was home sick that day also. I remember turning on the TV and hearing Dan Rather talking about debris still falling, and seeing the smoke trails. You have to remember that we who saw this on TV as kids were part of the generation that also saw the TV movie 'The Day After' and lived during the end of the Cold War. For about 15 minutes, I actually thought that what Rather was describing was the beginnings of nuclear war. It wasn't until they showed a full replay, that I understood what was actually happening.

Apollo 1 (5)

Burdell (228580) | more than 13 years ago | (#475158)

And on January 27, 1967, the first Apollo capsule caught fire during a test, killing Gus Grissom (who most likely would have been the first man to walk on the Moon), Ed White, and Roger Chaffee.

Re:Show some respect (1)

Gangis (310282) | more than 13 years ago | (#475159)

I agree, it is a sad event and lives were lost. It's not the time to crack jokes about the people. I bet they're the type of people to laugh at a funeral. >:(

Re:And? (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 13 years ago | (#475178)

You're correct. This is history, not news. Is there anything new here?

Re:And? (1)

otomo_1001 (22925) | more than 13 years ago | (#475184)

And December 7th is not?

Forget the past and you are doomed to repeat it as the old saying goes.

And this is why it happened ... (1)

sales_worldwide (244279) | more than 13 years ago | (#475189)

RFead the report at ml [] as to *WHY* it happened.

Written by Feynman himself, and is an extremely good summary of how the engineers knew the safety was shit, but the managers didn't believe them. A great read.

You can all thank me later.

old story (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#475193)

saw it on kuro5hin 15 years ago

better luck next time michael

whats this about? (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#475195)

this is not exactly news, is it?

I remember this.... (2)

Dark Nexus (172808) | more than 13 years ago | (#475214)

I immediately changed my plans for the future when that happened. Sure, I was only 6 at the time, but hey :)

At least some good things came from that disaster. The safety measures on shuttle launches have taken leaps and bounds forward because of that. Also, they (NASA) realized that shuttle launches shouldn't be treated as "routine" as they were then, no matter how many safety features there are.

It was just a tragedy that a disaster like that had to happen for all of those good things to happen.

Dark Nexus

Not Forgotten (1)

HunterRose (101651) | more than 13 years ago | (#475216)

I remember watching that on tv when i was in elementary school. its one of those things that you never forget. im glad that people still take the time to honor their memory.

I remember that (1)

anacron (85469) | more than 13 years ago | (#475223)

When the Challenger was lost, they brought TVs out into the hallways .. I was in 4th grade .. they had the whole school watching it. It's going to be the defining moment of our generation. People will ask, "Where were you when the Challenger was lost?" just as they ask our parents, "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?"


Do YOU remeber where you was when you heard ... (1)

/Wegge (2960) | more than 13 years ago | (#475226)

Besides NASA cleaning up their act, did the catastrophe mean much beyond beeing just another reference point in the social game of "Where was you when ... ?"

This is hardly news! (1)

RJ11 (17321) | more than 13 years ago | (#475246)

This happened 15 years ago, and it just gets posted to slashdot now??!!@@$@

I wonder how many people submitted this in that time before it finally got posted on here. I mean, this is rather significant compared to the recent failed space probes, which appeared on here almost immediately after they were reported.

Pardon me, but WTF is this (3)

FWMiller (9925) | more than 13 years ago | (#475249)

What a completely unnecessary, inflammatory statement. The Challenger accident did not destroy the U.S. Space Program. There have been approaching 100 shuttle missions since then. What it did was present the reality of space flight to a public that had become complacent and soft, believing in the delusion that going to space was like getting on an airplane.

The U.S. space program continues to be the most advanced and vigorous of any nation in the world, a product of the superb economic system that drives it. I'd challenge anyone to show me a program that did not have accidents and one that provided as many benefits for its nation as ours does. As a matter of fact, I'd say our program is healthier than ever, considering that a billion dollars in hardware and 7 of the most gifted people on the planet went down just 15 short years ago in the glare of the most prolific and suffocating media machine the world has ever seen.

