20 Years after Challenger

I can't believe it's been 20 years since the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff on January 28, 1986. I can still remember seeing that horrific column of smoke and fire from the still-burning boosters. Damned frozen O-rings and dysfunctional communication in NASA.

Christa McAuliffe was to be the first schoolteacher in space, sent up as a payload specialist. She's the one most remembered, but all seven crewmembers were lost in that tragic accident. I still shudder thinking of the ride they must have had, trapped in the cockpit as it fell to the water...

20 years later, and an additional Shuttle lost, and we're now paralyzed by the need for safe access to space. The atmosphere of pioneering exploration has been replaced by an apparent desire to have a space program operate more like a commercial airline. Mankind would have never made it to space without being willing to take risks.

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