Memories of the Challenger

This is one page of many, check out the intro at I Remember Challenger for others.

This page currently edited by: Dagwood. Past editor: Junior


I was five years old at the time. Even though I don't remember where I was at or what I was doing the first time I heard about it, I remember how much of a news event it was. While it was on the news, (probably a day after it happened) I remember coming up with my very own theory about why it happened. I thought it was a fuel leak. I even demonstated to my mother how I thought it happened using my toy space shuttle. During that time, I was mostly irritated because news was being shown instead of Scooby-Doo reruns.

From: Ryan


On the morning of January 28, 1986, I was in the computer lab of our elemantary school with my third grade class. The principal called me in to the hallway to tell me of the disaster. We spent the rest of the day listening to news reports about the accident. The most coincidental aspect took place 15 years later when I was teaching in that same lab with my 3rd graders and my current principal repeated a similar scenerio with the attack on the World Trade Center.

From: Diane


horrific and hard to watch

From: hunter


I was sitting on my parents bed and watching the small TV they had in their room; I was four years old. I remember how my sister was really excited. She went to grade school in the Lake Arrowhead, Ca. area. I remember that the teacher that was the top runner up for the spot on the crew worked at my sister's school. I was young, but I remember how it was something that the parents wanted all of us kids to see, at the time. "Hey Kids! Watch This!" I remember that it is one of the only things on TV that really freaked me out, because it was real and those were real people in that thing. It was like seeing someone get shot right in front of you. After it happend, the teacher at my sister's school was a really upset and kept crying and saying "I'm dead I'm dead" she was really in bad shape. I was four and my sister was eight. I don't know how clear her info is, but I believe my perents can back this up. It was one of those thing that really left a lasting spot in my mind.

From: Walter Harrison Stoermer


I vividly remember the Challenger explosion: I was in ninth grade; there was an TV set up in my Biology Class, to watch Christa McAuliff's first transmissions from space. I was at lunch, across from the Bio classroom, and remember someone barging into the cafeteria and blurting out that the Challenger had blown up. As I had Bio class right after lunch and knew about the TV in the classroom, I ran out of the cafeteria and over see what was going on. The room was packed with students and teachers, all watching as the news feeds showed the explosion, silent, except for gasps and quiet sobs. The principal came over the school intercom about ten minutes later, to confirm what had happened. Probably the worst part of it all was that I was to attend U. S. Space Camp in March, 1986. The mood at Space Camp was somber at best, as several of the instructors there were astronauts in training, and had known members of the Challenger crew. And at the time, nobody had known whether or not Nasa would ever resume its' manned space flight program. Rumors said "probably not, for the forseeable future". Imagine how crushing that was to hear, for all the future astronaut wannabes attending Space Camp...

From: Karen R.


I was on my way to work at NASA Ames Research Center on the day the Challenger exploded. I heard the news on the radio and nearly crashed my car. I worked in a simulator facility that the pilot and co-pilot of the shuttles would come and train in every six months. I had played softball with Mike Smith...it was a black day...

From: eric gardner


I had just begun my job at the Kennedy Space Center. I moved to Cocoa Beach in December. I had seen one other shuttle launch prior to Challenger. I was longing to get as close to the launch pad as I could to see a launch, and since I had a badge, I could pretty much go where I wanted on the Cape. Earlier in the month, I overslept and missed an early morning Columbia launch. I messed up setting my alarm and was awaken to the vibration of the launch. So when it came time for the next launch, I was ready. The launch was scrubbed on Monday. Something happened, I think they had the wrong tool to get the hatch closed and by the time they found it, the winds aloft were out of limits. I was busy that day anyway, so I wouldn't have gotten to a good viewing spot. The next day wasn't so frantic at work (I was working in NASA HQ), so I packed my binoculars and slipped out about an hour before launch. I jockeyed my car to the North side of the VAB (actually closer to pad 39B than the firing room) and sat in my car with my down jacket on (it was cold that day). The had an hour hold and I debated whether to go back to work, and finally said.. nah.. so I leaned the seat back in my car and snoozed a little. You could hear the countdown on a local FM radio channel, so I was hearing all the com checks and typical pre launch chatter. Then they count proceded. As it neared the final few minutes, I got out of the car and sat on the hood. I'll never forget the rich blue Florida sky - a Winter sky after a cold front comes through. As the count hit T-6, the main engines came to live, and at T-0 the solids. I had also seen Apollo 15 in the '70s and I am always amazed at the fact that sound travels so much slower than light. The view through the binoculars was spectacular. Bright flame and smoke as Challenger rose off the bad - all in dead silence. THEN - the rumble began and the sound just rolled over you. Goosebumps came up on the back of my neck and arms. Go Go Go.. thats what you think when you watch that. I saw the roll program and the call "Go for throttle up". Then things started going badly. Up to that time, we had never lost anything in flight. I had confidence and figured there was a contingency plan about to happen. I knew the solids weren't supposed to corkscrew out and the big ball of fire and smoke was not good. But I just knew at any minute, the shuttle would come whipping out of that cloud and perform the RTLS abort (Return to launch site) and land at the shuttle landing strip. The call came that they had a "major malfunction" and "no downlink". It took another minute to digest what I'd just seen. The debris rained out of the sky for what seemed like 15 minutes. Smoky contrails streaming down as the pieces splashed into the ocean. (I couldn't see the ocean, but later saw this on the replay). People have asked me what I heard, did I hear a "boom". No, like I said, the sound is delayed, and by the time of the explosion, I was still hearing the distant rumbling of the launch. Also, I seem to remember that they were at about 12 miles altitude, so there isn't much air up there to propogate sound anyway. It was more visual than acoustic. A very sick feeling came over me. NASA pulled the plug on the audio, so everybody was left in the dark. Radio stations made some wild speculations - When the parachutes opened on the SRB's (a preprogrammed event that would have happened no matter what), I hear a radio anouncer saying the crew was parachuting into the ocean. Another commented on how cold the Atlantic would be this time of year.. He used the term "Icy". I had just surfed the weekend before and the water was probably something like 60 degrees or more. So it was just a bunch of guesswork. After some time, I got in my car and headed back to my office. I was stopped in traffic as Bus after bus of VIP's (The families and friends of the astronauts) were evacuated from the VIP viewing area. They actually moved them into the training building where a co worker of mine had a class going. Got back to my office and the phone system was dead. I guess NASA pulled the plug on everything. A migraine set in and I left. Went straight to bed, and didn't get up until about 8:00 pm that night. Then for the first time, I watched the replay on TV. It was exactly what I saw through my binoculars. What a bad day.