Re:And? (1)

inferis (84322) | more than 13 years ago | (#475273)

Not really.

I was probably as shocked as the rest of you, but that doesn't make it news (anymore), right?

slashdot story queue (1)

FonkiE (28352) | more than 13 years ago | (#475283)

it takes a long time to process the slashdot story queue, doesn't it?

Risk (1)

jcapell (144056) | more than 13 years ago | (#475286)

Engineers hate risk. They try to eliminate it whenever they can. This is understandable, given that when an engineer makes one little mistake, the media will treat it like it's a big deal or something.

Examples of Bad Press for Engineers:
Space Shuttle Challenger.
Hubble space telescope.
Apollo 13.
Ford Pinto.

The risk/reward calculation for engineers looks something like this:
Risk -
Public humiliation and the death of thousands of innocent people.
Reward -
A certificate of appreciation in a handsome plastic frame.

Being practical people, engineers evaluate this balance of risks and rewards and decide that risk is not a good thing. The best way to avoid risk is by advising that any activity is technically impossible for reasons that are far too complicated to explain.

If that approach is not sufficient to halt a project, then the engineer will fall back to a second line of defense: "It's technically possible but it will cost too much."

Re:Uhh... and? (1)

Fishstick (150821) | more than 13 years ago | (#475288)

makes no sense. perhaps there was to bo an article posted or something along with this and Michael hit the 'submit' button without the preview first?

And where is the superbowl-related poll already?

Good day to surf /. and bitch, i guess?

Local TV (1)

Bill Pela (4717) | more than 13 years ago | (#475293)

I had gone home at lunch that day, hoping to see the launch on TV. Nothing but soap opreas! Called a couple local TV stations to ask, 'are you showing the launch'? Answer = NO! A couple of hours later, the radio at work announced the
explosion. For the next two days TV didn't STOP
showing that!

How many astronauts can you fit in a VW Beetle? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#475302)


2 in the front, 2 in the back, and 7 in the ashtray.

I saw it in person... (1)

mholve (1101) | more than 13 years ago | (#475307)

In 1986, I was a security policeman (SP) in the Air Force, station at MacDill AFB in Florida (in Tampa).

I was out on my balcony, getting ready for work and I was patiently watching the skies for the launch.

The time came and I saw the plume rise to the sky, when the explosion occured. I, like many people figured "Hmm, something doesn't look right" and ran inside to put on the news...

Sure enough, there had indeed been a "major malfunction." :(

While others at neighboring bases were sent to guard the beach and obvious wreckage, I luckily didn't get this grisly duty.

My heart is certainly out for the crew of Challenger, and it's good to know that 15 years later, they're still remembered, and the ideal of a "teaching mission" was not in vain.

Re:And? (1)

g1t>>v (121036) | more than 13 years ago | (#475308)

Maybe it's Stuff that matters then ...

QuickTime movie of the explosion (3)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#475310)

To see a QuickTime movie of the explosion click here []

Re:Uhh... and? (1)

nurikochan (247910) | more than 13 years ago | (#475312)

I think he was going for something reverant here. So maybe we could reflect on this tragic event.

Re:Pardon me, but WTF is this (1)

nolesrule (152898) | more than 13 years ago | (#475323)

There have been 101 shuttle launches.

Quest for the Frontier (1)

aznin (309986) | more than 13 years ago | (#475325)

Did it kill the space program? I don't believe so. There are still shuttle flights on a regular basis. Why?
The quest for the Frontier has always been an American trend. The first settlers crossed the ocean, then started heading west from the East Coast, constantly pushing the frontier west. Now the new frontier is space.
As always, when a frontier is challenged, there are casualties. Weather, adverse conditions, indigenous people, ingrown toe-nails, and in this case, the failure of technology. In the end, these are all sacrifices in the name of progress and discovery.
I remember when it happened, and I was stunned and speechless. But as in all explorations, there will be sacrifices. We can only thank them and remember.

