Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Today In History: STS-51-L


I was walking through the electronics department at Sears. Where were you?

88 comments:

og said...

I was standing in a Radio Shack in Hammond, Indiana.

Robb Allen said...

It had snowed that day in Georgia. We were sledding down the hill at the back of my neighborhood when one of the kids' mothers asked us if we all wanted to come in to watch the shuttle launch.

Should have stayed outside in the snow.

Turk Turon said...

I was at the corner of 18th & Belmont Ave. in Washington, D.C.

New Jovian Thunderbolt said...

Mr. Hinkleday's History class. The Principle, Dr. Dumais, came over the intercom and made the announcement.

Yes, my High School Principal's name was Doctor Dumb Ass.

Frank W. James said...

I was just finishing a tour of Hoover Dam, prior to the Shot Show starting. It was in Vegas that year and later than normal. Didn't see the visual images until we got back to the hotel room.

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Carteach0 said...

I watched it, from far away.

I was working near St. Pete in Florida. We were listening to the news in the shop, and they announced the disaster. I walked to the shop door and looked East... to see the smoke trails in the sky.

I watched for about ten minutes, as the drifting smoke marked the death of modern pioneers.

Brigid said...

FBO - Watsonville Airport.

scottw said...

I was on alert at Titan II complex 374-8. We were not watching the tube at the time until the radio traffic picked up. Then we were all stunned.

Anonymous said...

I was running a Bridgeport at the Capitol die shop in South Bend Indiana.

scooter

Standard Mischief said...

Took the bus into college, decided to get a cola, and I saw a throng of people looking at the TV. They played that clip over and over and over...

JohnMXL said...

I was in the Diesel shop at Iowa Western Community College, Council Bluffs IA.

Weer'd Beard said...

Not to make you feel old but I was sitting in the elementary school library watching it on TV.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

I was in school, watching NASA TV live with my class. I think we'd moved to Ohio by that point - I don't remember. But I remember watching, and seeing the smoke trails over and over, the adults around me getting hysterical, realizing that they were gone, really gone.

Anonymous said...

I was working at Wildwood Electonics here in Huntsville, AL and was coming out of the conformal coating room when someone said the shuttle had just exploded.

Went home for lunch and didn't really eat anything...

I also had previously worked on the shuttle with Bendix where all the structural testing on the SRB's, External Tank and Shuttle took place. I was intimately familiar with the gasket that failed as I had helped assemble the SRB when it was sent here by Morton Thikol for assembly and stress testing.

Gmac

wv = facto

I refuse to say again what I said that morning upon hearing the news but I'll never forget the words.

Tam said...

Weer'd Beard,

Yeah, it was my senior year in high school. We had the day off (can't remember if it was snow, or a teacher work day) and so I went to Cumberland Mall...

Jay G said...

Well, Tam, I was a sophomore in high school. I was in calculus when Eric Marquese, the class clown, came in and told us the news. We naturally assumed he was joking until the teacher came in, ashen-faced, and verfied Eric's account.

Being an A/V nerd, I had the keys to the Production studio, where a small TV was kept for various purposes. Left class, set the TV up to the news, and watched the footage over and over.

With my calculus teacher looking over my shoulder, shaking his head sadly at the news...

Liberty Girl said...

Junior in high school, walking between classes. Ducked into a classroom with a TV just in time to see the very image you have displayed here. Still get that stabby feeling in my heart.

B.S. philosopher said...

I was in 8th grade at Stone Middle School in Melbourne, about 40 miles from the Cape. I was in the library, playing on the Apple IIE computers.

One of the librarians came over with tears in her eyes and said that the shuttle had blown up.

I ran outside and could still see the SRBs careening about wildly for a few seconds until they were destroyed.

People my grandparent's age remember every detail of where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed.

People my parent's age remember every detail of where they were when Kennedy and MLK were shot.

For me it is Challenger and 9/11.

buzz_knox said...

It was a snow day so I was at home. The last school day before the launch, a friend and I had been discussing what would happen if someone tried to take the shuttle. When I heard the news, I walked around in the snow for a while, wondering if I'd jinxed the launch.

