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  • Remembering Challenger: 25 Years Later

    Today, America marks the 25th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger tragedy. On January 28, 1986, America lost seven brave explorers – Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis and Christa McAuliffe – when NASA suffered its first-ever in-flight loss.

    The loss of the Challenger marked one of those vivid moments in our nation’s history that are unforgettable, including where you watched it, heard of it or how you grieved. For millions of Generation Xers, they were in their school rooms, cafeterias and libraries set to witness the historic flight of Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from Concord, New Hampshire whose flight was scheduled to inspire future generations of explorers, scientists and dreamers.

    On the evening of January 28, President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation from the Oval Office. In a moment that helped define the character and compassion of Reagan’s presidency, he spoke directly to those school children, when he said: “I know it is hard to understand, but sometimes painful things like this happen. It’s all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It’s all part of taking a chance and expanding man’s horizons. The future doesn’t belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave. The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we’ll continue to follow them.”

    President Reagan also committed to continuing America’s exploration of space despite the tragedy, and celebrated the openness of our space program despite the challenges our nation faced during the Cold War: “I’ve always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don’t hide our space program. We don’t keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That’s the way freedom is, and we wouldn’t change it for a minute. We’ll continue our quest in space.”

    In less than five minutes, President Reagan mourned with a nation, honored its lost heroes and demonstrated our collective resolve. As Reagan told the nation: “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 the journey and waved goodbye and ‘slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.’”

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to Remembering Challenger: 25 Years Later

    1. George Colgrove, VA says:

      This event still seems like it was just yesterday. I was in 12th grade and just finished lunch. This, like the Columbia many years later shows who in this country are the best of the best. These people gave all so that we can move forward.

      Resnik was my aspiration to seek a career in Engineering. The Shuttle program was by and large the most positive light on American knowhow and can-do spirit. I encourage everyone to go to the Dulles Air and Space Museum to stand by the Shuttle Enterprise. If there is anything awe inspiring, that is it.

      I look forward to the day when the private sector can take the reigns of the space program so that we can push even further to realms never before considered. Space exploration is dreams in reality. I long to see a day where we see new things happening in space exploration once again. Much like the days when the Challenger “slipped the surly bonds of earth’ to ‘touch the face of God.”

    2. Andrew, VA says:

      Peggy Noonan earned her money as a speechwriter that day.

    3. Michele Jaquiss, Roc says:

      President Reagan certainly had a way of reaching into the hearts of all who heard him. He did an incredible job of being one of us while also remaining Presidential. He helped us all to deal with the Challenger tragedy and have the courage to move forward without fear into the future. May God bless all those who were lost that day as well as their families and friends.

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    5. Bobbie says:

      What a terrible day and a terrible loss of lives. Mr. Reagan was so elegant in his address and thoughtful to include all the victims. He appreciated further opportunities in space exploration and well, I guess it isn't sitting well with the President of today…

    6. Paul Schack, Lincoln says:

      I grew up watching the space program and remember clearly from the days of Gemini forward and the awful day we lost 3 brave astronauts on the launch pad in that awful fire. I watched with excitement when we landed on the moon and again when the shuttle brought a new era in space bringing up the Hubble Telescope and more recently the International Space station. The excitement was rekindled anew when I heard of the Orion program and plans to go to Mars. Those plans were dashed when President Obama canceled for all practical purposes our space program. Unless American industry can step forward into the void left by this decision our children will never share the excitement in the space program that I was raised with.

      As painful as the loss of the brave Challenger astronauts was at that time it is even more painful that in this generation we no longer posses the pioneer spirit that they exhibited so well. I pray that a future administration can rekindle it again. The role of the United States of American in space should not end. As a nation we need to live out the legacy of the Challenger not ignore it.

    7. Gail, FL says:

      I was in 10th grade in St. Petersburg, FL that day. Somebody ran into our geometry class to tell us the Challenger had exploded. We couldn't believe it – we ran out the back door of the school & looked up in the sky where we could see the mishapen plume that should have looked like a still-rising streak of red from across the state where we were watching. In Florida the space program is so close to us that we live with it every day – it's a part of us. We felt like a hole had been blown in our lives that day. But we knew the space program would get back on its feet & show us the way forward into the future. It did not disappoint. I thank God for the brave men & women who have the spirit of adventure to ride those magnificent machines into space. And I thank God for the brilliant minds that figure out how to get them there time & time again. The Challenger 7people & the people of NASA were & are national treasures!

    8. Judy says:

      Thank you for that wonderful summary of President Reagan's speech that was inspiring and touching regarding this tragic loss of our heroes and yet inspiration as to their having served a special purpose with the space mission.

      He was a great president and so many of us loved him and his wife, Nancy and his Administration, and all who served him and our country with honour.

      When I read his quote with this video, I realize how he certainly had a way with words!

    9. Gabriel says:

      Oh so wait Bobbie, you want the government to go further into debt with space exploration? If a leaf fell from a tree you would blame Obama for it. Your credibility to so lost.

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