Challenger: 20 Years Later

It’s hard to believe that twenty years have passed since the Challenger tragedy, which claimed the lives of Christa McAuliffe, Dick Scobee, Mike Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnik, Ron McNair, and Greg Jarvis. This tragedy (along with Columbia 17 years later) reminded everyone how fragile life is, and that space travel remains very dangerous. It also drove home just how brave astronauts really are.

Challenger is one of my earliest memories. I was only four at the time, and probably didn’t fully understand what happened. But I do recall a profound sadness over the event. I was very fascinated by outer space in those days (and still am), and seeing such a disaster was very horrifying. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the crew and their families.

But just as ship wrecks didn’t stop the great explorers of centuries past, tragedies like Challenger and Columbia cannot stop mankind’s expansion into space. A desire to expand horizons is a uniquely human desire that led our ancestors to cross vast oceans, risking their lives just to see what is on the other side. This same desire will lead our descendants to journey across vast expanses of space to explore distant worlds. What will they find? We can only speculate. One thing is clear: Mankind’s exploration of space will continue.

And no doubt the crews of Challenger and Columbia would have wanted it that way.

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