From: Paul Carter


I wasn't a child in the 80's, but I remember that day. I was living in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I had been hired to perform aerobic exhibitions at a mall and to demonstrate the exercise equipment. We had a large TV in the center of the store "gym" and always had it on, with either the news, or an exercise video. I was sitting on a rowing machine watching the news, watching the Challenger take off....and watching the tragedy. There were alot of people watching with me, and crying. I relived similar feelings on 9/11, as I watched that 2nd plane hit the WTC and the subsequent horrible aftermath. Wow, those are moments in history one does not easily forget! Nor, should we.

From: Sher Bach


I remember it all so well, I was 10 years old and living with my parents in Islamabad (Pakistan) It was the morning of Jan and I got up around 10AM, and we used to get paper daily and I read a headline on the paper saying shuttle has exploded, with a big picture of explosion and I asked myself "what is a shuttle?" This is how my keeness for space started and the passion is still strong today. To date, I have not missed a single launch or landing. I witnessed Columbia's tragedy and the fall of MIR. It is one hell of an experience to see something like that and I kept praying to God for the safety on those onboard. God bless crew of Challenger & Columbia. They died for something they believed in and the legacy will live forever .. amen

From: Bilal Hameed (Dubai)


I was in the 3rd grade when the Challenger disaster happened. I had stayed home from school that day because I was sick. I remember watching the launch, and then the explosion happened. I didn't know what had happened for a short moment, when they said that it had blown up I was so sad, I remember crying. Later that year the 4th graders did a school program about America, they sang a song about the Challeneger and the teacher that was on board. I still remember that song and I remember feeling so sad for her students.

From: Kristi Peterson


I remember pac-man being my favorite, our friends would gather for my sister and I had a birthday party at a ground round and we were crazed over pac-man. I miss the 80's because growing up I had a good childhood and mainly miss all the toys I had back then hehe.

From: Tricia


I was in the 7th grade in Florida, just outside of Orlando. Our teachers decided that we should go outside and watch the shuttle take off. It was a clear day and we would be able to see it clearly once it got up high enough. That is one of the days that I will never forget. I remember all of the teachers began to cry immediately after it exploded. My friends and I just watched - as if it was a movie or something. You could have heard a pin drop - it was so quiet. I had the strangest feeling in my stomach - a feeling I never felt again until 9/11.

From: LMN


I was in the fourth grade. The Challenger mission was a big deal at our school because the teacher on board was to be the first teacher in space. We gathered 2-3 classes per classroom (not enough TV sets for all classrooms). When the challenger lifted off we all applauded and stopped in silence when it exploded. Our teachers were crying, there were kids so scared. It was horrible.

From: Rhonda


I was in Kindergarten at the time of the Challenger disaster. I remember sitting in my classroom in front of the television with the rest of my class getting ready to watch the space shuttle launch. I remember talking a little about how this was a special trip because there was going to be a teacher aboard this flight. As Challenger took off, the class cheered in excitement for the crew members. Our excitement turned into fear because we watched the disaster unfold on television. Within seconds of Challenger exploding, our teacher turned off the television and tried to explain to us what had happened. I just remember that I felt horrible for the family members of the Challenger crew. The image of the explosion is still fresh in my mind. I don't think I will ever forget the Challenger.