School Children saw it. (5)

Coventry (3779) | more than 13 years ago | (#475326)

Since the shuttle was carring the first teacher into space, many schools across america had been preparing for the launch and mission for weeks. We had made posters, I had perfected the art of drawing the shuttle for the other kids, and were all eagerly awaiting the launch. I was lucky, I didn't see it live, but it was still bad.

My (4th grade) class had lunch durring the time the launch was to happen, so we were buying food when it happened. The class next to us had decided to take a late lunch in order to watch it - they suddenly showed up and were rather upset - saying the shuttle had exploded. Lunch ended early. Classes crowded into rooms with TVs and watched news reports on what had happened. at least 20 times from various angles we saw the explosion. We were all elft speechless, some kids cried. The teachers were too stunned to realize they needed to turn the TV off and get us doing something else. No work got done all day - we went to the busses straight from watching the news coverage.

The media, not knowing that schoolchildren were watching, didn't pull any punches, and repeatedly stated that the astronaughts and crew were most likely dead. It was a bad day, and it hurt the space program as well as disturbing a generation. I'm getting my vodka now. I don't want to think about this.

Apparently… (1)

scotay (195240) | more than 13 years ago | (#475329)

... the failure of an o-ring on Michael's can of Mountain Dew destroyed the rest of this story.

Moment of envisioned by George Carlin (1)

tswinzig (210999) | more than 13 years ago | (#475330)

Why is it a moment of silence? What's this silence?

How 'bout a moment of screaming?! These people are dead! You know, 'AAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaghhh!!!"

--George Carlin

Where were you... (1)

Kid Charlemagne (310258) | more than 13 years ago | (#475332)

I was 16 at the time... and I had skipped out of school to see my girlfriend. In her basement we watched it happen live on tv, seven astronauts dead including a school teacher... it was unbelievable.

Home sick (1)

eGabriel (5707) | more than 13 years ago | (#475334)

I stayed home from school that day and saw it on
TV... I thought it was a joke, and then they kept showing it over and over again; I couldn't believe it.

What a horrible tragedy to show over and over on television all day.

Re:Uhh... and? (1)

Starky (236203) | more than 13 years ago | (#475335)

Have you ever heard of a statement? Geez.

Re:I remember this.... (1)

karot (26201) | more than 13 years ago | (#475353)

While I completely agree that good things came from this, and valuable lessons were learned, I found the bahaviour of the US government, and of NASA, immediately after the incident, to be completely inappropriate.

They put back the operation of these missions by what? 10 years? Even today, it is an undeniable fact that you are placing a number of human beings atop a rather large bomb, and exploding it in a controlled manner. This involves risk... You are then spinning them around the globe in an inhospitable environment. This too involves risk...

Why then, when one of the many risks is realised as the (unfortunate) death of 7 astronauts, should anything change in our attitude to the launches?

Sure, learn from mistakes, but stop moving forwards? Sheer madness...

(-: Just because windows crashes, we don't stop using it... We continue valiantly until we find Linux, *BSD or some other safer alternative :-)


Give me a break... (5)

Shadowell (108926) | more than 13 years ago | (#475354)

It would seem that everybody posting so far has lost their minds. It should be obvious that this is a reminder to people. The day the shuttle exploded was a sad day for all of us. It was a day that was to show that politics and budgets were more important than advances or peoples lives. It was a day that showed us that an accident can eliminate the enthusiasm of an entire nation and put a program that, IMHO, is one of the most critical to the development of human knowlege. Remember the people that died. Remember what the program was TRYING to do. Remember what happened. Those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

Re:I remember that (1)

SaDan (81097) | more than 13 years ago | (#475356)

I was in 4th grade at the time of the Challenger accident. If there was a shuttle launch during our normal recess, the teachers usually gave us the option of either watching the launch, or going outside to play. I always stayed in to watch the launches...