IZinterrogator said...

Just about to start class in elementary school. Principal came over the intercom and told us.

jesperskibbey said...

High school cafeteria, Bradenton FL. Went outside and saw the smoke. It was a very clear and cold day.

dubber308 said...

I was a senior in high school. I had the day off for some reason. I was installing a stereo in my car. Got it hooked up, turned it on, and the first thing I heard out of my new stereo was the announcement of the Challenger crash.

rickn8or said...

Pacific Missile Test Center, Point Mugu, CA, watching and seeing things that you, the Great Unwashed, were not privileged to know.

Watching those two trails in a room full of people that came as close as I've ever heard to total silence.

Not watching strong men cry, because I had something in my eye.

And yes, it does make me feel old, to think Tam was a High School Senior at the time.

Mark Alger said...

At the old Patch Factory shop in Over the Rhine, Cincinnati. One of the pressman was listening to the launch on the radio and suddenly got a stunned expression on his face. I hurried over and asked what was up. Work shut down while we gathered around that radio to listen to the news.

For a long time in the '80s, I wore a mission patch I bought at the AF Museum at Wright Patt as a memorial.

I'm old enough to remember the Kennedy assassination, MLK, Kent State, and the rest. I agree with the youngster who said it, though: this is another one of those landmark days.

M

curtislowe said...

Standing in the open squadbay of the Marine Corps Barracks, Monterey California. 100 Marines in the room and you could have heard a pin drop.

GreatBlueWhale said...

I was teaching high school, but it was a snow day. I thought they had canceled the launch due to the weather and was standing at the stove fixing a chili omelet (Wick Fowler's Texas Two-Alarm).
My grandmother phoned me and said, "Did you watch that rocket-thingy blow-up?"
My omelet burned and set off the fire-alarm as I sat and watched.

Chas S. Clifton said...

I came back to the apartment from one of my grad school classes and saw my wife standing in the living room with a stricken look on her face.

Chris Bennett said...

I was in elementary school, we were participating in the NASA science unit on the space shuttle, and our entire grade level was gathered in the cafeteria, watching the launch live.

karrde said...

I was in a car-pool ride to school (probably kindergarten). I was young enough that I didn't really grasp what had happened.

Only later (I can't remember if was later that day or later that year) did I realize how out-of-the-ordinary it was for a space launch system to blow up.

I became a rocketry-and-NASA geek for about five years, though...I learned that the two big catastrophes in space travel were Apollo 1 and the Challenger launch.

Until the Columbia tore itself apart on re-entry.

Nathan Brindle said...

On a Metro bus coming home from downtown Indy.

OrangeNeckInNY said...

I was sitting in my 7th grade Social Studies/History class and watching this launch on the television.

Anonymous said...

I was driving a dually towing a 36 foot fifth wheel trailer, bringing a AA/FC to the Winternationals. It was incredibly foggy in the San Joaquin valley, and I was really worried about getting into a chain-reaction accident, and hearing on the radio about the Challenger didn't make things any less stressful.

Ken said...

I was working in the lot at the Akron Auto Auction. It was below zero, and I remember at first being sure someone was mistaken, and then flabbergasted that the used car peddlers didn't even slow down.

Rustmeister said...

In a meeting at Brigade S3, Ft Bliss, TX

Anonymous said...

I was driving up the Gulf Freeway, Houston TX enroute to a client meeting, when I heard the news on the radio. Jumped off the freeway, found a convenience store--this was before cell phones--and called the wife at home, and asked her if she had the TV on. She said "No," and I told her what I heard on the radio. A moment later I heard "Oh, my God" and then crying.

When I got to the client's office, I was met by a teary eyed secretary who asked me if I could reschedule; no one was coherent right then.

Old Squid.

Anonymous said...

SSG on leave enroute to Korea

Dolan

EmmePeelShoots said...

I was in 8th grade working in the library. We had the one TV in the school. We just sat there stunned.

Michael said...

I was walking in the hall during classes in high school when I heard one of the teachers tell another that the shuttle blew up. I ran back to my class and told the room, the teacher turned on the TV and we all watched it over and over and over.

