Friday, January 27, 2006


On January 28, 1986 the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after it took off from Cape Canaveral. Seven brave human beings lost their lives that day in the pursuit of space exploration.

One member of that mission was a school teacher from New Hampshire Christa McAuliffe. In 1984 NASA announced that it was looking for someone from the education profession to become an astronaut so that they could communicate to kids from space. McAuliffe was selected out of 11,000 applicants. Another member was pilot Michael Smith from my home state of North Carolina. The other members were:

Francis "Dick" Scobee Flight Commander
Ronald McNair Mission Specialist
Lt. Col. E.S. Onizuka (USAF) Mission Specialist
Dr. Judith Resnik Mission Specialist
Gregory Jarvis Payload Specialist

This terrible tragedy ranks with those that if they happen in your lifetime you never forget where you were when you heard the news. The space shuttle missions of the eighties rekindled the interest in space exploration started in the sixties. The Challenger disaster resonated heavily with both the baby boomer generation that watched the Apollo moon landings and Star Trek space adventures and my Star Wars and space shuttle generation.

On this historic but tragic anniversary we should remember the sacrifice of those modern day explorers. Remember and honor those astronauts from the Apollo-1 204 mission, in which the lives of Gus Grissom, Edward White II, and Roger Chaffee were lost, to Challenger and to the more recent Columbia disaster. Honor the men and women that continue the pursuit of knowledge for the betterment of mankind.

There's a coincidence today. On this day three hundred and ninety years ago, the great explorer Sir Francis Drake died aboard ship off the coast of Panama. In his lifetime the great frontiers were the oceans, and a historian later said, "He lived by the sea, died on it, and was buried in it." Well, today, we can say of the Challenger crew: Their dedication was, like Drake's, complete.

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."

-Ronald Reagan

Linked at Gribbit's Word and Stop the ACLU

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