I remember watching TV, and seeing the shuttle explode. I knew what had happened, obviously, but I just couldn't believe what I had seen with my own eyes.

It's a shame that so many good men and women give their lives to remind us how vulnerable we are. That accident was totally preventable, but as someone else mentioned, the launches were getting too routine. People in charge of the launches were not paying as much attention as they should have.

A moment of silence for ALL the brave souls who have put their lives on the line for their causes, and paid the ultimate price.

Re:Pardon me, but WTF is this (1)

vanillicat (258354) | more than 13 years ago | (#475359)

Flying into space still is much safer than driving a car. Send me to the moon any day...

Re:Amendment One protects sick fuck's speech? (2)

Wire Tap (61370) | more than 13 years ago | (#475361)

One can beleive in the Constitution and still condemn what some people say.

Feynman's perspective (5)

ruck (156392) | more than 13 years ago | (#475362)

Two points:

1. I'm sure there are many good books on the Challenger disaster, but anyone interested in the workings of the actual investigation from an insider's perspective should pick up What do you care what other people think?, by Richard Feynman. The second half of the book is dedicated to his role in the investigation, and it says a lot of interesting things about government bureaucracy, etc.

2. I think it's a sign of the state of Slashdot that when an article is posted which obviously has no other purpose than to elicit discussion, the first thirty posts include only two or three that say something other than "dumb story."

The people & politics behind it... (2)

RapaNui (242132) | more than 13 years ago | (#475363)

An interesting overview of what happened before and after the disaster inside NASA, look for Richard Feynman's book "What do you care what othe people think?" (ISBN 0-553-34784-5). At least half of the book is devoted to Feynman's participation in the board of enquiry, and to read it from his irreverent "march-to-a-different-drummer" point of view is quite enlightening.

Ooh! (1)

Ravagin (100668) | more than 13 years ago | (#475364)

Hey, I have an idea. Why don't we color the memory of this sad event with political commentary?

Wait, never mind...



Re:A moment of silence. . . (3)

Felinoid (16872) | more than 13 years ago | (#475365)

You know Slashdots not good on the moment of sillence...
But it would be nice if we did have a "moment of sillence" day for this...
To rember all the historical horrors where we learnned ohh so much...
Hitler, The Space Shuttle, the Inquision, The witch trials, Microsoft, AoL, Amazon... ok I added Microsoft AoL and Amazon out of spite not out of anything to learn :) but you get the idea...

Hmm what historical disaster would you add to the list (and no pulling the Microsoft, AoL, Amazon stunt I did... unless you add some real disasters...)

So much for cutting edge news... (1)

zairius (54221) | more than 13 years ago | (#475366)

Man talk about real old... how long has this been languishing in the inbox?

conditioning (1)

montgomery (176658) | more than 13 years ago | (#475383)

Yeah they were "real people". As a historical fact they are heros. But let's be serious...I have seen thousands of ships blow up in outer space. That is what space ships do! They fell into the trap of need, speed and greed. The money was going to go away if the ships were not launched fast enough.

Re:I remember this.... (2)

El Volio (40489) | more than 13 years ago | (#475386)

I was in 3rd grade at the time, and I remember another student (who had gotten to watch the launch in another class while the rest of us practiced cursive writing or somesuch) coming in and announcing "the Space Shuttle blew up". I got in trouble for telling Rudy, perhaps a little arrogantly :), that there was no way that could happen, the guys at NASA were too smart and too careful.

A few minutes later there was an announcement over the PA.

I remember coming home, watching the news all evening. I remember my dad sitting on the couch crying (the same man who would tell me bedtime stories about his memories of the Apollo and Mercury programs). I remember being frustrated because I thought that that was the end of the space program.

Like a lot of folks on /., I suspect, that was one of the formative moments of my life. From a long line of geeks/techies, I became determined to become one, too. Never made it to NASA :) (Gene Krantz is my hero) but nonetheless every time I watch a launch on TV or think about the ISS, I feel like that 9-year-old all over again.