This event, the declaration of the First Gulf War, and 9-11 are some moments in time burned into my being.

Kerry said...

I was in Australia. The alarm went off and was set to radio. The news that I woke to was the announcement. That is the same way I woke up on 9/11.

Jeff said...

Freshman year in college. Must have had the day off or late classes because I was still in bed when I heard Bob and Tom (WFBQ-Indianapols) say that the shuttle had exploded. Of course, at first I didn't believe them, the jokers that they are...

D.W. Drang said...

I was in Korea getting ready for PT.

LibertyNews said...

I was a Junior in HS. We spent the whole day in Mrs. Danielson's English class watching the coverage on TV and speculating on what the problem was.

Rob K said...

I was in 8th grade, Mr. Trotter's English class. For some reason we had a TV in there, and it seemed like we watched the tape over and over, though it was really probably no more than four times.

David said...

At work when a coworker listening to the radio at her desk suddenly turned up the volume. While several people were trying to find the nearest television hookup, a couple of us went down to the conference room, boosted a young female engineer up high enough that she could reach through the small window into the projection room and turn on the TV in there, then turn it so we could see it while standing on the conference room table. When a manager who hadn't seen the news walked by and saw 12 people standing on the table crying he thought we all had lost our minds. Once he stopped ranting and raving long enough to hear the news he joined us on the table.

dneylon said...

Just got home from work. I was stationed in Germany at the time. Just sat there staring with tears in my eyes.

CastoCreations said...

I was still a very young girl - younger than 8. I was at my grandparents and I do remember watching the TV and seeing the images. I can still remember the pictures in my head. But I didn't understand them until later.

Rabbit said...

I was sitting in a dimly-lit corner of a .gov building going over reports and photos when the least-liked administrative secretary came back to give us the news. At the time, everyone's first and immediate thought was Libyan agents and sabotage. The place went into lockdown for most of the day after that. My partner at the time flew the Hump in a C-47 but he'd never been as scared and nervous as that day, he later said.

Regards,
Rabbit.

Stretch said...

My crew was pulling comm cable on 6B Corridor, CIA Headquarters. We walked into the front office that had the CCTV drop to watch the launch. The secretary said "Shouldn't you guys be working?" ... then we all started to cry. By one of those querks of fate that one should never question I was in the same room 12 years later to watch John Glenn launch in The Discovery. When Cap-Com echoed Chris Craft's words from 1962 with “Godspeed Discovery” those of us “of a certain age” found ourselves crying again. To this day I keep my fingers crossed and pray until a clean SRB-Sep. I leave you with President Reagen's speech from that evening;
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JKIZ7j20EA

Moriarty said...

Walking through the Student Union building at the University. It stopped me dead in my tracks.

Rick R said...

South bound I-5 about 50 miles north of Seattle. Heard it on the radio.

El Capitan said...

I was a senior in high school in Houston, TX. Saw it on the TV through the school library windows, and went in to watch. I don't recall how long I was there staring at the screen, but they eventually shooed me out to go back to class.

staghounds said...

Came out of class and went down to the break area to goof off.

It was even more crowded than usual, everybody staring at the idiot box.

My first thought was, "What has Erica done now?"

But it wasn't the Kids at all...

This comment thread is a real portrait, isn't it?

Truly the world is round, and we're all on it.

JHardin said...

I was in the dorm getting ready for class. I did not take it well.

...and now I must spend a moment regaining my composure. Not a pleasant memory.

Anonymous said...

I was in the Pfizer Groton cafeteria, eating lunch with Dave and Carol when Fritzy came up and told us. We thought he was making a very bad joke, and got really mad at him.

Phil-z

mopar said...

I was at work as a mechanic in the radiator repair shop with worst working conditions in the world. It was cold, and we didn't have a lot of work, so we were huddled around a kerosene heater in the office watching the launch on a little portable black and white TV, killing time before lunch. After the explosion, all I can remember of that day is emotions.

tedbronson said...