From: Nicole Batura


I still remember it like yesterday as well and this is the year 2007. The day before I was talking to a friend on the phone about it, explaining that I had a bad feeling. we were in class 8th grade and I had just walked in to the library where the TV's were as it happened. My jaw dropped and I looked at my friend and she just could not believe that I had predicted that. Go figure that I only share the name not the family blood line. I still cried.

From: Kimberly Renee' McAuliffe


I grew up in Indiatlantic, Florida, not too far south of Cape Canaveral (aka, Cape Kennedy). Going to the beach to watch the shuttle take off had almost gotten to be routine, not a big event, really. "What's that rumble? Oh yeah, the shuttle must have taken off". No big deal. However, on the day of the Challenger launch, I had been working on the mainland (Melbourne) and had come back over to the beachside for lunch when I remembered that the shuttle was going to launch. It had been hyped-up in the news, and I was right there, so I decided to go get a good view of the launch. I parked my car along SR-A1A, and I took a walk down to the beach via an "access path" between two beach front houses. I only waited for a few minutes before I saw the glow of the rockets on the horizon. Then the bright flame and billowing smoke that followed as it moved in an arc across the bright blue Florida sky. As always, the low, powerful rumble of the launch soon followed, and then, as always, American pride followed closely after that. Even though I'd seen it many times before, it was never any less impressive. Around the beach were locals and tourists sitting on blankets in the sand, listening to radios calling the play-by-play of the event. I was watching what I thought were the boosters falling away when I realized something was wrong; the beach went silent at that same instant. I looked to my right and saw people scrambling toward those who had radios. Looking back up into the sky, I saw what will be the typical "snap-shot" image of the disaster...the spiral-shaped smoke with many smaller smoking pieces falling away from it. At that very instant, I knew. I didn't go to anyone's radio; I stood there watching until it was over. Smoke and pieces falling to the Earth on different trajectories and speeds. I heard crying and screaming from the people huddled around the radios and it became too much for me. I was a 20-year old. I went back across the street and got in my car. I drove away from the beach listening to the radio people describe what I had just witnessed. I went home, crawled into bed and slept most of the day. It took a very long time for us, the residents of Florida's "Space Coast" to fully get over the tragedy of that day. I guess in some ways we never did.

From: Darrin Carty


I grew up on the Florida Space Coast, so for every shuttle launch, school children filed outside to watch the sky. That January day was very cold, which I only remember because my teacher was wearing a fur coat - something most Floridian pre-schoolers don't see often. Someone spotted the bright shuttle in the sky, and the crowd started clapping. The teachers were especially enthusiastic because of Christa McAuliffe. Suddenly, things looked very different. I remember telling my buddy that the shuttle cloud looked like a bunny rabbit. Everything stood still for a minute, and then the teachers began scrambling us inside, and many people were crying. I remember having the TV on in the classroom after that, but was too young to fully realize what was happening, only that it was very, very bad. It was only when my mother was crying that night that I finally understood.

From: RD


I was 7 years old in January of 1986. I was in Ms. Davidson's 2nd grade class. I remember our class was walking through the halls of the school (maybe from P.E.) when we stopped inside one of the 5th grade class rooms to watch part of the coverage. We had missed the actually launch and had no idea what had happened until that point. My most vivid memory of the whole experience is standing in the doorway of the class room watching Tom Brokaw trying to explain what had happened using a scaled model of the shuttle. I just remember thinking "this can't be happening" There are two other events that shape my world like that: the burning of the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, Texas and of course 9/11.

From: Tim Glover


Ok well.....my name's Ailin Lebellot and I'm doing a project on the Challenger. I just want to say from experience (which I don't have much of; I'm only 14 years old) that it was very tragic, but more of a publicity and I mean.. very taken out there because of the only civilian Christa (astronauts are civilians as well) to be train to go up to space. I feel very grateful that we've learned from the mistakes being made before but I pay respects to those astronauts (who risked their lives without even knowing, if I may say)and that even though I wasn't born in that time, when I saw the shuttle Columbia on the t.v explosion I would have to say I was heartbroken to see those people terrified for one of their own (civilians) to do their job in turns for a program (NASA)to update our knowledge, in return dangers from a world we don't know of. You probably don't understand what I'm saying, but it's simple really for me to say that a tragic event in history really affected this country to knowing what's next for us. I rest my case.

From: Ailin Lebellot


This year I first heard about the Challenger accident when I had to write an report on a famous Ohioian . I chose to do Judith A. Resnik even after I found out that she had passed away I did that report in her honor and I will never forget Judith A. Resnik and the other people who had also passed away in that accident. May god be with you always. God bless you.

From: michelle leonardi

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