Show some respect (1)

PoitNarf (160194) | more than 13 years ago | (#475387)

I don't think it's very appropriate to make a joke out of that.

Re:Local TV (1)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 13 years ago | (#475389)

It was live on CNN... I watched it go Ka-boom.. Live!


Re:Give me a break... (1)

nolesrule (152898) | more than 13 years ago | (#475390)

I wish I had mod points. I have to agree with Shadowell about the purpose of this Slahdot article. Yeah, it happened 15 years ago. But it is one of those things that we should never forget. I know I never will.

talk amongst yourselves... I'll give you a topic (1)

Fishstick (150821) | more than 13 years ago | (#475391)

"On Jan. 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff, destroying the vehicle, its crew, and the U.S. space program."

So I guess the discussion is supposed to center around the effect the disaster had on the "U.S. space program", huh?

Re:Those final moments (5)

fleener (140714) | more than 13 years ago | (#475392)

Also: ABC News says: NASA seeks shuttle escape system [] . Subhead: 15 Years After Challenger, Designs Come Up Short

That happened on my birthday... (1)

griffjon (14945) | more than 13 years ago | (#475393)

No better way to totally fubar a kid's birthday than to explode a space shuttle carrying an elementary school teacher aboard. Of course, I was just as socially inept and cynical then, so I put a bright side on it by talking about the best fireworks ever for my birthday...

Re:I saw it in person... (1)

RapaNui (242132) | more than 13 years ago | (#475394)

What I thought amazing was the guy who said "Uh.. there appears to have been a malfunction", or something to that effect.
I don't know if he was what they (in the Apollo program, at least) called the "CapCom", but that was an amazing sign of professionalism and coolness under *very* adverse conditions - a sign of some *very* good selection and training.

51-L's Legacy (3)

TOTKChief (210168) | more than 13 years ago | (#475395)

STS 51-L has a legacy:

  • Safety is more important now. Launch decisions aren't made for political reasons anymore. [The desire was to have 51-L up while Reagan made his State of the Union Address.]
  • The mission team considers all weather effects now. Hell, STS was only qualified to meet a 40 F floor for launch conditions, yet it was launched at around 35 F. Why go outside your safety margins?
  • Engineers have more say than managers on go/no-go. After guys like Ebeling and Boisjoly at Thiokol weren't listened to--NASA/MSFC Jud Lovingood thought Thiokol's decision for a GO was unanimous, but it wasn't among the engineers--and the craft did blow up, the engineers got more say in launch decisions.
  • The American public learned that Space Still Ain't Easy or Routine.

Still, with all of that, NASA rolled out Atlantis a few weeks ago, knowing that a concern about--you guessed it!--the SRB separation mechanism would likely delay the launch. The cost of rolling out and rolling back is expensive, yet in the name of good PR, NASA did it anyway. Idiots.


Ego (2)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 13 years ago | (#475396)

Ego-wise, two things are important to engineers:

* How smart they are.
* How many cool devices they own.

The fastest way to get an engineer to solve a problem is to declare that the problem is unsolvable. No engineer can walk away from an unsolvable problem until it's solved. No illness or distraction is sufficient to get the engineer off the case. These types of challenges quickly become personal -- a battle between the engineer and the laws of nature.
Engineers will go without food and hygiene for days to solve a problem. (Other times just because they forgot.) And when they succeed in solving the problem they will experience an ego rush that is better than sex--and I'm including the kind of sex where other people are involved.

Nothing is more threatening to the engineer than the suggestion that somebody has more technical skill. Normal people sometimes use that knowledge as a lever to extract more work from the engineer. When an engineer says that something can't be done (a code phrase that means it's not fun to do), some clever normal people have learned to glance at the engineer with a look of compassion and pity and say something along these lines: "I'll ask Bob to figure it out. He knows how to solve difficult technical problems."