I was walking to the library in my high school when Andy Jackson popped out and yelled at the top of his voice "Holy shit! the Space Shuttle just blew up!" I was furious and demanded he apologize for such a bad sense of humor. Then I sucker punched him when he wouldn't. Only time in my life I ever actually STARTED a fist-fight. He was bigger than me, had a bad rep as a bad-ass, and could have cleaned my clock, but I didn't care. He just looked at me and said, "Ted, even I wouldn't joke about the Space Shuttle." By that time, the entire second floor of my high school was trying to squeeze into the library to see for themselves.

Brandon said...

I was in the 5th grade, watching it at school on the TV. I was a huge space geek, and the words "Challenger, go at throttle up" are burned into my memory forever. I can hear them as clearly today as I did 22 years ago. It upset me terribly.

Anonymous said...

I was in Firing Room 1 in the Launch Control Center and part of the launch team. No words to express that feeling to this day!

DataViking said...

I was at work at Digital Interface Systems in Benton Harbor Michigan watching it live on TV. I had brought the TV in to work just so I could watch the launch as it happened. All my life I have been a 'space nut' and up to that point had never missed a live launch broadcast. To this day I can remember this and my horror clearly. Also note it was the next-to-last launch televised live, the first launch after Challenger was televised in a 'see, we can do this right, really' kind of way then the live launch broadcasts stopped.

Anonymous said...

Watching CNN or CNN2 that later became Headline News waiting for my buddy to go to Partial Differential Equations class.

As I remember it was not live but it came on pretty much immediately after it happened. We watched the switch to live feed from the cape and that was all they covered the rest of the day.

We did end up going to Partial's class on time and I remember I did get an "A" on the quiz that day. One of the very few I got a perfect score.

boomvark said...

I was home on leave between duty stations, and watching from my parents' front porch about 100 miles to the west-northwest of Cape Canaveral. I'd never watched a launch in real time before, but thought the trails looked ... seriously wrong.

When my dad frowned and said "It ain't supposed to do that", we bolted for the TV, a few feet inside the door, to try for more of a clue about what was happening.

Words seemed inadequate at the time. They still do.

John the Texaner said...

Sitting in my elementary school desk, watching it happen live.

pax said...

I was a senior in high school, but had the day off for some reason. Was driving down Almaden Expressway near the corner of Blossom Hill when my cell phone rang. It was my mom saying, "Turn on your radio." She wouldn't say anything else, just told me to turn the radio on.

(The poster above who said it was before cell phones was only half right. In the late 1980's, in the Bay Area, the "GTE MobileNet" was up and running ... but only for rich folks and their very very spoiled children.)

B Smith said...

I was at Redstone Arsenal, AL, in an electronics class for my Air Defense MOS. Our Master Sergeant came in and told us that the shuttle had blown up, and I sat waiting for the punchline, even though he was NOT known for his sense of humor.
All that day, you could hear telephone transformers exploding due to the call traffic from Marshall Space Flight Center

the pawnbroker said...

i was standing on the sales lot of an r.v. dealership and was trying to satisfy a bitchy old snowbird who had bought a trailer from us with her list of picky complaints; someone said "there goes the shuttle"...ninety miles inland we still had a clear view of the flame and smoke trail arcing into the crisp, clear blue sky when suddenly there were several smoke trails in different directions...i went inside and our parts manager said they were not wanting to come right out and say on the radio what we all knew had happened.

i went back out and watched those spiraling downward trails and told the customer that the shuttle had exploded...the old bitch said yeah, but what about my trailer? i looked at her and turned around and walked away, went inside to call my wife to tell her. then i sat down in my desk chair in a bit of a daze, nauseous.

jtc

Old NFO said...

I had the SAR alert at NAS Jacksonville, saw the explosion and 1 1/2 hours later was over the debris field hoping and praying we would find survivors. After three days, they found the capsule with sonar. I saw some amazing flying by MANY pilots/crews taking almost crazy chances to ID debris during those three days. Sadly, it was all for naught. RIP Challenger

Sebastian said...

