Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A cold and icy morning

STS 51-L (Challenger) Crew Portrait
Image Credit: NASA

This morning dawned cold and icy here in Austin, TX. As I drove to the commuter Park and Ride, I was tailgated by a driver who was talking on a cell phone and swerving back and forth within the lane, seemingly oblivious to the numerous shiny icy patches that were covering the roadway. Thankfully, I only had to go a mile to the bus depot; hopefully the careless driver did not cause any accidents on the rest of her commute.

23 years ago today, January 28, 1986, was another cold, icy morning in the southern US. I lived in Pennsylvania at the time and had a snow day home from school. There was supposed to be a space shuttle launch that morning, and I was nuts about space travel at the time. But I spent the morning sledding in the backyard.

At Kennedy Space Center, the ice and cold worried numerous engineers, but those worries were not communicated to the people at mission control who made the final launch decision. The results were disastrous, resulting in the loss of seven lives.

Back up north, I was getting ready to have some lunch when the phone rang. My mom was calling from her office to tell me that she heard something on the radio about the space shuttle landing in the Atlantic. It was only then that I turned on the TV to learn what had transpired, and it was hours before I could pull myself away from the coverage. All these years later, my memories of that day are still vivid and clear.

For information, pictures, video, and numerous reports on the Challenger accident, poke around on NASA's history site.

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