At that point it is a good idea for the normal person to not stand between the engineer and the problem. The engineer will set upon the problem like a starved Chihuahua on a pork chop


Re:Pardon me, but WTF is this (1)

FWMiller (9925) | more than 13 years ago | (#475397)

I have to respectfully disagree with your disagreement. You're just plain wrong. Public support for the space program is no different than its ever been, the public doesnt really care much.

All of the launchers you mention are unmanned and its common knowledge that unmanned boosters are an order of magnitude easier to construct and operate than manned systems.

As someone who spent 5 years working on flight control systems for the manned space program, I can tell you that the manned systems have always and continue to push the envelope in terms of risk. It is a credit to our "gold-plated" program that one of the other comments about space travel being safer than automobile travel is actually true.

My point is, you can focus on everyone else and criticize all you want, but by any measure, our program continues to be the envy of the world

Re:Risk (2)

Dark Nexus (172808) | more than 13 years ago | (#475398)

I can't speak for other juridictions, but in Ontario (as well as the rest of Canada, and I suspect the US as well), Engineers are legally liable for bad engineering. Engineering Ethics states that if they know of a flaw in a project they're working on that could lead to the loss of property or life, they're legally require to bring it to light. First with their employer, then with the customer (if it isn't an internal project), then to their Engineering Society (like the IEEE). Leaking it to the media is an absolute last resort, and is highly frowned upon.

If they don't, they risk losing their liscense to practice Engineering (like malpractice for doctors).

That's what bugs me the most about Challenger... the engineers KNEW about the fault that caused the explosion, they'd come close to having similar explosions during testing and knew the problem hadn't been fixed.

Dark Nexus

This is a bad topic. (1)

crashnbur (127738) | more than 13 years ago | (#475417)

This can't be that great because I can't think of anything good to say in thinking of a 15 year old disaster. It's something I prefer not to think about. Disasters are just as natural as the good things in life, so why do the disasters get so much attention? Are we so drawn to suffering that we must give them more attention? What is it about our culture that makes death and violence so entertaining?

It really does sicken me. I really don't like being reminded of such "horrible" losses in this way. Has anyone ever thought that maybe those people were saved from this hellhole we're living on? I know they probably had so many more things to do with their lives, but at least they don't have to go on living with their sufferings. I'd imagine that a few of the crew of that shuttle wouldn't have survived till now had it made it's orbits of the planet and returned safely.

Maybe next time we can think of something a little less emotionally disturbing?

Re:Perspective (1)

inferis (84322) | more than 13 years ago | (#475418)

You got a point there. A big one.

Re:Risk (1)

Tuzanor (125152) | more than 13 years ago | (#475420)

But apollo 13 was also one of the greatest engineering achievements there was. Watch the movie. If you every wonder why people always ask for good "problem solving skills" it readily apparent when they say "okay, we have to get this round tube, into this square socket,using all this here..." My high school Chemistry teacher loved that line.

I was there... (1)

cnkeller (181482) | more than 13 years ago | (#475421)

My parents had thougtfully taken me out of school for a few weeks that January to take a vacation to the Florida keys (I was in 8th grade). On the way, we went to the launch. It was awful.

The interesting thing here is that my father was in charge of the manufacturing division for the company that does the US Navy's deep water salvage (NASA as well). I mean deep, none of this 18000ft Titanic crap. I believe they still hold the record for the worlds deepest dives. The company is now Oceaneering, but was Easport.

Anyway, a day or so after the launch my father was on a ship in the Carribean (sp?) directing much of the salvage first hand. Not only did I get to see space shuttle parts close up, but I got to the un-edited videos from the ROV's. They found astronaut parts, ewwwww. My fathers wall is covered with awards and honors from the president, NASA, etc. Nice keepsakes.

Anyway, this kinda hit home for me. I'm not sure that it changed my life, but I did work at NASA for four years while in college. Thanks dad....