This should totally solidify my dork credentials:

I was an office assistant at my elementary school. Two responsible students, one boy and one girl, were allowed to fill in answering phones for the school secretary when she was out to lunch. We were answering phones in the office when it happened. I was in 6th grade.

My mother got a phone call home, because being a smart ass, and probably not realizing my method of dealing with tragedy through humor would not be viewed favorably by others, suggested a teacher none of us liked to send up next. Bad taste, definitely. Of course, as a 13 year old boy those things don't quite process. But I do remember a lot of the Challenger jokes that followed, like, what does NASA stand for?

jimbob86 said...

..... snuck out of study hall and was hanging out in the library..... it was on the TV in there...


"My omelet burned and set off the fire-alarm as I sat and watched."

That reminds me of when the Russian tanks rolled in and shot up their Parliament building..... I was making onion rings (Hot oil on electric stove top) when it came on Skynews (I was stationed in Germany at the time)... major smoke damage to my apartment...... and 'splainin' to the Battery Commander why my kitchen burned while I was shammin'......

Matt G said...

Eighth grade history class. Someone came into the room and told our teacher, who made the announcement. We stayed in the room, and a television was brought in, and we discussed the implications of it. Launches were so commonplace, it seemed, that we hadn't been watching it.

CaptainAttila said...

My thirtieth birthday wasn't very happy. I was the submarine officer on staff teaching NROTC at the University of Minnesota when some upperclassmen came in and told me. I still get tears in my eyes thinking about it.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Third grade homeroom. We were watching it live to see the first teacher in space. I don't remember much else from that long ago, but that moment is burned into my brain.

Godspeed, Challenger.

Anonymous said...

I was working in the Operations and Plans office, 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, LA. Our Intel officer came in and told us about it, so we all went down there to watch on TV. Today I can still hear President Reagan's memorial speech, when he quoted the poem "High Flight" about how the crew has 'reached out their hands, and touched the face of God.'
- Alan J.

Bruce B. said...

I had a chill/shock run down my spine when that image came up, even 22 years later.

I was working in a NSA lab listening with co-workers to the launch on the radio. We all stood in shocked silence. I didn't see the video until I got home after work.

My landmark memories are:

Evacuation of the Saigon embassy (I'm too young to remember much else from Vietnam)

Hinckley shooting Reagan

Challenger

Fall of the Berlin Wall

Desert Storm

9/11

Invasion of Iraq

Bruce B., Springfield, IL

Le Bolide said...

I was in middle school. We were watching the shuttle launch live, and then continued to watch it over and over as the explosion was re-broadcast.

Sebastian said...

It's funny how many moments like that we remember in that way.

I remember being in the kitchen watching on a little tiny B&W TV, the coverage of Reagan's shooting in 1981. I was 7 years old when it happened, but I remember.

I remember Challenger, which is the Gen X JFK moment, really.

I remember where I was when the Soviet Union collapsed (band camp, 1991)

I remember I was driving home from my high school job when the Desert Storm started.

I was in the basement of my first apartment when Colombia disintegrated on reentry.

I was on my way to work on a bright sunny morning when I heard a report on the radio about an airplane striking one of the world trade center towers. I was a little farther along in the drive when a second plane hit, and I realized "Oh my god, we're being attacked."

hotdoc said...

Second year of medical school. We watched the news in our labs during lunch on televisions used for histology teaching.

Larry said...

Checking out of A school, NAS Memphis, Millington TN.

Warthog said...

I was driving home from meeting with my insurance agent.

Anonymous said...

I had just walked out of my office and was headed down the hall to the project manager's office of the government satellite program I was working on when a secretary poked her head out the door and said "The Space Shuttle just blew up!" It had happened only about 20 seconds before she announced it.

I had friends working up at Northrop on the B-2 program at the time, and Northrop shut their entire phone system down 45 seconds after it happened, but it was too late. Everyone had already found out.

Before going to work on Guvmint satellites for another company, I had worked both on the Space Shuttle program itself, and in the advanced Engineering dept. at Rockwell on future Shuttle projects and other cool stuff. Most of my friends had also worked on the Shuttle program, and we figure that nearly everyone in the industry knew what had happened within less than 60 seconds of it actually happening.

