NASA will commemorate today, the Challenger shuttle disaster 25th anniversary with a special ceremony at Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center. Across America, others will also participate in remembrances for the seven astronauts. In Concord, NH, there will be a reception to honor Christa McAuliffe, who was part of NASA’s ‘Teacher in Space’ program. The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after lifting off the launch pad due to the failure of an O-ring on one of the shuttle’s two solid-fuel booster rockets. The tragedy happened 19 years and one day after another fatal accident occurred when an electrical fire killed the crew of Apollo 1 during a test on January 27, 1967.

challenger shuttle disaster 25th anniversary
The crew of STS-51 is remembered today, the Challenger shuttle disaster 25th anniversary. Image Source:

Along with Christa McAuliffe, the other crew members of STS-51, the 25th shuttle mission, were Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair and Gregory Jarvis. Even today, the image of the explosion still leaves one with a deep, emotional impression of the sheer courage of those who undertake the hazards of space flight.

President Ronald Reagan said it best during his tribute the evening of the disaster. “The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of Earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.'”

As yesterday was the 44th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire, NASA did not forget it’s crew, either. Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, like the crew of Challenger, represented the best of America. Grissom, a veteran from the early days of the Mercury program, had made two previous flights into space piloting the Liberty Bell 7 and, later, the Gemini 3 spacecraft. Ed White flew on Gemini 4 and was the first American to walk in space. Roger Chaffee was a rookie astronaut, but no stranger to danger, having piloted U-2 spy-plane missions, including over Cuba during the Missile Crisis in 1962.

As we remember today the Challenger shuttle disaster 25th anniversary, let us honor those who bravely volunteer to face the unknown. Just the idea of sitting on top of a massive, complex machine that is loaded with highly explosive fuel is more than enough to frighten most of us. NASA astronauts, like Christa McAuliffe, welcomed the danger freely in exchange for pushing back the barriers of human ignorance and giving all of us a taste of what is possible when we work together. The crews of the Space Shuttle Challenger and of Apollo 1 knew the risks and accepted them. They will always be among those we honor for their courage.

apollo 1 crew
Crew of Apollo 1

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