Re:Do YOU remeber where you was when you heard ... (2)

mrfiddlehead (129279) | more than 13 years ago | (#475422)

I guess this is the JFK assassination of the MTV generation. I'd just finished my BSc and was forced to take a job in a factory making auto-parts. The "what's this button for?" joke had made the rounds of the factory floor before I got off work at 3pm and went home to watch the bird fry over and over and over and over.

I'll never forget how pathetic McAuliffe's poor husband looked. Pathetic in the sense of completely emasculated. Poor bastard, I just kept thinking.

That's nothing (2)

multipartmixed (163409) | more than 13 years ago | (#475423)

...I've been submitting the story about Viking-I getting stranded on Mars since 1977 and haven't seen a friggin' thing about it YET!


The Challenger, a preventable disaster. (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | more than 13 years ago | (#475424)

This disaster could've been prevented by preheating the rubber gaskets on the solid rocket boosters. But nooo, the NASA techs wanted to get Challenger off the ground ASAP, so they rushed it onto the Crawler for pad 39A. Seventy-something seconds into the launch, the gaskets expanded due to heat, and all hell broke loose in the sky. Seven astronauts, all of which could have been alive today, were maimed on that fateful day. And all because of a slapdash attitude in the hangar.

Prerecording statements (1)

mrBlond (141708) | more than 13 years ago | (#475425)

I think those who venture into space could record a short statement, saying something like: "I knew this was a risky job, but just because I died doing it doesn't mean you should spend any time arguing whether or not we should be exploring space - instead support those of us who would give our lives in the pursuit for knowledge..."

Linkage (1)

Ravagin (100668) | more than 13 years ago | (#475426)

I just heard on NPR's hourly broadcast [] a tidbit about NASA's research into, among other things, escape systems for the shuttle. They also talked about it [] on Talk of the Nation five years ago. And while i'm doing the "karma-whore" thing, has a piece about it. []

In quasirelated news, that cargo ship docked with Mir, so we can now send it screaming to the ocean "between australia and south america." Greeeeat.

Anyway. Anyone got any info about these escape systems?


Re:Do YOU remeber where you was when you heard ... (2)

ASM (101804) | more than 13 years ago | (#475454)

Sorry you feel so cold about it. (Perhaps you were asleep or something?) I was in third grade. I thought it was a joke at first. I couldn't believe it. I mean it just BLEW UP! My jaw hit the floor, and so did my heart. That was a very sad day for me indeed. I don't remember that day for any "Where were you?" games. I remember it because of how I felt about what happened. That was a significant day in my life.

Re:Perspective (2)

JCCyC (179760) | more than 13 years ago | (#475456)

I guess the event is not "nerdy" enough. But, since you mentioned india, in Dec 2, 1999 we had 15 years since the Union Carbide gas leak in Bhopal. I don't recall a /. story about that (at least, not in the front page). Anyone can confirm that? Michael? Rob? Taco? Katz? Tim?

Re:Pardon me, but WTF is this (1)

vanillicat (258354) | more than 13 years ago | (#475458)

well, it was statistically more likely to-that doesn't mean it's a death trap.

Re:I remember this.... (5)

weave (48069) | more than 13 years ago | (#475459)

Yeah, they were routine. That's what was so neat about the shuttles back then. It was something to be proud of. It was the only real neat thing left of the space program.

When *I* was in elementary school in 1969 I remember we all got out of class and gathered in the auditorium to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. Now *that* was a rush. Looking up in the sky, seeing the moon, and knowing some human was up there walking around on it.

What the fuck happened to this (U.S.) country's pride? We just don't care about doing something like that anymore. All we care is whining about taxes, buying bigger SUVs, and building expensive missle defense systems (when the nuke that takes out NYC will be a back-pack nuke sailed in the bottom of a cargo ship into the Hudson probably. No SDI will protect us from that...)

Our priorities are just pathetic. An entire generation of people now are alive that have never seen a live moon walk. Nice progress.....

Our space program died long before 1986 I'm afraid. The shuttles were neat, but the drive to expand our frontier was already dead. Space Shuttles were moving into deployment and repair of communications sattelites for the most part.