It sucked. It was like somebody had ripped a part of us away.

BoxStockRacer

Anonymous said...

Karrde:

The other great space disaster occurred late October 1960 at the Kazakhstan launch complex. The launch vehicle failed to ignite, and frustrated launch engineers and officials finally went out to the rocket to try and fix it. While they were working on it, it went off, obliterating the launch site and all those working on it, including many of the leading Russian space launch scientists of the time.

Estimates of the number of people killed in the disaster range from a low of 40, to over 300. While it may have been closer to the lower figure, there is no doubt it set the Russian Space Program back many years.

For more info, check out the chapter "The Nedelin Catastrophe" in James Oberg's excellent book "Red Star in Orbit."

BoxStockRacer

chris said...

As I wrote here

http://guywithguns.blogspot.com/2009/01/challenger.html

I was in the lunchroom at Deerwood elementary school in East Orlando approximately 45 miles from the launch complex. Within seconds of the breakup, myself along with hundreds of other students were outside watching the debris falling to earth.

I can still remember crying and not knowing why... I still have an autographed 45 record of a song recorded the week of the disaster with a song named "Challenger."

Years later, I was on the playground at Union Park Elementary in Orlando, also about 40 miles from the launch complex, when the space shuttle missions resumed. I can still remember other children screaming "Blow up! Blow up!" and thinking how horrible and mean those kids were.

Several years later, I was able to visit Arlington National Cemetery and see the graves of the astronauts. Only the grave of Kennedy had more solemn meaning for me.

To this day, I can still hear the voice of Michael Smith saying "Uh oh"... And I remember the numerous local news stories of people finding debris washing up on Cocoa Beach.

Like you, I did not experience anything this monumentally life changing until 9/11/01... A year and a half later, I was again ripped apart when the Columbia disintegrated on reentry. The helplessness of being a bystander to tragic history is only drowned out when you realize that the event you are watching was not just an accident but was deliberate... Perhaps that is why Challenger and Columbia make me sad and 9/11 makes me seethe in anger.

The most emotional thing about the whole Challenger incident was the words of Reagan that night... It brings tears to my eyes every time:

"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."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JKIZ7j20EA

Owen said...

I was in the Sixth Grade. Mrs Tyler was the teacher, and it was the Science period. There was a knock on the door, and the other teacher (Mrs. Grenon? Both teachers worked part time, Mrs Tyler in the AM, and the other one in the evening)pushed a TV in.

My dad worked for Hamilton Standard, and I believe was working in Space Systems at the time. Watching TV that night was the only time I've ever seen him cry.

Billy Beck said...

Having gigged the night before, I was watching eyelid-movies at The Hour.

My phone rang, to wake me to the rotten news.

Cowboy Blob said...

Slaving away in the intel mines in the west wing of the Puzzle Palace. Not much work got dome after that.

Army of Dad said...

Fourth grade English class. My teacher came into the room crying, opened the divider to Mrs. Fletcher's room and the TV was already on...

Roberta X said...

...Working at an AM/FM combo. There was a TV in the newsroom, rarely on, but when I walked by, minyues after the explosion, it was on and the footage was running over and over.

My first reaction was shock. My second was to remember a Jerry Pournelle article from Analog, on the subject, "Some day the Shuttle is going to prang." Dr. Pournelle had identified the least-recoverable happenings; one of the newsies asked me if the astronauts were going to be all right and I just shook my head. The rest of that day is just a blur.

The IEEE Spectrum article on the Morton-Thiokol engineer who raised objections to the launch and Dr. Feynman's account of his experiences on the group that investigated the accident are stunning -- shattering -- reading.

RM1(SS) (ret) said...

USS Olympia (SSN 717), somewhere off the East Coast. We came up to PD a few hours later and the teletype started printing out all the SAR traffic....

mariner said...

I was working in the secure comms vault of a Navy ship in a Mediterranean port. My partner-in-crime left to get a cuppa joe and didn't return.

I went to the wardroom to find out what-the-hell, and found out what-the-hell.

We didn't get much done the rest of that evening.