Re:Pardon me, but WTF is this (1)

perky (106880) | more than 13 years ago | (#475460)

What makes you say that?

As a guess I reckon that I have spent about 3000 hours in cars in the last 15 years and I have been involved in one accident.

On the other hand other posters have pointed to 101 space shuttle missions in the last 15 years lasting (guess) 3 days per mission, giving around 7300 hours. They've had 1 accident.

So that seems to me to be a factor of two, which isn't exactly "much safer", and doesn't take into acount the generally catastrophic nature of a shuttle accident when compared to a car accident.

Although I suppose it would be very different if you were talking about accidents per mile.

Book on why it happened (1)

natpoor (142801) | more than 13 years ago | (#475463)

Although I'm glad to see that Slashdot remembers history, I've never really understood the fascination with the space shuttle Challenger explosion - thousands of people die every day, and rockets are big (usually) controlled bombs. The US is so wrapped up in its technological navel it's rather sad. It meant a lot to people who had bought into the space program as an integral part of the American identity, but to others I think it all seemed rather odd, a media moment removed from reality.
But, if you want to read a thorough book on the subject, try Diane Vaughan's The Challenger Launch Decision [] .

Ain't That Life (1)

kingswell (63851) | more than 13 years ago | (#475464)

One of my favorite musicians is John Popper, of Blues Traveler. While in high school, he wrote this song following the Challenger tragedy. ha tlife.html

I don't know if the lyrics will transcend their text, but to hear him sing it is certainly moving.

Ain't That Life

Sometimes we try to reach the stars
And sometimes we just try
Sometimes we try to live a little
And sometimes we only die
Sometimes we try to hit new heights
And sometimes we hit the ground
Sometimes when we do, it's a silent night
And sometimes, there's a terrible sound

But ain't that life?
Ain't that life, anyway?
We can hope and we can pray
We can try and make a better day
But when it's over, what's left to say
But ain't that life, anyway?

We wanna teach, we wanna learn
We don't wanna feel alone
We want to say that we're gods on earth
We're really just flesh and bone
We're so damn proud of our intellect
That we try and chase the sun
The war of technology's over
We really don't know who won

But ain't that life?
Ain't that life, anyway?
We can hope and we can pray
We can try and make a better day
But when it's over, what's left to say
But ain't that life, anyway?

Teacher in space, went and died in disgrace
The TV sets saw everybody cry
Take another glance at a good distance
And just a couple of people died
With hope in her eyes, she streaked up through the sky
The wreckage washed up on the beach
I wonder if anybody asked her
"Is there anyone up there to teach?"

But ain't that life?
Ain't that life, anyway?
We can hope and we can pray
We can try and make a better day
But when it's over, what's left to say
But ain't that life, anyway?

Somewhere, someone's laughing
Somewhere, someone cries
Somewhere, someone sees the truth
While someone else tells lies
Somewhere, there's a Christian
Who's contemplating Zen
Somewhere, there's a pervert
Luring children to his den
Somewhere, a girl rides a skateboard
And hopes to be President
And somewhere an aging actor
Decides to give up Lent
A realtor takes up smoking
But cannot find a match
A kid nearly dies in his Dad's new car
But worries about the scratch
A newborn kitten freezes
While two young lovers part
And maybe here, some sucker
Could be taking this song to heart

It's beautiful, it's oh so beautiful
It's beautiful, it's oh so beautiful

Dreams can live long after we're gone
But what's really in a dream?
Sometimes it's the lies in a gambler's eyes
And sometimes, it's a silent scream
Some people die while others are born
And the circle of life goes on
When you get down to it, we're just visitors here
So you can't really do nothing wrong

But ain't that life?
Ain't that life, anyway?
We can hope and we can pray
We can try and make a better day
But when it's over, what's left to say
But ain't that life, anyway?

When it's over, what's left to say...
But ain't that life, anyway?

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